Lagunitas Parent Company Heineken Releases Controversial Ad: Love It or Hate It?

A beer ad tackles transgender identity, feminism, climate change. Yikes.

News that Sonoma County’s Lagunitas has been wholly purchased by Heineken gave pause today.

While the nearly two-year relationship between the two brands (Heineken purchased 50 percent of Lagunitas in August 2015) looked like it was headed for marriage, many of us wondered if the inventors of irreverent beers like “Hop Stoopid, “Censored”, “Sucks” and The Waldos’ Special Ale were headed for corporate blandity. And ads with girls in bikinis. 

Who knows, maybe they are, but a recent advertisement for Heineken has us feeling hopeful (see video above). Maybe even a little tearful.

Unlike the ill-fated Kendall Jenner Pepsi ad that was soundly ridiculed for its ham-fisted, cotton candy take on the very serious subject of mass racial and political protests, Heineken took a real-person approach to some seriously deep, divisive issues: Transgender identity, feminism and climate change.

The ill-fated Kendall Jenner Pepsi ad: 

The spot brings together individuals with strong opposing viewpoints to first collaborate on a physical project (building an impromptu bar) before revealing their disparate opinions. After learning of their partner’s political views, they’re invited to stay and have a beer or walk away.

Everyone stays for a beer (which happens to be Heineken, this is an advertisement, not an after school special). They all find some common ground, and one even hopes to continue the friendship. Awww.

So okay, I’ll admit I’m a sucker for sap, and possibly the least cynical person in the world when it comes to emotional stories and people acting like civil homosapiens. Not surprisingly some folks even found it MORE offensive than the Pepsi ad.  Like really offensive. Mostly though, the ad has been lauded, and maybe in a time of so much divisiveness, it’s heartening to stumble onto a moment that shows humans at their best, rather than at their worst. (PS. I kinda didn’t hate the Pepsi ad, for as goofy and candy-coated as it was, it was just nice to see signs that said “Let’s start the conversation” rather than “God Hates You.”)

We’ll see what others have to say over the next few weeks about the merger and the advertisement. But at this moment, we’re pretty encouraged at the success of a local brand like Lagunitas hitting the really, really big time, and the positive messaging of their parent company. Win-win.

“During the 19 months of our partnership we have come to trust and truly believe in each other,” founder Tony Magee said in a statement about the merger of the companies today to the Press Democrat. 

Maybe believing in each other is something we all need to do a little more of.