Three years after it was pitched fifty years ago, Heinz is reversing its fictional “no” for a real life “yes” on Don Draper’s ketchup brand motto — and it’s a brilliant move by the Heinz brand, even though Mad Men will have been off the air for two years in May.
“Pass the Heinz”was a rejected pitch by Mad Men ad man Don Draper (and Stan Rizzo) in the show’s 2013-2014 sixth season. In the episode, the Heinz brand team criticized the pitch as only “half an ad” and wanted to see the brand’s bottle included.
In real life, Heinz brands head Nicole Kulwicki told Adweek that the attraction of the ads was, in fact, the absent piece, adding, “all that’s missing is the Heinz.”
“We are proud to be working with our two partner agencies on this new campaign,” she also stated in a press release. “We hear from our consumers that food just doesn’t taste the same without Heinz. Whether it’s fries without Heinz ketchup or hot dogs without Heinz mustard, this campaign perfectly captures the desire for great-tasting Heinz products with America’s favorite foods.”
Anselmo Ramos, Chief Creative Officer of David, the agency tapped to bring Draper’s pitch campaign to life, told Adweek, “You don’t need to show the product.” As Draper says so eloquently in the show, “It’s Heinz. It only means one thing.”
Mad Men creator and writer Matt Weiner is also credited in the ads, now running in limited, targeted publications like Variety and the New York Post and appearing on billboards in Draper’s hometown of New York City.
Season Six of Mad Men didn’t just have one Draper Heinz ketchup pitch. The brand formed a subplot for the season, with Draper’s second (make that third!) wife Megan also pitching a Heinz ad campaign, for its baked beans.
Peggy also threatened the account by dressing down the Heinz brand reps, with Megan coming back by saving the account for Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce in the ladies’ powder room.
Mad Men, of course, frequently mixed with reality. In addition to the fictional Heinz ads there were real campaigns like the classic Coca-Cola ad that ended the series.
In the end, Heinz’s playful adoption of the Mad Men idea in 2017 says a lot about the brand’s staying power. If a slogan formulated in 2013 to mimic one conceived to work in the 1960s still has relevance in 2017, well, that’s called brand consistency.