If you ask me about ‘Don’, I’ll probably be thinking about Don Bradman or even Marlon Brando not Don Draper. I’m not a ‘Mad Man’. Or to put it correctly I’m not a Mad Men fan. As shocking as it may seem, I’ve never watched the show. My earliest exposure to a legend was when I read the seminal work by Lester Wunderman, Being Direct. It was a captivating read and full of insights and experimentation. If I love advertising, and I’m not sure if I really do, Wunderman is responsible. Truth be told, I place Wunderman higher in esteem than even Ogilvy.
Speaking of legends, Heinz is one. The bonds of childhood are strong to this brand, be it their ketchup or baked beans in tomato sauce. I can almost taste Heinz right now. But can I digest the fact that Heinz has decided to embrace a fictional idea from Mad Men – a TV show that is popular because of a made-up advertising man? The idea seems, as Adweek put it, more of a bit of fun and a PR stunt, trying to cash in on the hit show’s forthcoming 10th anniversary:
“Fifty years ago, in the fictional world of Mad Men, Don Draper pitched a daring ad campaign to Heinz execs, for the brand’s ketchup, that proposed not showing the product at all. Instead, the ads would show close-ups of foods that go great with ketchup – French fries, a cheeseburger, a slice of steak – but without any ketchup in sight. Don’s proposed tagline: ‘Pass the Heinz.’”
To add to the talkability factor, the campaign is a result of a collaboration between a real agency and a fictitious one.
The Heinz team is confident that this is a great idea, and strategically sound. The brand does enjoy a position of strong equity and associations with the US market. But I am still not convinced. Personally, when I viewed the ads, I didn’t experience that ‘Aha moment’ that lets you know when you’re in the presence of a great idea. There was no rush of realisation and no awe at the brilliance behind the idea. The issue was that although Heinz is a brand I have strong ties to, nascent though they are, it was not the obvious choice when it comes to ketchup and even the mention of Heinz did not reinforce their position as the obvious choice. The ad did seem ‘half an ad’ as the Heinz team on the show had called it. Perhaps fictional TV brand execs are more astute than their real-life counterparts?
When I heard about the campaign – and mind you it was hard to escape the news with legions of Draper fans all around on social media – I was more than a little curious. However, seeing the creative work rather let me down. In fact, it reminded me of a campaign much closer to home, where a local brand placed food shots and fascias in a similar attempt. I’m sure you remember which brand, right? Yes, the ‘Food is asking for Pepsi’ campaign. I remember watching the campaign at the time it was aired and thinking that the visuals were extremely attractive but it never induced me to have a Pepsi. Apparently as I’ve heard, the campaign had the same effect on most people, it made them hungry but not thirsty for Pepsi. You can still see some shop fascias around displaying the creative. A eulogy to an idea that died a predictable death.
In our own market, Pepsi moved on from displaying food alone and trying to trigger a Pavlovian response, by trying to associate their product with food by placing the product with the meal. The recent ‘Khana banay exciting’ campaign was based on that seemingly more robust premise. I’m a firm believer in the philosophy of ‘less is more’ but in the case of the Heinz and Pepsi campaign, an absence of a product, unless played properly and backed up by a solid monopoly in the minds of the consumers, is a flawed prospect. Reminds me of another Don, Don Quixote.
So Don Draper’s fictitious pitch being made in to an ad? I’ll pass, thanks.