Mad Men’s Heinz Ads by Don Draper Become a Reality
I admit it, ever since my first Public Relations class 20+ years ago, I’ve found the PR stunt enamoring. We read case study examples about smart brands that left us with dreams of what we would do to leave our mark in PR. I learned that PR stunts are not about the stunt itself. PR stunts are about storytelling. They are about a brand becoming relevant in the bigger world. They are about how PR and content come together to create a moment.
As reported by AdWeek recently, the fictional world (Mad Men) merged with the real world (new Heinz Ads) in a perfect blend of PR and Content. Yes, these ads were “created” by the fictional brilliant ad man, Don Draper on the TV show Mad Men, for a Heinz pitch, which the character lost. Now, in a stroke of PR and content brilliance, those ads are were run in print and on Billboards in the NC area, nearly unchanged from Draper’s vision.
Sure, it’s fun, but it points to a bigger trend: content and PR go hand in hand – sort of like burgers and ketchup (Heinz, of course).
Five reasons Heinz running Mad Men Ads is a Perfect PR and Content mix
- Content and PR are about creating relevance: Ketchup is a staple. Most of us have it in our refrigerators at all times, and when it runs out, we buy more. However, while ketchup is relevant in our refrigerators and on our shopping lists, it’s not something that enters mainstream media regularly. After all, what is there to say about ketchup in the world of pop culture? Not much, usually. But when you blend it with one of the most popular TV shows of the past decade-ish you create new found relevance. Relevance that’s significant enough to garner coverage in AdAge, AdWeek, BuzzFeed, Esquire, the San Francisco Chronicle and more. Put simply, PR and Content blend to make making Heinz relevant in our lives.
- PR and Content stunts work: A few years ago Taco Bell issued a press release announcing that it had bought the Liberty Bell. There was a public outcry, the National Historical Park that houses the Bell was flooded with complaints and media picked it up nationally. Soon after, Taco Bell announced it was an April Fool’s Day joke. It was, after all, April 1. Taco Bell started the day with no news, they got clever and created a swarm of interest in their brand. They even saw a single day lift in sales of over $500K for the next couple days. They brilliantly created culturally relevant content, added a layer of PR and created a moment. Like Taco Bell, the Heinz team saw an opportunity. They understood the PR stunt potential, they knew the importance of good content, and they were willing to take a little risk to make a splash.
- Hitch your Wagon: Sure, Heinz is a massive brand, but sometimes even the biggest brands need to hitch their wagons to something bigger in pop culture to make a splash. Mad Men, even a few years after its finale, remains relevant. By hitching the Heinz brand to Mad Men brand, they catapulted themselves into the media stream for the day. Well played, Heinz.
- A Clever Idea is great, no matter where it comes from: Yes, Mad Men is fictional content, but it’s fiction with smart writers. Writers that understood advertising, and they had an excellent idea for Heinz. Regardless of where the ad concept came from, why not try it out – it makes sense. After all, the same concept worked for the “got milk?” campaign.
- PR and Content are a match made in heaven: Without content (a story), PR is just a press release, just a media pitch – and likely to fail. In this case, without Mad Men (the story) Heinz is just Ketchup. The story (content) made the PR work.
In the end, the Kraft Heinz company recognized that Mad Men has millions of fans that would love to see the ads become real. They even had a little fun with the announcement – they issued a press release that refers to the very fictional Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce in a very non-fiction manner.
This is great PR and content, and a fun find in the world of clever marketing.