Don Draper's ketchup-less pitch for Heinz was rejected by the marketer's fictional team on "Mad Men," but now the real-life Heinz team is embracing the idea.
Creative agency David is taking only some of the credit for its newest Heinz campaign, which includes three New York billboards and ads in two print publications. The ads are nearly identical recreations of ads Mr. Draper, played by Jon Hamm, showed the client during a 2013 episode of the AMC series.
The simplistic-looking ads feature French fries, steak or a cheeseburger below the line "Pass the HEINZ." In the real-life version breaking this week, the line is written "Pass the Heinz." in a slightly different font, while other elements are nearly identical.
"We were having a couple of old-fashioned cocktails with Don Draper and he just gave us the files," joked Anselmo Ramos, chief creative officer and founder at David.
"What we love about it is that even though Don Draper created the 'Pass the Heinz' campaign almost 50 years ago, the communication still really works and resonates today," said Nicole Kulwicki, head of the Heinz brand at Kraft Heinz.
As in the show, which aired only four years ago (not 50), the ads do not feature ketchup on the food or a bottle of the leading ketchup brand. As Mr. Draper said during his pitch on the show, "It's Heinz. It only means one thing."
"The creative execution itself and what we love about it is that it really doesn't require paragraphs of copy to explain it," said Ms. Kulwicki. "Really all that's missing is the Heinz."
The David team rewatched the episode and felt the campaign would resonate today, Mr. Ramos said.
"This is just perfectly on brand," Mr. Ramos said of the campaign, which was not approved by the fictional team during the fictional show. "We finally managed to approve it."
In fact, Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce and David share creative credits on the campaign in the creative public relations effort around the project.
Heinz is bringing the creative work to life with billboards at 7th Ave at 49th Street, 10th Ave. and 29th St. near the entrance to the Lincoln Tunnel and at 23rd St. and the Highline. All three print ads will be featured in the New York Post and the fries version is set to appear in Variety. The campaign will also play on social media.
Heinz did not work on a product integration with the "Mad Men" team when the plot aired on the show. It did work with Lionsgate on using the campaign from the show in real life now, Ms. Kulwicki said.
This year will mark the 10th anniversary of the premiere of "Mad Men," while the episode the campaign relates to first aired in April 2013. Neither Ms. Kulwicki nor Mr. Ramos were working on the Heinz business when the episode aired, but both proclaimed to be "Mad Men" fans.
"The idea is timeless," Ms. Kulwicki said.