W&K gets people loving Heineken ... and each other

Stuart Parkinson and Clay Mills describe the agency's Valentine's Day-inspired campaign.

Work Debrief

Soon after we launched "the date", the second film in the global "open your world" campaign celebrating the Heineken drinker, we realised that the soundtrack had got people talking. The track, the 60s Bollywood groove Jaan Pehechaan Ho, had captured people's imaginations, and comments started to stack up. What was it? Where was it from? Those well-schooled in Bollywood's musical history were on hand to get everyone's facts straight - it's from the 1965 Indian horror film Gumnaam, sung by Mohammed Rafi.

The brief

After "the date" launched online, and garnered eight million views in a few weeks, we realised how we might solve the brief to take the idea further. The answer lay in combining the subject matter of "the date" and this unexpected star of the campaign - the soundtrack. Based on the insight that first dates are a moment young men want to handle with ease, our film delivered a dramatisation of a legendary date. What was left for Heineken to do beyond this? Saying Heineken drinkers are capable of legendary dates is one thing, but giving them a chance to prove it is another.

The creative idea

Enter Serenade, an interactive idea that consists of a global Facebook application that allows people to create 640 personalised songs to serenade a prospective date, using the music we had famously established in broadcast and online all over the world. Do you want to get a date? Do you like bowling? Wanna see a movie?

What was really exciting was that the app didn't sit alone -we created fame for it via a live show featured on YouTube, linked with Facebook and Twitter: Serenade Live. An event where 45 songs were written and performed live by our band, The Serenades, just ahead of Valentine's Day for surprised folk with secret (or not so secret) admirers.

Heineken Facebook and Twitter fans were asked to nominate themselves for the opportunity to have a legendary serenade written for them and their chosen loved one, to be performed live to them both, and the internet, by the band during Serenade Live. The couples tuned in via their respective Skype accounts, and the rest of the world watched on Heineken's YouTube page. No-one had a clue what would happen - would it be a 21st-century love story or lead to shattered virtual dreams? But, then, that's the beauty of live TV.

On the set, one could find Kiss, the lead singer of our band, on the grand piano, in a rose-covered cape, busting his heart out so that our chosen couples might find romance. This really brought the human element to life in a way we didn't fully appreciate until viewers witnessed a marriage proposal, a few toe-curlingly awkward "nos" and even one plucky woman asking her ex-boyfriend's brother out.

The writing

Writing lyrics for the app to deliver 640 variations of witty and entertaining serenades, and 45 serenades on the fly to be performed live, presented a sizeable challenge for the three-man creative team, Hugo van Woerden, Philip Brink and Sean Condon. The end result yielded a catalogue of serenades covering a range of themes helping ensure something memorable for everyone. Besides bowling, we heard about love on a plane, shoe addiction and sisterly/brotherly love, interspersed with guest appearances from the rapper Mac Lethal and the Greek Eurovision superstar Sakis Rouvas, all performed to musical adaptations of Jaan Pehechaan Ho. Arranged by Jonny Gee, the serenades spanned an impressive range of disco, rock, reggae and swing to the original Bollywood version used in "the date".

The directing

Delivering entertaining content for the app and ensuring the right chemistry between Kiss, the celebrity host Gethin Jones and comedic sound engineer sidekicks for a live show demanded a mix of directing skills, provided by Willem Gerritsen for the app and Danny Meiger for Serenade Live. They were supported by what seemed like a battalion of top producers, editors and musicians to pull off the variety needed for the app and the complexity of an eight-hour live show.

The casting

Casting-wise, we were blessed with our singer, Paul "Kiss" Kissaun: a total one-off. As a merry and insane hybrid between lead singer and ringmaster, he conquered lyrics on sight and moved effortlessly between different musical genres while sustaining his comedic style. Jones' assured hosting skills and charm provided the necessary glue to orchestrate the comedy and magic of Serenade Live - even getting in on the act by serenading his Welsh rugby mates.

The media

Supported by broadcast and online media across a wide range of markets, the app's usage hotted up in anticipation of Valentine's Day, and Serenade Live has exceeded our expectations, with more than 500,000 fans engaging in this match-making extravaganza.

Stuart Parkinson is a planner and Clay Mills is the Heineken group account director at Wieden & Kennedy Amsterdam.

Creatives: Hugo van Woerden, Philip Brink, Sean Condon
Executive creative directors: Eric Quennoy, Mark Bernath
Director: Willem Gerritsen, Passion Raw
App designer: Viktor Watterback, Perfect Fools
Planners: Richard Oldfield, Stuart Parkinson
Account director: Clay Mills
Musical director: Jonny Gee