Best of 2020 No. 28: At Hellmann’s ‘Animal Crossing’ island, players donate spoiled turnips to fund meals in real life

The mayo brand uses the popular game to make a statement about food waste

Published On
Aug 14, 2020

Editor's Pick

From today through Jan. 1, Ad Age will be counting down the best brand ideas and campaigns of 2020.

No. 28: With physical gatherings off-limits this year, people came together online to hang out and play games, and Nintendo’s Animal Crossing became one of the most popular places to be. Brands, naturally, started to take roost in the game with their own islands, but Unilever’s Hellmann’s used its presence to address the real-world problem of food insecurity during the pandemic. The campaign from Ogilvy Toronto let players drop off virtual turnips they are unable to sell at Hellmann’s island and convert them into actual donated meals for Second Harvest Food Rescue. It was a great reminder that while the pandemic has millions of people bored at home, millions of others are struggling to pay for food and other necessities.

Original Story:

Nintendo’s “Animal Crossing: New Horizons” is one of the hottest games of the pandemic—likely thanks to its relaxing and communal nature. In the game, only available through Nintendo’s Switch console, players build their own paradise islands by collecting and selling items like flowers, bells and turnips. To connect to these gamers, Brands like Chuck E. Cheese and KFC have been experimenting with reaching new audiences through the game by building out their own customized Animal Crossing islands.

Hellmann’s Canada is the latest brand to do so, and it’s tying the effort to a social cause. Every week in “Animal Crossing,” players can purchase 10 turnips from in-game character Daisy Mae on the “Stalk Market,” which they can then sell at higher prices to the Nook nephews, other characters in the game. However, if players don’t end up selling all their turnips, they rot and become worthless.

Animal Crossing character standing over letters in ground that says, "Welcome to Hellman's Island""


It might only be virtual food waste, but the Unilever-owned mayonnaise brand is tying it to the real-world issue and encouraging players to be mindful of the issue in real life. For nearly a week, from 3 p.m. EST on Monday, August 17, to 12:15 a.m. EST on Saturday, August 22, players can visit Hellmann’s island to drop off their rotted turnips.

For each one, the brand will donate a meal to Second Harvest Food Rescue. The brand’s goal is to give away 25,000 meals. The effort ties into Hellmann’s Canada’s Real Food Rescue program, which has already donated 102,250 meals to hungry Canadians.

“When we noticed spoiled turnips is a real tension point for many Animal Crossing players, we wanted to take advantage of the insight to create a fun consumer experience that would have real world impact,” said Gina Kiroff, director of foods at Unilever Canada in a statement. “We’re hopeful Hellmann’s Island will not only be an incredible virtual experience, but also will inspire players to think differently about real world food waste.” 

After players finish dropping off their damaged turnips, they can choose to tour the island, which is complete with a beach, canola fields, a Hellmann’s kitchen with mayo ingredients like eggs and vinegar and mayo-themed merchandise. Guests can also pole vault to a nearby island shaped like the Hellmann’s ribbon to take a photoshoot against a background and visit a bulletin board for tips on how to reduce food waste in real life.

Hellmann’s worked with Ogilvy on the experience. 


Smiling Animal Crossing character standing next to numerous donated, rotting turnips.