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Heineken CEO admits alcohol industry has more work to do to convey Don't Drink and Drive message

Heineken and other breweries have more work to do on relaying the Don’t Drink and Drive’ message on an international level, the company’s CEO Jean-Francois Van Boxmeer has admitted to Publicis CEO Maurice Levy during an interview at Cannes.

Speaking to Levy, Van Boxmeer discussed his main strategy for the company, which was to see the Heineken brand become the leading premium beer in every country and city of the world. He also explained that he wanted to see the brand become “the champion of the global beers” in the world, while building the global brands of future, citing Sol and Desperados as two such examples of “global brands to come.”

“One has to realise that and building a global brand in food and beverages takes a lot of time,“ he elaborated. “It took us 140 years to build a global brand like Heineken and even in the age of the internet, it takes a few decades to build a global brand and set it out in as many countries as we are today with Heineken. Our company has been existence for one-and-a-half centuries so we also have what is necessary to see this company to be a leading company for the next century too.”

Asked about the company’s corporate social responsibility, he admitted that while beer had been become part of culture and tradition, relayed the message that drinking in moderation and preventing alcohol abuse was still a problem.

He cited ’The Sunrise’ campaign made by Publicis Milan and released last December, as an example of a campaign being produced to convey a credible ‘Don’t Drink and Drive’ message without it seeming “cool” and added that the creative community was needed to help crack that conundrum.

“Historically we have done a lot of collaborative work between brewers and alcohol producers with governments to invest in Don’t Drink and Drive campaigns," he added, claiming that the Designated Driver campaign 'Bob', created by the Belgian breweries in the mid-nineties and expanded internationally, had placed a lot of attention and money in helping make progress in tackling the issue.

Van Boxmeer, accepted that it was the responsibility of the alcohol industry to take part in such programmes and relay them through advertising and also online.

“There is one step further, it’s about the attitude aspect towards alcohol abuse and the only credible way is to let the brands tell it. People don’t buy a company or an institution, but they will eventually get a message from a brand in a credible way. If I look back to the exercise we made around ’The Sunrise’ it makes the point because at the end of the day it is not the guy who abuses alcohol who gets the girl, that’s some of the insight that we used.

“What we need to do as a creative community is to do more work with us, not only Heineken but all companies who sell alcohol brands to work on how we can make that message credible without being moralistic which doesn’t usually work. But in a way to make people get the point - which we have more work to do,” he added.

Heineken was the winner of the Creative Effectiveness Grand Prix at Cannes this year for its Legendary Journey campaign by Wieden & Kennedy Amsterdam.

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