Giving 100% to work all day, every day simply isn’t feasible. Bodies need rest. Brains need breaks. And sometimes, mental health cannot prosper without an easier day thrown into the mix. However, it can be difficult to accept these facts without feeling some level of guilt. The rise of hustle culture and the idea that one must give their all to work at all times has made burnout a badge of honour, and created an impossible standard for productivity.
This only got worse during the past holiday season. According to research by Publicis, 40% of workers found that the pressure to complete end of year assignments made work even more stressful during the month of December. Naturally, this meant that many Canadians found themselves choosing late nights at the office over meeting up with friends… in a season when festivity and joyous social occasions ought to have been front of mind.
To Heineken, all of this was simply unacceptable. And so, in 2022 they launched ‘The Closer’, a bottle opener with the added ability to close all work programs on one’s computer. Enjoyed around the world, this unique tool provided a strong reminder of the importance of respecting well-deserved free time. However, solely putting it to market hardly would have spread the message. And in Canada, Publicis Toronto found themselves tasked with creating a 360 campaign aimed at ending hustle culture around the busiest time of year. The result? A spot shot out of the Publicis Toronto office, which features a notable Canadian ‘hustler’, Michele Romanow. Accompanied by OOH at locations including Yonge-Dundas Square, the campaign also invited Canadians to send in comments from friends working too late for a chance to win ‘The Closer’, as well as the opportunity for the comments to be featured in the campaign.
To learn more about how this Canadian adaptation came to life, LBB’s Josh Neufeldt sat down with Publicis Toronto’s executive creative director Vini Dalvi, and Heineken Canada marketing director, Yulia Elchenko, discussing everything from hustle culture to working with Michele Romanow.
LBB> What was the brief for this campaign, and what immediate ideas came to mind?Yulia
> The festive season is a difficult time to stand out as a beer brand, so our goal was to put a creative spin on our messaging in a way that’s highly relevant to consumers. The holidays are an overwhelming time - filled with never-ending to-do lists, work projects piling up, and the concern of health before the holiday foods and parties begin. We understand this feeling of just ‘not having enough time’ around the holidays, and wanted to empower consumers to reconnect and spend quality time with family and friends this holiday season. Vini
> The brief originally came out of the insight that working from home really blurred the lines between work and life. Effectively, this situation was leading more people to work late hours and bail on plans they’d made, such as meeting up with friends for a beer. So, the task was to introduce ‘The Closer’ to Canada, and remind people to stop bailing on their friends through an earned media campaign.
When we first got the brief there was a big conversation around the ‘Right To Disconnect
’, so we had some thoughts on how to build off that conversation. But Heineken is all about connecting people, so we really wanted to focus on helping friends get together. As we thought about it, we noticed a trend online of people promoting unhealthy work habits: hustle culture. So that became our rallying call - to stop the hustle influencers.
LBB> The combating of hustle culture is certainly a relevant touchpoint. What research inspired this decision, and what were the key takeaways that came from it?
> First hand experience was definitely part of our research process. Our strategy team also did a great job of pulling data showing that people become even more stressed during the holiday season. A big part of this is because many people who are influenced by hustle culture are working overtime to crush their goals before the end of the year, in the hopes of getting a big promotion in the new year. Another reason the workload seems to increase near the holidays is because people are grinding to hit due dates before the end of the fiscal year. In fact, we found that 40% of workers say their already stressful jobs get even worse during the holidays.Yulia
> The research was an integral part of this campaign. It’s no shock that hustle culture has had an impact on work-life balance, but, through a market research survey, we found nearly half of legal drinking age respondents cancel or reschedule plans due to work during the holiday season. Through surveying 1,500 Canadians, we found results that showed us how hard it’s been for Canadians to disconnect, especially as the workplace remains largely online. This was the fuel to our fire - ensuring we encouraged these individuals to disconnect and spend more time with loved ones.
LBB> How did you come up with the idea of a bottle opener that shuts down work applications, and how did this idea come to life in a practical way?
Vini> The idea originally came from one of the members of the global team. He actually built a prototype of ‘The Closer’ and brought it into a meeting to pitch it. From there, the prototype went into the research and development phase, in order to find the most consumer-friendly way to bring it to life. The final product is really simple to use; you just connect it to your device, open a beer, and voila!
LBB> And why was this the right approach for Heineken?
Yulia> The beauty of ‘The Closer’ is that it’s not just a high-tech bottle opener, but a social provocation. It’s our way of inviting consumers to disconnect in a typically Heineken, witty, and ingenious manner.
LBB> A big part of the campaign is Michele Romanow endorsing Heineken - using ‘The Closer’ in a spot. Tell us about this! How did you end up working with her and what was the experience like?
Vini> Michele was great to work with and the perfect person for this campaign. From the beginning, we wanted to partner with somebody who was a true hustler - someone who could really use ‘The Closer’ in their life. That was Michele to a tee. She’s a serial entrepreneur, the youngest dragon from ‘Dragon’s Den’, and is always grinding. In between takes on our shoot, we weren’t sure if she was staying in character, or actually just using every moment she could to work. Turns out she was actually just working.
Yulia> She is an icon to many - a true self-starter - but it seems that highly accomplished entrepreneurs are the ones most in need of a device that shuts down work. Our hustle culture praises people like Michele who are constantly grinding (and consequently, putting off everything else), which made Michele authentic in demonstrating the importance of shutting down and encouraging her network of CEOs and fellow hustlers to do the same.
LBB> The spot was shot at Publicis’ very own Toronto office. What was that process like, and what made your own office the perfect place to film?
Vini> While a travel shoot is always nice, in this case, it was great to be as close to home as possible. With someone as busy as Michele, we needed to make the most of our time with her. So, we used our office as a place to shoot the office scenes and used ‘The Carbon Bar’ downstairs to shoot the bar scenes - maximising all the time we had.
LBB> How did the shoot go, and how did you achieve the giant nighttime project for Michele to see outside the window?
Vini> It went really well. Michele’s background in TV made it easy for us to capture exactly what we were after.
On the other hand, capturing the projection was one of the toughest parts of the shoot. A little movie magic was required to get the projection matching up with where Michele is looking. Effectively, we had a company who was projecting on a nearby wall, but we had to flip the shot horizontally to achieve the right angle. So, we had to flip our design file, which made for a strange viewing experience in camera. But, when we saw it in the edit, it looked great.
LBB> Another big part of the campaign is the use of tactical OOH. Tell us about the design process. What were you trying to achieve, and how did you bring this aspect of the campaign to life?
Vini> During the design process, we had to find a way to balance both the Heineken branding, branding for ‘The Closer’, and make it a quick read of what ‘The Closer’ actually does. This sounds like a lot, but we found a way to make it very simple and clear. This was done by leaning into the visual language from global, but including a tagline that spoke to the functionality of ‘The Closer’. Then, all of our headlines were written to incorporate nods to the holiday season, while talking to the busyness that comes with it.
LBB> Given that Toronto is a city with many billboards and high traffic areas, how did you go about choosing and securing locations for the ads? Were there any specific locations you absolutely needed to have?
Vini> We knew that we wanted to hyper-target areas that are known for the hustle culture attitude. This is why getting a location near Bay Street was crucial for us. Then, we looked for places that would have high traffic during commutes, like Queen Street, and the Gardiner Expressway.
LBB> What challenges have you faced during this project? How did you overcome them?
Vini> One of the biggest challenges was trying to work around Michele’s busy schedule. To overcome this, we had to be very agile in our production approach. Our next biggest challenge was how to take a global campaign and really own it at a local level. By integrating a Canadian icon like Michele and contextualising all of our headlines throughout the campaign, we really transformed the global campaign into something that felt expressly built for a Canadian market.
Yulia> The biggest challenge was to not forget to disconnect ourselves as we were bringing the campaign to life. Seriously speaking, this was probably one of the most relatable campaigns we’ve done - both to us and our consumers.
LBB> How have people responded to the campaign? Are people enjoying ‘The Closer’?
Vini> There’s been a really positive response from people. During the UGC phase, we asked people to call out their friends, and we displayed the best comments on a billboard at Yonge-Dundas Square. It was a really cheeky way to get people excited about ‘The Closer’. The conversation about overworking is especially big right now, so people have been happy to join and poke fun at those friends who are always bailing on nights out to work late.
Yulia> In addition to a successful media and influencer event at the Walrus Pub and Beer Hall in Toronto, the campaign has garnered positive earned media coverage across Canada, including interviews with Michele Romanow and articles highlighting insights from our survey on Canadians' work-life balance.
LBB> Have you ever used ‘The Closer’ yourself?
Vini> Of course! Our industry is just as guilty of working late hours while bailing on friends to do so. Our team has been enjoying using ‘The Closer’ to not only open beers, but to close down their work apps as well.
Yulia> Of course! How else could we have put together such an effective campaign while finding time for a healthy holiday season with our families and friends?