Breaking the Bond rules

5 martinis. That’s the average number of drinks that Daniel Craig’s Bond has drank per film, becoming the booziest Bond of the franchise according to some very geeky analysts at The Economist. Craig’s Bond has now broken another record; being the first who drinks beer in the franchise – neither ‘shaken nor stirred’ I suppose, thanks to a $45 million deal signed with Heineken.

Since the deal was announced in March, there has been a lot of controversy around the movie and the advertising campaign starring Craig, with 007 fans claiming it is breaking all the sacred Bond rules.  But the truth is that Bond has never been known for playing by the rules, and Heineken seems to have decided to adopt the same attitude. As General MacArthur would say – ‘you are remembered for the rules you break’.

The strategy appears to be working. The TV ad, called “Crack the Case” already has over 5 million views on YouTube, and Heineken has been on everybody’s lips (well, at least literally) ahead of the Bond premiere. The ad kicks off with a clip from Skyfall before showing a regular guy, our hero (our ubermensch?), who is mistaken for 007 and ends up being chased on the train, before catching up with the real Bond at the bar, drinking a Heineken. Controversy aside, I think the ad is a good example of how to integrate product placement into storytelling. The beer gets across its fun and slick image, while keeping with the aesthetic that one would expect from an upcoming Bond movie: jam-packed action scenes, villains and beautiful women.

And the campaign gets extra points for cleverly using social media to enhance the storytelling element of the ad, maintaining a strong brand image across different platforms. The interactive digital campaign picks up where the TV ad left off, challenging viewers on Facebook to solve a series of riddles to ‘crack the case’. Heineken also takes advantage of Twitter’s real time nature to invite fans to contribute to the story. The brand created a character, Nikki LaChute, who came to London last Saturday with a case of VIP tickets to the pre-screening of Skyfall, asking fans where to ‘drop the case’. The story could have been part of any Bond movie and ‘Nikki’ feels authentic, with the right tone of voice and attitude. It’s easy to imagine her being another of Bond’s ‘femme fatales’.

Maybe it is not just about product placement. Maybe what we do not want is our perceptions of Bond to change. But he has changed many times before, this is not the first time that Bond’s traditions have been ‘adapted’: he switched his usual Aston Martin for a BMW in Goldeneye, and in fact, in the Fleming novels he drove a Bentley. This shows how, with good storytelling, breaking the rules works. In 10 years time, we all might assume that the womanising spy’s favourite drink is a beer, and when he stops drinking Heineken and starts on WKD we’ll have the same argument again. For now, I admire Heineken’s desire to leverage digital innovation and attempt to tell a better story; it certainly beats the sloppy shoehorning of lazy product placement that has existed in previous Bond films. I’ll drink to that (although I’d still choose a martini over beer).

Ines Nadal is a research manager at Ipsos ASI, the advertising research specialists. Follow her on Twitter @inesnadal

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