Peter York On Ads: Nice ad, shame about the taste – Heinz should have gone to a real farmers' market
Sunday 11 November 2007
There's not a day goes by that I don't ask myself how 'eco' I am, how organic, or what my carbon footprint looks like. That's because I'm trying my best to be as non-eco-correct as possible. Our research for the slimy fictional eco-type 'Ben' for Olivia Stewart-Liberty's and my new book showed us what snobby, bossy people inhabit eco-world. And as for carbon footprints – I haven't had enough! Not enough travelling, long-haul flying or Monte Carlo yachting.
The really crucial eco/ organic celebrities are obviously socially smart, well-off and very travelled. I know you can learn masses from former sinners, and we're all bored to death with Prince Charles' huge worldwide carbon trail. But it gets to you eventually – and central to it all is the Farmers' Market and Food Fairs movement. We've got one in Marylebone; I go mainly for the people because it can get very social. The point of all this is that we think we know what 'farmers' market' means – it's a nice, PLU kind of name for real things from real farmers.
Heinz marketers have picked this up too: 'farmers' market' is a reassuring, upper-middly kind of name that could add value to their deeply un-Foodie, old-fashioned tinned soups. And they saw that, amazingly, it wasn't legally protected.
The Heinz Farmers' Market soup commercials are smartly produced around a clever conceit – bringing good-looking farm animals and produce into a yuppie couple's life. So they're watering cabbages in a window-box or finding hens in kitchen cupboards, with 'The Archers' music at top volume. It's quite convincing, and suggests that Heinz have done a deal to make the compliant real thing. They haven't. There's no link to Farma, the Farmers' Market movement, and a lot of angry web chatter because it doesn't conform to the 'local produce' idea (the on-screen small print has the weasel-line "made with quality ingredients from the UK and other countries".)
The one I tried sounded good, "slow cooked lamb with root vegetables", but it tasted – and smelt – like tinned soup usually tastes and smells, with that emphasis on reddish stuff (tomatoes, carrots) and those ingredients – glucose syrup, maltodextrin, non-specific vegetable oil – you wouldn't expect from Farmer Jones.
This is clever and dumb marketing. Clever to recognise the value-adding trend, dumb not to make the soup significantly better and to ignore the instant response from a talkative grapevine. They've even roused my Inner Foodie (™ Ann Barr and Paul Levy 1985), and that takes some doing.
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