Peter York on Ads: Heinz Baked Beans

New York neurosis - on toast

Woody Allen has a lot to answer for. Ross in Friends for a start. But I love the Upper West Side (and the Upper East Side and the Village and practically all the smarter parts of New York for that matter) and I'm a complete sucker for any kind of New York middle-class Jewish psycho-bongo stuff. Give me a bookshop and a black polo neck and I'm away.

Woody Allen has a lot to answer for. Ross in Friends for a start. But I love the Upper West Side (and the Upper East Side and the Village and practically all the smarter parts of New York for that matter) and I'm a complete sucker for any kind of New York middle-class Jewish psycho-bongo stuff. Give me a bookshop and a black polo neck and I'm away.

As we speak the great angst-ridden tradition of New York nerds in therapy is powering ahead again, revived by the current Heinz Baked Beans campaign. Not only is this campaign distinctly Woody Allen, it's also distinctly Bill Bernbach. Bernbach, the adman's adman, developed a combination of graphic simplicity and simple copy that talked in a wry artless Upper West Side voice that made competitors' work look crass and dated in the late 1950s and early 1960s.

If you fill the screen with the great turquoise Heinz Baked Bean can - positively elegant against a big white-out - with a little bean wiggling around its base - with no drawn-on face or comic animation, then it looks Bernbach. But once the whiny American voice-over starts it's Woody. He's on about being too easy, being the kind of bean who'll go with anyone. But then he's on to reassuring himself, a sort of counting your blessings. He's low in fat, high in fibre, he's an extremely complex carbohydrate. He's a super-bean, and you should be worshipping at his feet if he had any. It's all absolutely not "a million housewives every day ... Beanz Meanz Heinz" approach. It's meant for a clever diet-conscious audience.

It's tough in the baked bean market now. Supermarkets use them as loss-leaders and the own-brands are astonishingly cheap. Heinz is still the definitive brand but the category's changing status. We know the health argument for eating beans, but we know the sauce is chock full of sugar too, so A-level amateur nutritionists in the post-Atkins world aren't sure.

This is an argument for the category, the product brand and the corporate brand. They've got the tone right - at the end of each treatment the beans go off for a group hug.

Peter@sru.co.uk

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