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By Published on .

H.J. Heinz Co. is conducting a $150 million global review for its flagship ketchup, seeking a creative spark that will help the brand become as ubiquitous as Nike or Coca-Cola.

The move is a shocker, coming less than two years after Heinz gave its U.S. creative account to DDB Needham Worldwide, Chicago. The marketer also just eight months ago awarded a pan-European campaign to Euro RSCG Worldwide, London; those ads began airing last week as Heinz was hearing pitches on the larger review.

There are two more surprises: Heinz's main pet food agency, J. Walter Thompson USA, Chicago, isn't in the review, but Leo Burnett USA, the agency that resigned the Heinz account in 1994, is.


Along with Burnett and DDB Needham, Heinz heard pitches Sept. 3 and Sept. 4 from Euro RSCG and Bates Worldwide. It's believed that TBWA Chiat/Day also is in the running.

A decision could be made as soon as this week.

Neither Heinz nor any of the agencies would comment.

Executives familiar with the review said William Johnson, who succeeded the legendary Anthony J.F. O'Reilly as CEO of the $9 billion company at the end of 1997, is anxious to make his mark via a major global marketing initiative.

"Johnson is passionate about [Heinz ketchup] becoming the next Coca-Cola," said one executive familiar with the plan. Heinz retail ketchup sales around the world are currently $1 billion.


The campaign that just broke in Europe has a global feel, carrying the theme "All the world says Heinz" and featuring kids from different countries pouring ketchup on everything from pasta to pineapple.

In a news release announcing that campaign, Eric Salamon, general manager-corporate marketing at Heinz European Grocery, said: "Until now the brand has not spoken with one voice. But with the introduction of European category management, we have an opportunity to develop a single positioning and a unified marketing strategy."

Whether Heinz will spend heavily on the campaign in the U.S. remains to be seen. Burnett publicly resigned the business in 1994 because Heinz was committing virtually all its marketing budget to promotions rather than advertising. That was supposed to change after the assignment to DDB Needham and the company's implementation of a cost-cutting program designed to free up more funds for advertising.

But although Heinz last January broke a spot from DDB Needham showing 25 tomatoes morphing into a bottle of ketchup, the ad has barely run since then. According to Competitive Media Reporting, Heinz spent just $1.5 million on measured media for ketchup in the first five months of this year.


The low spending levels haven't yet affected market share. According to Information Resources Inc., Heinz Ketchup sales were $460.3 million in supermarkets for the 52 weeks ended July 19 in supermarkets, up 3.1% over the same period last year. That gives Heinz a 54% category share.

No. 2, ConAgra's Hunt's, had sales of $248.7 million, up 1.4%. Private label came in third with $88.4 million in sales, up 5%.

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