Heinz in a Pickle


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HJ Heinz, makers of the eponymous ‘Heinz Beanz’ has got itself in a bit of a pickle. According to a recent article entitled The High Price of Creating Free Ads in the New York Times, Heinz has followed in the footsteps of other companies by running a Top This TV competition to get customers to create ads for the company’s products. The problem is not only the reported poor quality of the submitted consumer generated ads, or the time and cost it takes to assess each submission, but that ads rejected by Heinz are quickly showing up on YouTube.

There seem to be two polar opposite responses to this situation from the blogosphere. Nick Carr in an alliterative article entitled Bad Ad Fad on his iconoclastic Rough Type blog is negative. He cites the same quality, time, cost and unwanted exposure on YouTube issues as the New York Times article.

In contrast, Ben McConnell in an article entitled Chickel Little Pecks Again on his and Jackie Huba’s popular Church of the Customer blog is more positive. He suggests that the ads on YouTube, no matter how poor by polished ad agency standards, are still being watched by countless thousands of viewers and are being talked about in a way that is more thruthful to your average customer’s perception of Heinz and its products than more polished agency ads.

We will have to see how this marketing experiment pans out. Personally, I believe that real brands are created in the hearts of customers not in the minds of ad agency marketers. Anything that Heinz can do to engage customers in a dialogue will be a good thing in the longer run. Even if that means watching some naff ads on YouTube today.

What do you think? Has Heinz got themself into an advertising pickle? Or should customer generated ads be part of its secret sauce?

Post a comment and get the conversation going.

Graham Hill

Graham Hill (Dr G)
Business Troubleshooter | Questioning | Thoughtful | Industrious | Opinions my own | Connect with me on LinkedIn https://www.linkedin.com/in/grahamhill/


  1. James Cherkoff over at the Modern Marketing blog has an interesting take on the Heinz Top This TV competition. He points out that expecting the competition to result in free ads is a bit naive of Heinz. Sure the adds are free per se, but free as in ‘free speech’, not as in ‘free beer’. Well said.

    James is one of the authors of the excellent thought piece on What is Open Source Marketing? at Change This. Read it and have your mind opened.

    Graham Hill


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