Heinz spills the beans on how its emotional Pixar-inspired animation came to life

Heinz Australia seized The Drum’s Ad of the Day earlier this week with an unexpectedly emotional Pixar-like animation telling a warm story behind its new can sizes.

Y&R AKL managed to transform a simple communication about bean can packaging into something memorable with the help of production company Assembly. The Drum touched down with the creatives behind the campaign to understand the creative process behind the bold work - the agency’s first for the brand.

The three-minute video, which has been sliced into ad-friendly segments, told the story of bean-loving Geoff, a boy who eventually became head of innovation at Heinz. Along the way he developed helpful products and picked up a bean-loving family.

Creatives Ellen Fromm and Tom Paine worked on the campaign. Fromm said that as Heinz Beanz is one of Australia’s most loved brands, the work had to equal that status, “connecting with the Australian public and reinforcing the product as a pantry staple”.

As such the work has already gained widespread recognition, with write-ups in global publications and tens of thousands of views on YouTube at the time of publication.

Animation: turn a functional product launch into a heart-warming film

The medium of animation was embraced to give “us the ability to turn a functional product launch into a heart-warming film," admitted Fromm. "It would have been nigh on impossible to achieve the same level of charm via a regular film shoot.

She admitted there was no difficulty in making the story about beans; the very nature of the narrative focused on Geoff’s pursuit of bean innovation. The real difficulty was “pulling on the beans and bean puns”.

“The three-minute film is basically wall to wall product, yet the charming characters and beautiful animation let us get away with it.”

The brief required the team to communicate new 130g, 220g, 300g, 555g can sizes, an innovation that while handy ran the risk of driving consumers to sleep. “Communicating in grams is very functional and lacks a human connection, so we went about redesigning the on-shelf labels to include more colloquial, approachable language. We then wrote the story of how these new can sizes came about,” concluded Fromm.

The process: 10 months from brief to launch

Animation is a painstakingly slow process, and Paine admitted that time was not on their side, although he laid thanks upon Assembly for its quick turnaround. “Their skill, attention to detail, and passion for the project helped create a piece of work we’re all incredibly proud of, in a short amount of time.”

Paine admits that it was a “busy 10 months from taking the brief to the launch of the film". He explained: "Within that we had two rounds of market research, giving Assembly just four months to complete the animation”.

The very nature of the ad communicates that there is a can for families of all sizes. As such it made sense to package the message in a way that appeals to a wide demographic. There’s no better company at engaging families than Pixar, so naturally inspiration was drawn. Paine said: “We looked to Pixar. We researched the way they develop their characters and tell stories, taking those learnings to craft our own unique concept and bring Geoff’s world to life.”

Much like Pixar’s successes, there may be Geoff sequels in the works, Paine revealed: “We wanted to establish characters that have longevity, with the potential to write interesting backstories.

"Next off the block may well be the Sally story. Stay tuned…”

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