Digital & Social Media

The Medium Isn’t the Message

The Medium Isn’t the Message


Heineken-owned beer, Dos Equis, has used The Most interesting Man in the World (TMIMITW) as its front-man for nine years. But Halloween 2014 saw the long-running campaign benefit from a new twist: a virtual reality activation that allowed the participant to step inside the Hugh Hefner-esque lifestyle of TMIMITW.

As part of its Masquerade campaign, Dos Equis installed Oculus Rift headsets in bars across the USA. Once they put on the headsets, participants entered an immersive three-minute plus experience where they became guests at a party at TMIMITW’s mansion. The party saw knife-throwers mingling with magicians, flame-throwers and fortune-tellers, not to mention many a tight-fitting basque. The plot centered on participants trying to solve the mystery of who the party’s guest of honor was.

Those who couldn’t experience the party via Oculus could still get a sense of it from watching an interactive film and participating in a quest to find TMIMITW’s little black book.

Those experiencing the flamboyant event via Oculus witnessed characters reacting to them in real time, while those watching the interactive film could use their keyboard to make decisions and determine their own narratives. If online participants succeeded in their quest, they stood a chance to win a trip to New Orleans for a real Dos Equis Masquerade party, a fixture in the brand’s calendar for the last two years. Those who got to experience the Masquerade party first-hand encountered characters who’d appeared from the VR/online experience.

The brand’s agency, Havas Worldwide New York, along with production company m ss ng p eces, and experiential shop Mirrorball created the event. According to them, around 1,000 people enjoyed the Oculus experience. The interactive film has been viewed more than 27 million times, with average dwell time around nine minutes.

The campaign helped Dos Equis sales rise by 18% year-on-year and has generated more than 370 million PR impressions.



Context is everything. Havas claims that ‘thousands’ of people enjoyed the Oculus immersive experience in bars, where Dos Equis was readily available – a marked difference to the context in which many people experience virtual reality. To date, many of the examples of VR we’ve seen have often been high quality but pretty isolated in terms of reach or being able to deliver any kind of direct response. By providing it in bars, Dos Equis delivers an influential brand experience at precisely the time and location where those taking part can use it to influence their choice of beer.

The social context of the bar is important for word of mouth too – with Dos Equis introducing it as part of a night out and something you can talk about with your friends after a few drinks. That’s perfect for normalizing VR and what it can do, making the tech more accessible. That’s good news for VR in general, an industry which Digi-Capital estimates will be worth $30 billion by 2020.

Interesting and integrated. There’s been a clear attention to detail with this campaign, making sure every element seamlessly connects. It’s also smartly interwoven into an existing concept for Dos Equis: the masquerade party. For those who couldn’t experience the party via Oculus, the interactive film provides a solid substitution. Since Oculus Rift headsets will remain relatively niche until Facebook starts shipping them in Q1 2016, take-up of branded VR experiences remains pretty limited. Providing an alternative interactive experience so people could get a sense of what all the fuss was about was a really smart move here. And the way in which the brand made sure that there was a blurring between the tech experience and the party lent Masquerade an authenticity that has often been lacking from early branded experiments with VR.

Nick Childs:

It’s coming. It will suck you into its all-encompassing world. And you’ll never, ever see things the same way again. No, this isn’t 2010’s promise of 3D flat-screens for your living room wall. It’s Virtual Reality. Goggle-eyed techies with names like Oculus Rift and Samsung Gear (a FleishmanHillard client) have been showcasing the promise of VR at exclusive spots such as New Frontier at Sundance with small screenings of projects like Birdy or a “Mongolian yak herder experience.” But there haven’t been many efforts to use VR devices to engage thousands of people through a simple, tried and true method: Story first, medium second.

Adherence to that simple maxim is a huge part of why the recent campaign, “Masquerade” by Dos Equis and Havas, was successful. The brand allowed people in bars across the country to put on a headset, likely for the first time, and invited viewers anywhere to share by interacting with an online film. The numbers are amazing – thousands connected through VR; more than 27M watched the film online; an 18% growth in sales. But the reason it resonated was that the story being told made sense. Rather than seeking to showcase new media with totally a new storytelling structure and an over-complicated experience, the lead character and plotline connected to an already-established, very successful brand campaign. Dos Equis enriched a story the audience already knew – and was eager to continue. They brought the familiar to life in an unexpected, integrated new way, and addressed a key question that often hampers bleeding-edge tech: “Yeah, but what’s it good for?”

The answer? It’s good for creating an immediate, immersive experience. It’s good for showcasing true integration between brand, agency, and cutting-edge production partners. And it’s good for reminding us all to think about why we’re sharing a story, not just how.


About the author

This article was syndicated from Contagious Feed, an indispensable resource to the marketing communications industry focusing on competitive intelligence, best practices, new technology and consumer behavior. In addition to the flagship quarterly publication, app and Feed, Contagious has developed a consultancy and a series of world-class conferences, including its annual Most Contagious event.

Nick Childs is the executive creative director for FleishmanHillard, working out of the New York office. He has been with the company since 2011 after a career in advertising that included Grey and other high-profile agencies.