Brand: Heinz Ketchup
Execution: Consumer Generated Advertising Contest
Target: Burger Eaters
Reviewer: David Vinjamuri
Heinz launched a promotional blitz in December of 2007 for a consumer-generated advertising contest called “Top This.” The challenge was to create a new television spot for Heinz. The winner would get $57,000 (the number taken from the ‘Heinz 57′ days) and would be aired on television. Runner ups would receive $5,700. Heinz promoted the contest on-pack with mentions on 57 million customized bottles and 200 million tailored packets with catchy taglines such as “Hungry for Fame?” and “Starving for the Spotlight?” Heinz also ran full-page ads in the New York Times and USA Today to promote the contest.
The winning ad was created by Chicagoland resident Matt Cozza, a Northwestern graduate, freelance cameraman and award-winning documentary filmmaker. The ad takes off from a personal experience of Cozza’s, where he sat down at a restaurant and found that Heinz ketchup was missing from his table, proceeded to swipe a bottle from another table and set off a chain reaction.Â The ad will air on the Food Network.
A win-win campaign for both Heinz and its consumers.Â The 130-year-old brand pours some vitality into its creative efforts from outside the walls of agency-of-record Cramer-Krasselt.Â Heinz consumers get to dream about creating a spot to air on national television and of winning a substantial prize.Â Heinz builds momentum for the contest by picking the finalist videos from the thousands of entries itself, but allowing consumers to choose the winner.
This is all, of course, textbook script for a consumer-generated marketing campaign, but Heinz has been exceptionally savvy in the way it has managed the process.Â The promotional efforts sound impressive and reach a huge number of consumers, but they’re also exceptionally thrifty.Â On-pack advertising has virtually no incremental cost for Heinz and one-time insertions in two newspapers are small cost items done more for publicity than actual consumer awareness.Â Heinz also creates a customized, low-cost forum to air these spots before a friendly audience (on the Food Network) and consider them for further exposure.
The announcement of the winner creates a big PR opportunity for Heinz and results in some national news media coverage including a Fox Business News segment.
The final benefit may be as important as the rest.Â Without abandoning its agency of record, Heinz essentially gets thousands of fully produced concept ads for free. Â And many of these are not handicam efforts.Â The myth behind consumer-generated marketingÂ campaigns is that every Dick and Jane can win.Â The reality is somewhat different.Â These campaigns have become a resume-builder for talented film school grads and independent producers.Â Just the sort of folks that brands have difficulty accessing directly.
Brands rarely consider that a consumer-generated advertising contest will wind up putting a new tagline – and possibly a new brand positioning – on air nationally.Â While it seems inevitable that consumers play an increasingly large role in positioning and marketing brands, this is something different.Â The contest format is artificial and can result in a tug on the brand in a particular direction that is larger and less gradual than consumer co-creation would normally produce.
While the campaign winner was a very solid ad, it does not break new ground for Heinz, which as not yet found as compelling a positioning as it achieved with the iconic spot “Anticipation” of the late 70′s – fueled by the Carly Simon hit of the same name. “Now We Can Eat,” positions Heinz as “what goes with food” but the product-as-hero format features the bottle more than the Ketchup.Â Heinz already owns the category – it needs to create more hungry people to expand the category.
Branding Bottom Line:
A better spot than 80% of what’s on television.Â For $57,000.Â Top that.