How Roman Coppola and the Four Tops became the secret sauce in Heinz’s Super Bowl return

Heinz is back at the Super Bowl with an ambitious multi-screen ad telling four stories at the same time. Wieden+Kennedy New York creative director Laddie Peterson explains how the agency made it work thanks to a star director and the perfect soundtrack.

Creating four different ads for one 30-second spot may seem like an overly ambitious and complicated process, but if time and budget were no object, the creative team behind Heinz’s Super Bowl return would have featured 1,000 stories instead of four.

The Super Bowl brief from Heinz, which last advertised at the game in 2016, was to show how a bottle of its ketchup inspires the universal emotions of comfort and goodness.

“The brief was really generated directly from what we heard from consumers who interact with the brand every day,” says Dalia Adler, brand building lead at Heinz.

“They would tell us about all of these different situations where they've turned to Heinz, or when they see Heinz and get a feeling of reassurance, or where Heinz has offered them some comfort in a time of distress or uncertainty.

“We thought a lot about really the role that Heinz serves in our consumers’ and families’ lives.”

As Heinz’s newest agency partner, Wieden+Kennedy got to work on the Super Bowl ad fairly early last year. The plan was to show as many different Heinz families as possible; it settled on four highly cinematic settings to allow for playfulness with a multi-screen format.

The creative team wanted to convey a sense of unease in each scenario to heighten the feeling of reassurance when the Heinz bottle is revealed. All four scenes are set in unfamiliar places, such as an alien food market, a creepy diner and a haunted house.

It was Roman Coppola that turned these sets into rich, layered environments. The filmmaker was brought on board in November and worked closely with Wiedens on the production as well as the shoot.

“There's no way this would look as beautiful without him,” says Laddie Peterson, creative director at Wieden+Kennedy New York. “He really was thinking of everything, down to the nuance of what everyone is wearing in each story.

“Without us even having to worry about it, he would be checking the timing of every shot. There was just a lot of attention to detail that I just brought every story to life in such a great way.”

With such tight in-camera timings, the editing process turned out to be relatively simple. What proved more difficult was finding the perfect music.

Peterson’s team trialed every type of soundtrack against the film: stock music, composed music, the Beach Boys, Cyndi Lauper...even Coldplay. It was the part of the ad the client wanted to get exactly right, in order to build a sense of confusion before resolving into something familiar.

The chosen piece was a remix of Reach Out (I’ll Be There) by the Four Tops. It works, Peterson explains, because the reworked, spooky intro contrasts so much with the untouched chorus – a joyful tune that everyone knows.

The latter drops as a bottle of Heinz fill the screen and all the characters are comforted with the familiar sight.

“[When the song] first plays you think you might know it but you're not sure ... it's kind of dark and alluding to something that you don't understand,” says Peterson. “Then it starts to feel a little familiar and then, that moment where the scene changes, you feel like you’re back in the real world with the ketchup.”

The film kicks off Wieden+Kennedy New York’s ‘Find the Goodness’ campaign for Heinz. Adler hopes the initial Super Bowl spot will get consumers thinking about how the brand has been there for them in all times of life.

“We're in a climate that's so pessimistic and so increasingly uncertain,” she says. “So 2020 really felt like the perfect time to not just bring one example of a situation where Heinz adds goodness, but four of them to the Super Bowl stage.”

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