In Depth

Why the Most Interesting Man in the World Does Not Tweet -- And Other Digital Musings From Heineken USA's CMO

By E.J. Schultz
Advertising Age

The Most Interesting Man in the World runs with the bulls, parachutes out of airplanes and bowls overhand. But he does not tweet.

"He doesn't sit behind a computer. He's out there experiencing life," said Heineken USA Chief Marketing Officer Lesya Lysyj, explaining why the importer's Dos Equis brand does not tweet in the popular character's voice. "Anything to do with technology is not something that seems like where he would be spending his time."

The beer company, on the other hand, has spent plenty of time with technology lately, inking a high-profile global deal with Facebook and adopting Twitter faster than most beer marketers (in spite of the Most Interesting Man's absence).

We recently caught up with Ms. Lysj to discuss the importer's digital strategy in advance of her appearance at Ad Age's Digital Conference in San Francisco on Sept. 20. Here is an edited transcript.

Advertising Age: Heineken has been a bit more aggressive digitally than some of its peers in the alcohol category. How would you assess the digital landscape today and your place in it?

Lesya Lysyj: We're trying to break the mold in beer marketing ... We're talking to a young, upscale male consumer. Particularly in the upscale part of the beer category, this guy is even more living in the social world than the average beer guy. When you talk about us being a little bit more progressive, that's because we feel like this is where our guy is.

Ad Age: You are on Facebook, Twitter and YouTube. Which is the most effective for you?

Ms. Lysyj: It really depends on the brand and the situation and what we are trying to achieve ... But one of the things as a broad principle (related to legal drinking age concerns is) we really try to stick to the venues where we can speak one on one with our consumers so we know who we are speaking to. We do obviously post our stuff on YouTube ... but we don't respond to comments on YouTube because we're not really sure who we are talking to, whereas on Twitter you really do know who you are talking to.

Ad Age: Update us on your deal with Facebook. (In December, the importer's global parent company reached an agreement with the social network in which the brewer will pay for consulting and early access to products.)

Ms. Lysyj: From a U.S. perspective, what I've been really happy with ... is our ability to get senior strategic thinking and interaction with [Facebook] ... They are not only helping us solve some of our problems, but they are actually helping us with some of our opportunities. For example, they've given us best-in-class examples of how other bands have used social as the primary strategy for a brand. And they are going to work with us on how we can apply that to our businesses.

Ad Age: Isn't this the kind of advice that you normally would get from a digital agency? How has this deal affected your agency relationship? (Heineken uses AKQA.)

Ms. Lysyj: I think that's a fair question ... Not to take anything away from the agencies, but I just think it's a more direct relationship [with Facebook]. I think we get more senior involvement when we come ourselves. I think they just spend more time when it's the client themselves dealing with them.

Ad Age: So you take the agency out of the loop?

Ms. Lysyj: For me it's more of the strategic side of things [where] we are working on with [Facebook]. And then we get the agency involved at that point or quickly beyond that point.

Ad Age: Heineken USA was among the marketers who piloted Twitter's new age gate tool, which is now available to everyone. How is that going?

Ms. Lysyj: Now that we have the age-gate thing in place, I think there's a real opportunity to take over some of the other imposter [brand] handles. (The Dos Equis brand, for example, has several handles not controlled by Heineken USA that in some cases have more followers than the official handle. So the importer is working with Twitter to shut down those accounts and move the followers to the official handle.)