If it weren’t for this article, would you know, off the top of your head, that the Roman numeral ‘LVII’ means 57? If the answer would be ‘no’, you’d be in the majority of Canadians and Americans who, when asked, simply had no idea what ‘LVII’ meant. Incidentally, if this frustrates you, you’re also not alone. Following the 2022 Super Bowl, hundreds of people took to social media to share their anger and bewilderment over the continuing use of Roman numerals when discussing the big game.
It’s for all these reasons that Heinz and creative agency Rethink needed to set the record straight - providing clarity amidst the confusion. Furthered by the fact that 57 is a significant number in the brand's history (find out why below), the result was a new campaign: 'LVII Meanz 57’. Featuring a spot set to ‘The Marriage of Figaro’ overture that highlights the hilarious reactions of people trying to decipher ‘LVII’, PR and influencer work by Zeno Group, as well as a website where people can vote on whether the time has finally come to retire Roman numerals (for a chance to win a limited-edition, specialty labelled ketchup bottle sporting the campaign name), this execution serves as a rallying call to call the big game what it really is: ‘Super Bowl 57’.
LBB’s Josh Neufeldt sat down with Rethink associate creative director Geoff Baillie, creative director and partner Zachary Bautista, and Heinz brand manager Alyssa Cicero, to discuss how this idea came to pass, the significance of 57 in Heinz’s history, and why nobody knows what ‘LVII’ means.
LBB> This campaign is super clever! What was the brief, and what immediate ideas came to mind?
Alyssa> Our Heinz team has historically created ad spots for the big game, but with this year being the 57th big game, and our tie to the number 57 for over 100 years, we looked to do something completely different from past activations. Heinz, and the larger Kraft Heinz Company, is evolving its marketing to lean more heavily on creativity and disruption in culture, which informed the key focus of the brief. Specifically, we wanted to find a way to break through the clutter during this top cultural moment in a way only Heinz can. Rethink is a great partner as we embark on this transformation journey and seek out new ways to tap into relevant moments.
Geoff & Zachary> This is an idea that’s been 57 years in the making! The brief was simple - how could Heinz play their rightful role in the conversation around this game? A lot of ideas sparked right away, but we wanted to make sure that the insight was accurate and relevant, and that there was a meaningful connection between the consumers and the brand.
LBB> Why is the number 57 so important to Heinz?
Alyssa> While Heinz was invented in 1869, the number 57 became ingrained with the brand in 1896, when H.J. Heinz coined the slogan ‘57 varieties’. Shortly after, the brand’s popularity skyrocketed, and the iconic ‘57’ remains on bottles of Heinz ketchup to this day.
For added context, even though there were 60 products at the time, H.J. Heinz landed on 57 because he felt there was something ‘mystical, magical and memorable’ about that particular number, which was a combination of five - his lucky number - and seven, his wife’s lucky number. Within a week of coining this slogan, H.J. Heinz rolled out the first sign with a green pickle and ‘57 varieties’, and the rest is history.
LBB> Centring around the confusing nature of using Roman numerals for the Super Bowl is topical, but unexpected for a food company. How did this idea come to pass, and why was it perfect for Heinz?
Geoff & Zachary> What we realised pretty quickly was that because of the Roman numerals, most people had no idea this is the 57th year. So, if we were going to highlight the number and its connection to Heinz, we needed to solve the Roman numeral problem. Our hunch was that the public was as frustrated and confused with them as we were, and we set out to set the record straight and have fans rally around this action.
LBB> Building on this, the insight that Roman numerals cause confusion was inspired by many viewers of last year’s game who expressed frustration on social media. As such, what was the research process like, and how did the results play into your creative process?
Alyssa> The campaign is rooted in the insight that people express more frustration about Roman numerals during the big game than any other day of the year. We also dug into consumer sentiment around Roman numerals and found that last year alone, hundreds of people took to social media to express their displeasure (based on a conversation sentiment pulled from January 1st to February 27th 2022) - showcasing just how confused and frustrated fans are when it comes to the use of outdated Roman numerals. These fan reactions inspired our very own consumer sampling study – a ‘man on the street’ social video asset where we surveyed real people about their knowledge of Roman numerals. Spoiler alert, no one knows how to read them!
LBB> Were there any great reactions that didn’t make it into the video? And, how did Canadians do versus Americans when it came to understanding Roman numerals?
Geoff & Zachary> We talked to different people from all walks of life and asked them, ‘what does LVII mean?’. The result? There were more hilarious reactions than we could fit into the spot. Whoever they were, and wherever they were from, they all had one thing in common: not knowing what LVII meant.
LBB> Fans were encouraged to vote on Roman numerals versus regular numbers. So far, what are the results looking like, and how many specialty Heinz bottles will you be giving away to the winners?
Geoff & Zachary> Because we’ve developed something that directly speaks to how fans feel, we’ve seen huge engagement and support across the board - especially with an increase of entries on the site. We’ll release the final tally closer to the game, but already it’s pretty clear based on the numbers. People want numbers to be numbers, and think we should ditch Roman numerals for the big game once and for all. If you’re reading this, cast your vote to weigh in, and for a chance to win your own limited-edition ‘LVII Meanz 57’ bottle!
Alyssa> We’ve had great response and engagement to-date. As of February 1st, we have over 21,000 votes (73% of all entries) to ditch Roman numerals and just say 57… and we only expect this to climb as consumers continue to engage with this story!
In terms of winners, 1,000 people from the US and Canada will win commemorative ketchup bottles, and will be randomly selected from those who visit www.LVIIMeanz57.com
and cast a vote.
LBB> What challenges have you faced during this project? How did you overcome them?
Geoff & Zachary> Obviously the big game is the most cluttered advertising moment of the year, and only a few brands break through. We needed to do this without the traditional sponsorships or a broadcast spot, but for us, this fuelled us to create a unique opportunity that makes sense for Heinz. It’s all about the idea, the brand, and finding an insight that actually resonates with people. Based on the numbers so far, Roman numerals definitely hit a nerve.
LBB> How does this campaign fit into Heinz’s platform for 2023?
Alyssa> Creativity and disruption in culture are pillars of Kraft Heinz Company’s marketing strategy. This is why we are taking a strategic anti-advertising approach to this year’s big game. Instead of running traditional ad spots, we’re striving to be a part of this top cultural moment - to break through the clutter and effectively reach our consumers across a variety of mediums (Instagram, Snapchat, TikTok, OOH and OLV).
LBB> Roman numerals, or no?
Geoff & Zachary> No! Just say 57!
Alyssa> While we are excited to see where the consumer voting leads, we think it’s time to retire the Roman numerals - especially this year. Just say 57!