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How Heinz Found the Horror in Tomatoes



Wunderman Thompson Spain’s José María Piera on casting 120 tomatoes for the scary shoot and the ideation process behind it, writes LBB’s Zoe Antonov

How Heinz Found the Horror in Tomatoes

For this year’s Halloween, Heinz bet on being ‘100% natural’ when pranking their fans. Utilising a series of interactive OOH billboards and social posts devised by Wunderman Thompson Spain, ‘For a 100% Natural Halloween’ aimed to show viewers that Heinz is made only of real, natural tomatoes. Upon first look, the posters seem to be a regular piece of content (ASMR recipe videos revealing the secret recipe for Heinz Ketchup, or a series of optical illusions). However, when looked at for long enough, observers are pranked with the appearance of a rather horrifying tomato.

While the spook is great fun, what is special about the posters is that they stay completely in line with the promise of being100% natural -using only a tiny bit of post production and highlighting to show viewers what’s already there. Who would’ve thought a tomato can be so scary when zoomed in? Paco Badia, ECD at Wunderman Thompson Spain also doubted the frightening nature of these fruits, until he realised that when shot under ‘certain light’, some tomatoes end up looking extremely scary. In the press release for the campaign, Paco explained that “By using the right product - the same variety that goes into Heinz Ketchup - we’ve been able to create an international campaign that’s as scary, and natural, as possible.” So, there you have it - the tomatoes that go into your ketchup are totally terrifying, but at the same time, oddly charming.

A whopping 120 tomatoes were cast in the making of the posters, and although only three winners were chosen at the end, all of them were later made into gazpacho for the crew to enjoy, so there was no horror of wasting food on this set. Thiago Rapp, Kraft Heinz head of communications and brand building also said in the initial press release that the brand saw Halloween as another perfect opportunity to “lean into a cultural moment to surprise and delight customers.” The campaign also came as a way to strengthen the ‘Ketchup. But first, tomatoes’ platform. 

LBB’s Zoe Antonov chatted with José María Piera, chief client officer at Wunderman Thompson Spain to find out how they came up with the wacky idea and why it works so well at what it’s meant to do.

LBB> What was the brief for this campaign and what was the initial ideation process surrounding it? 

José> Heinz always listens to proactive ideas from their agencies. Whenever we reach out with a proactive idea, they have always been seriously considered, even if they aren’t always produced. Halloween’s global relevance, combined with the fact that ‘terrifying tomatoes’ are already trending on the internet, gave us the idea of taking advantage of the occasion to strengthen the ’Ketchup. But first, tomatoes’ platform. The idea was presented just three weeks ago, approved almost immediately, produced in record time, and has seen the light of day on several continents.

LBB> How does one go about making ketchup Halloween themed - we saw some variations of the black garlic mayo - but this is incredibly creative! How does the team even get in the mindset of starting this project? 

José> We actually found memes on the internet with people’s pictures of some terrifying tomatoes. Realising that natural tomatoes could be that scary on their own was a funny discovery, and what we based our idea on. We thought that using tomatoes to scare followers on Halloween was a great idea for communicating the naturalness of Heinz tomatoes in their own witty tone of voice.

LBB> How involved were Heinz in the creative process?

José> Thiago Rapp, head of Kraft Heinz comms, understood that the main necessity of the campaign was to capture the most terrifying and natural photos of real tomatoes. We only had three weeks to produce the assets, so luckily, Heinz gave us approval very quickly for the photo shoot, as well as their advice to get the best out of their red, round tomatoes.
From that, we managed to expand the campaign with multiple video assets, which continued to have the full backing of the Heinz team. The campaign was produced for Heinz Spain and Heinz Chile, but ended also going live across the UK, Turkey, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Kuwait, Sultanate of Oman, United Arab Emirates, and Qatar.

LBB> Why did you decide that OOH was the best medium for this campaign? 

José> We worked on several assets for the campaign, but there’s a real beauty to its OOH execution, as the idea only needs one image to work at its best. In that sense, we wanted to take our tomatoes out in the streets to turn them into a Halloween key visual - becoming part of this holiday’s conversation.

The key visuals are the main idea of the campaign, but we expanded it by hacking Heinz’s content with these terrifying tomatoes on social media channels and interactive OOH content. Nevertheless, all the campaign assets relied on the impact of these key visuals, which needed to be terrifying and appealing at the same time.

LBB> Tell us more about the photography process. Were there any challenging parts in the execution? 

José> On our first tests, we quickly realised that finding a scary tomato was quite an easy thing to do if you know how to cut them in a specific way. However, we ended up casting hundreds of tomatoes to find the three scariest ones (which were different from each other). So, it was more a matter of patience than a challenge. We just had to search for the best ones with the correct light to get this balance between making them look scary, but also natural and tasty.

LBB> How did you choose your approach, keeping in mind the campaign has such a wide range of audiences? What kind of insights went into the decision? 

José> Halloween has become more global than ever, so we had the ambition to create a campaign that could work anywhere. In that sense, we thought this idea clearly worked for the ‘Ketchup, but first tomato’ worldwide brand position. We are pleased we achieved this, with the campaign being published in 11 countries.

LBB> Any final thoughts? 

José> These images were taken in the most honest, natural way: finding these scary faces on the tomatoes themselves, and only using post-production to highlight what was already there. Plus, all of the tomatoes we used were turned into gazpacho after, so none of them went to waste! 

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Wunderman Thompson Spain, Thu, 03 Nov 2022 16:56:00 GMT