Heinz celebrates 150 years with £12m campaign amid finance woes

Having just emerged from a challenging financial year, Heinz has stumped up £12m for an international 150th-anniversary campaign, shining a spotlight on its heritage through one of its best-known products: tomato ketchup.

The move follows on from its global brand officer, Eduardo Luz, rebuffing concerns that the company's recent set of underwhelming financials had anything to do with underinvestment in marketing.

Created by BBH London, the TV ad at the heart of the new push celebrates '150 Years of Clean Plates'. Invoking a bit of nostalgia, it plays on the brand's longevity to show how a humble splodge of ketchup has been transforming meals across the world for decades.

Centred around the universally acknowledged insight that a clean plate is the sign of a good meal, the hero film was shot by award-winning directors Dom & Nic and is scored by Mike and Bernie Winters' track I Like It. Throughout the spot, eagle-eyed viewers may clock some hidden film references too.

It is part of a wider drive that will run across the UK and Europe as well as in Middle East and Africa. It won't run in the brand's home market of the US.

Its launch comes as the parent company Kraft Heinz looks to offset a slow streak; having reported flat sales of $26.2bn and a $10.2bn loss for 2018 back in February.

Its stock sunk significantly on the day following the news, with analysts blaming a series of cost-cutting measures implemented by 3G Capital (the Brazilian private equity firm that runs the Kraft Heinz) for the slowdown.

Critics argued that innovation and marketing budgets had paid a heavy price throughout the fat-cutting and zero-based budgeting exercise but brand lead Luz told The Drum this was a "misconception".

He added that the poor financial results would not impact Heinz slated marketing strategy “in the slightest”.

However, the brand still has hurdles to overcome yet.

It joins FMCG rivals like Unilever and General Mills in having to cater for consumers' growing preference for non-processed food; increasing competition from supermarket own-brands; the threat of Amazon; emerging direct-to-consumer players; and rivalry from more niche, craft products.

Of late, Heinz has been adding more playful, and reactive, products to its portfolio too though. It caused a stir earlier this week with the launch of Creme Egg Mayonaise (really not an April Fools' joke) and back in September, it unveiled Mayochup.

For all its obstacles, the Heinz name itself still enjoys favourable equity among consumers. Especially from British women, who recently named the soup and sauce maker as their favourite brand by some measure.

The brand's wider 150th birthday campaign will be cross-channel and includes a print and OOH campaign shot by Gareth Morgan (above) which showcases more than 30 executions of single empty plates from different eras.

The drive will also run on social, digital and video-on-demand.

Victoria Sjardin, marketing vice-president for Europe Middle East and Africa at Kraft Heinz said: “Henry John Heinz set off on his extraordinary journey with the unique desire 'to do a common thing uncommonly well'. 150 years later, the heart of Heinz’s mission is still to find small ways to make life better."

She added: "We are very excited about our new global ‘Clean Plates’ campaign, which is a testament to Heinz’s heritage and aims to highlight how delicious Heinz products have been helping make meals even tastier around the world and across all walks of life for 150 years."

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