Ketchup Chronicles

Dan Burke of Dayton, OH recreates a scene for The NYT
The idea that consumers will being to churn out brand advertising that regularly runs on prime time TV is a farce. Agency people, who fashion themselves as craftspersons uniquely qualified to make such work, have scoffed at the notion from the get go. Now the mainstream business press is starting to look more critically at the much ballyhooed trend.
Today’s New York Times examines “Heinz Top This TV Challenge,” a consumer generated content promotion offering cash and fame.

Heinz has said it will pick five of the entries and show them on television, though it has not committed itself to a channel or a time slot. One winner will get $57,000. But so far it’s safe to say that none of the entries have quite the resonance of, say, the classic Carly Simon “Anticipation” ad where the ketchup creeps oh so slowly out of the bottle.
In one of spot, a teenage boy rubs ketchup over his face like acne cream, then puts pickles on his eyes. One contestant chugs ketchup straight from the bottle, while another brushes his teeth, washes his hair and shaves his face with Heinz’s product. Often the ketchup looks more like blood than a condiment.
“These are just so bad,” said Linda Kaplan Thaler, chief executive of the Kaplan Thaler Group, an advertising agency in New York that is not involved with Heinz’s contest.

Here’s Dan’s attempt to “sell” other, “more creative” use occasions for the product, a common enough marketing tactic. Of course, his choice of alterate use occasions is off strategy in the worst way.
The premise of this article (and the promotion itself) is that consumer generated content can somehow equal or even surpass in quality the crap agencies, and their friends at the brand, produce everyday. That’s not what CGC is about. It’s not a competition between amateurs and pros. It’s merely a new way to encourage participation with the brand. In other words, it’s not an “either or,” it’s an “and.” Brands continue to need well-crafted campaigns that meet all agreed upon objectives, and they will continue to pay agencies handsomsely for this work.



About David Burn

I wrote my first ad for a political candidate when I was 17 years old. She won her race and I felt the seductive power of advertising for the first time. Today—after working for seven agencies in five states—I am head of brand strategy and creative at Bonehook in Portland, Oregon.