When it comes to karaoke, it’s no surprise that more people prefer the private room option over the crowded bar setting. The room is full of your friends. The bar is full of strangers. That alone can make the difference between singing and not singing. There’s no performance anxiety in front of buddies, it’s just get up and sing the hits with in-the-shower confidence and attitude.
Heineken and Wieden + Kennedy New York used this karaoke fact to conduct a social experiment of their own. The brand staged a pretty cool, if standard, beer promo at NYC’s Karaoke Boho that asked groups of friends to sing carols like “Jingle Bells,” “Deck the Halls” and “The 12 Days of Christmas.” What the happy party people didn’t know about was the more than 15 hidden cameras and TV studio behind the walls, and that they’d be forced to decide whether to sing to thousands of strangers–with the video feed broadcast either on a Jumbotron at an NBA game, the TVs of every NYC taxi for a week or on a Times Square billboard.
The results are, predictably, hilarious, awkward and awesome. Anyone who picked the longest, most complicated “12 Days of Christmas” option had some brass boughs of holly.
Wieden + Kennedy New York creative director Eric Steele says the challenge from Heineken was to help people step outside their holiday comfort zones and open them up to new experiences. “We needed to find a tried-and-true tradition and turn it on its head,” says Steele. “Caroling is an activity that’s set in its ways but also involves singing to strangers, which has an inherent level of discomfort to it that forces you to break out of your shell a little. We thought, what if we remix caroling with the karaoke experience–which is already in the nightlife space and makes sense for a beer brand–and dial up the tension to 11 by moving the audience from a roomful of friends to this idea of singing in front of the masses? Would they still own the moment and not be afraid to look a little foolish? Or would they play it safe and retreat? It seemed like a super compelling scenario.”
The goal for this project was the same as the impressive Departure Roulette stunts the agency created for the brand, says creative director Erik Norin. “Make it authentic and fun and inspiring while leaving our audience thinking that it is pretty cool that we actually pulled this off,” he says. “These things are social and fun advertising experiments. Going in we have no idea how people will react and if everything will work out the way we planned it–but I believe that’s why it’s worth making–and also why it’s worth watching.”