Here’s a Super Bowl ad with a lot of meat on it. It’s a spot for ketchup.
You won’t find Alec Baldwin, Christopher Walken, Amy Schumer or any of the other handfuls of famous folk slated to show up this Sunday night appearing on behalf of Heinz barbecue sauce and a range of the company’s other condiments. All you’ll see is a commercial that truly belongs in the Big Game.
Heinz seems to recall a time when Super Bowl ads dazzled, grabbed the viewer’s attention, and then told them something about the product they were trying to sell. It’s a strange notion in 2016, to be sure, when so many ads push consumers to go and post something about what they just saw on Twitter. Having demonstrated to the chief financial officer that someone cared enough about the ad to hack out 140 characters about it, the chief marketing honcho can then rest easy, knowing that he or she has secured actual, tangible proof that all the money put into the commercial was worth it.
The people behind Heinz have longer memories, and can recall a time when ads tried to make us buy rather than just sending us to tweet.
In this spot, viewers see a panoramic view of a fleet of dogs clad in hot dog buns racing toward a family of Heinz dressings, all to the strains of Harry Nilsson’s “Without You” (get it?).
One can’t help but be reminded of another Super Bowl classic –the famous “herding cats” ad from EDS that appeared in Super Bowl XXXIV in 2000. EDS wasn’t the best known name on the roster that year. The company didn’t sell beer or candy. It basically offered outsourced IT services and other management consulting delights – not the kind of stuff that’s easy to describe in 30 seconds to a crowd grazing on buffalo wings and hoagies.
To get the job done, EDS revealed a cinematic commercial that showed a group of cowboys herding hundreds of digitally I mposed cats, a metaphor that sort of crystallized what the company did. The spot was smart and the image was arresting. Chatter ensued, and viewers, even the tipsy ones, could grasp what EDS did. Perhaps the viewers who happened to be chief technology officers even considered giving EDS a call.
You don’t need to rush to the keyboard to talk about the new Heinz effort, though you certainly might want to ask if the actor who plays the Heinz Organic variety of ketchup looks a little bit like Jack Black. Yet there’s no denying you’ll turn away from that commercial realizing that Heinz mustard or ketchup might go well on your favorite meal, even if that repast is a dachshund outfitted in a fake bun-and-frankfurter costume.
The Super Bowl could use more of these spots, and for some reason only Chrysler and Coca-Cola have seemed able to produce this sort of thing in recent years.
Viewers talked about those ads the day after the games in which they appeared, but they also talk about them years afterwards, too.
Many of the ads that surface Sunday will make us laugh, or cringe, or post or “like.” But it takes a commercial like the one from Heinz to prod us to make a connection between what we see and the benefit of the product being advertised, and then, subsequently, make us consider buying that product. That’s a taste Madison Avenue might enjoy more of, if only the companies making ads these days could squeeze it out of the bottle.