Pass The Heinz: From Fiction to Reality

March 20, 2017 Ophelie Zalcmanis-Lai, Content Editor

“The greatest thing you have working for you is not the photo you take or the picture you paint – it’s the imagination of the consumer. They have no budget, no time limit and if you can get into that space, your ad can run all day.”

-Don Draper

Need we say more?

Reaching the level where a brand’s product immediately comes to a consumer’s mind with only a subtle hint, and without the product even being visible no less, is pretty legendary.

A brand who also goes after an ad campaign with that assumption as its basis is also of legendary status.

Right now that’s Heinz. After 50 theoretical years of being presented by Don Draper in Mad Men, Heinz is making the rejected “Pass the Heinz” campaign an advertising reality in 2017.

This is what captured our minutes this week.

Here’s why:

1. For something that came out of a TV show plot line, this is advertising that challenges the establishment.

As much as most advertisers would like to say that they are beyond the pitch-slap and don’t need to throw a visual of a product into a shot to sell it, that’d be pretty wishful thinking.
An ad for a product that doesn’t actually show the product?

That’s a little unsettling for some to accept. Despite wanting to be innovative and progressive, a lot of advertising still works around showing the product.

Nowadays, there just happens to be a bit more storytelling going on in the frame.

Yet the idea of flipping that idea on its head and really stripping a product down to the point where it’s not even visible is powerful. It’s powerful because it positions a product as an obvious choice. So obvious, it doesn’t need to be visible.


Draper was on point with his comment about consumers’ imaginations.

Once in, that space offers infinite possibilities to a product. There truly are no limits because it’s that person’s owned space. No one can tamper with it. Brands just need the introduction.

When that happens, it’s all set. People will keep recalling the same product but continually find new ways of doing so.

It’s advertising with an unlimited budget.

2. It’s a clever way of utilizing optimal timing.

So there is a method to the *ahem* madness.

Mad Men will be celebrating its 10-year anniversary this July since first airing. This campaign is, as AdWeek explains, “partly a PR stunt, partly just solid on-brand communications.”

Riding a wave of chatter can work strategically when good timing is involved. Sometimes these arenas are way too busy to make a dent in. But when brands find that niche spot (Mad Men fans in this case), they can pay homage while also being creative.

So, launching the ad on the eve of the show’s 10-year anniversary gives it a special audience of people looking to relive the Don Draper story. 

However, it’s done so subtly that even people who don’t know the reference will be able to appreciate it.

Taking the Mad Men context away, the ad itself is simple and easy to understand.
At the end of the day, consumers from several different positions will be able to appreciate the messaging.

Heinz just gets a little extra boost on release day.

3.  The idea was crafted in a way where even being a straight copy was made into a creative challenge.

Cutting corners by copying an idea is never a good thing – that’s just universal knowledge across any industry.

However, this is a unique case. Yes, the idea was written for Jon Hamm’s character by the AMC show. Yet, Heinz’s current agency, David Miami, actually re-created the images from the beginning.

David wanted them to look exactly like those that Draper presented and called the process of re-shooting the images a “beautiful challenge.”

Heck, Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce is even credited for the project.

It’s simple and visually identical, but the work still went into it.

Creatively speaking, this work is the true definition of collaboration (fictional agency or not).

Forget how to sell a product: this is a great lesson in giving credit where it’s due and successfully repurposing another’s original idea to be brand-relevant at a different time.

This is what we like to call responsible advertising.

Congrats to David Miami and Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce on being 50 years young.

At the end of the day, people engage with content by lending their minutes. Content is successful when its battery is fully charged with attention.

What will win this week?

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