CLOSE-UP: NEWSMAKER/RICHARD EVANS - Risk-taker puts a refreshing spin on Heineken ads. Richard Evans is banking on a change of image for the brand

As the old adage goes, if you want to get talked about in

advertising, you have to take some risks. And threatening the consumer

into buying your product certainly qualifies.



Richard Evans, the marketing director of Interbrew UK, claims that such

risks don't bother him in the slightest. And since his campaign for

Heineken is setting viewers' teeth on edge across the nation with a

barrage of caterwauling C-listers, that is probably just as well. "The

whole heritage of Heineken has been about trying to break the rules and

find a refreshing angle on life," he says.



Heineken's outstanding heritage has certainly proved a tough act to

follow.



The famous "refreshes the parts" campaign, which spanned three decades,

was devised back in 1974 by CDP and was first used in the landmark

"policemen's feet" commercial. Subsequent successful spots included an

80s version of My Fair Lady, in which a Sloane Ranger learnt

street-credible elocution, and the "blues singer" commercial, which was

one of the most awarded ads of the early 90s.



Some observers feel that dropping the acclaimed strapline was a

mistake.



Terry Lovelock's famous phrase has entered the national vocabulary and

was even used in a speech by the then prime minister Margaret

Thatcher.



Evans, though, feels no qualms about the decision so far: "Although it's

a wonderfully famous strapline, we felt the time had come to move on."

He evidently favours the new line, "how refreshing, how Heineken",

saying: "Now it's a slightly freer form that allows us to go into a more

unpredictable market."



The brand could arguably do with a further boost to its performance.



Heineken currently ranks sixth in the AC Nielsen MMS beer brands league,

behind Kronenbourg and Fosters in sales.



Evans himself started his career at Procter & Gamble in Newcastle,

moving to the Welsh Development Agency in 1992. He became the marketing

manager for the Heineken brand in 1994 and was brand director at

Whitbread Beer Company before its £400 million buyout by

Interbrew.



He now commands a portfolio to relish, including Stella Artois, Murphy's

and Boddington's.



Evans is rated as an adventurous client. "Richard is a great motivator

of his brand teams and the agency," Lowe Lintas' managing director,

Jeremy Bowles, says. "He gives you the headroom to drive the creative

process, and is prepared to back fresh and exciting ideas".



This was something of an imperative with the current Heineken

campaign.



Not many ads make it on to the front page of a national newspaper, even

in the summer's silly season. The very fact that the motley crew crowded

round a piano was deemed worthy of this - even for its sheer hideousness

factor - is testament both to our unnerving celebrity obsession and

Heineken's nerve to run it.



Evans says: "I had that feeling of 'ooh, that's a bit edgy' and that's

when you know it's good." He insists he didn't have any lasting

reservations about the strategy. "Risk and reward, that's what business

is all about. Any time you do something new, there's an element of risk

when you move into the unknown." Still, those risks were tempered with

the safety net of some pre-research, and his gung-ho attitude wasn't

always in evidence: "I have to say I felt a lot more confident when I

began to see the finished films," he admits.



But might Evans and Lowe be celebrating too soon? This one-off campaign

has certainly captured the public consciousness and earned some

publicity, but it leaves no real clue as to where the brand goes from

here. The momentum started by this campaign clearly needs to be

maintained, which begs the question of whether the proposition, and the

new strapline, has true longevity.



Evans side-steps the question. "The campaign is still on air and we do

like to evaluate our advertising before making decisions," he says

rather blandly. But Evans is clearly keen to move with the times. "As

viewers become more advertising literate, they're looking for more

twists and surprises." Clearly having Peter Stringfellow ravaged by

lions is not enough to sate the starving consumers these days.



So where will this end? With consumers as notorious for fickleness as

they are for apathy, the aim will be to keep the tradition of Heineken

advertising alive.



Speaking of the purveyors of great lager advertising in the past, Evans

is philosophical: "Obviously individual brands come and go. They find a

rich vein, exhaust it, and then look for new inspiration." As the lager

market continues its explosion into the premium sector, it will be

interesting to see how Heineken fares in relation to exhausting any

avenues of its own. Still, Evans has faith in his agency. "I don't want

to butter up Lowe too much," he says, "but they've got a pretty good

track record."