Nigel Clare is spending dollars 50 million on ketchup. To be
precise, he is spending dollars 50 million on promoting ketchup in what
will be one of the world’s biggest food brand campaigns.
It may sound like a lot of money to spend on a sauce, but this is Heinz,
the sauce is Heinz Tomato Ketchup and Clare is the man charged with
turning it into a global advertising icon.
Earlier this year, HJ Heinz, the dollars 21 billion US food giant,
appointed Clare (in a way that only American multinationals can) as
’leader’ of its global ketchup and sauces team - a business that
accounts for around dollars 2 billion, or more than 20 per cent of total
group sales. In October, he gave Leo Burnett the task of devising the
corporation’s first global product campaign.
But global ketchup sales make up only half of Clare’s worries. In
addition to his product category responsibility - he is one of eight
category leaders within Heinz reporting directly to Bill Johnson, the
group chief executive, and the man who took over from Tony O’Reilly last
year - Clare has divisional control of the Heinz European grocery
In that role, he is in charge of manufacturing, distribution and sales
of Heinz brands that fall into the two areas of sauces and canned foods.
Together, these two divisions bring in revenues of dollars 1 billion to
the corporate coffers and include some of Europe’s best-known food
brands - Heinz baked beans, soup and spaghetti, as well as European
sales of ketchup and salad cream.
Wearing his European grocery hat, Clare spends around dollars 25 million
advertising these household staples to consumers across Europe.
’Advertising,’ he says, ’is fundamental to the business.’
But ’fundamental’ is not the word the advertising community was using to
describe Heinz’s attitude to advertising four years ago. In May 1994 -
before Clare joined the company - Heinz caused a minor earthquake in
adland by announcing it was dropping all product advertising in favour
of a generic Heinz campaign and that it was to focus heavily on direct
marketing. At the time, the move was seen in the context of an ever-
proliferating media world where direct contact with customers, through
magazines and offers, was beginning to look like a more cost-effective
option than television advertising.
Could this, the marketing world wondered for a moment, really be the end
of advertising’s dominance? If Heinz, the company that had blossomed on
the back of solid and (in its early days) innovative advertising, was
going below the line in a bid to woo customers, who would be next? And
for a short, ghastly moment advertising executives tried to come to
terms with the fact that one day, hideous though the prospect seemed,
they would be taking their lead from a direct marketing expert.
Fortunately - or unfortunately, depending on your perspective - it never
happened. Earlier this year, Heinz axed At Home, its customer magazine
and one of the main tenets of its direct marketing push. The conclusion?
That Heinz’s move to generic advertising with a multi-million pound
television campaign, ’toast to life’, launched last year via Bates
Dorland, had worked, while its direct marketing investment had not. Or,
at least, not as effectively.
Now, the recently promised dollars 50 million global campaign for
ketchup leaves little doubt that Heinz and advertising are about as
committed as beans and toast. Clare, who joined the company from
Hillsdown Holdings in 1995 where he had been head of ambient foods, says
that going for a global positioning for ketchup makes sense given the
company’s 29 per cent share of the global ketchup market. He saw pitches
from all the five agencies shortlisted - Burnetts, Dorlands, TBWA, DDB
Needham and Euro RSCG - describing all presentations as
’People often think choice is made on creativity,’ he says. ’But it
wasn’t only about the creative. There were some agencies who were a bit
unlucky in the pitch process and had better creative ideas, but they
hadn’t perhaps got the teamwork thing. We wanted a balance between
strategic input and creative input. On top of that, we felt they
(Burnetts) had the glue that could make it work between them and us
because the last thing we want is a ’them and us’.
’This agency had to interact with all our people; the impression the
agencies gave in terms of their ability to work together with us was
very important and a big factor in the final decision.’
Clare is loath to give a detailed explanation of Burnetts’ task, except
to say its job is to ’devise a way to promote ketchup globally, taking
on board local sensitivities and exciting each market’.
Clearly, the campaign will need to take account of the different uses of
ketchup in as many as 70 different markets around the world - in
Thailand, for instance, it is used mainly as an ingredient in stir
fries, in Venezuela it is a dip for crisps and in Holland it is used as
a sauce for pasta. In addition, it will have to take on board how the
product has been previously advertised. In Greece, a campaign features
what, at first, looks like a flasher standing at the side of a road
opening his coat each time a car passes, only to reveal that what he is
really flashing are rows of ketchup bottles.
While the success of the campaign is important for Clare and Burnetts,
it will also be watched keenly by other global agencies. Ketchup is the
first of Heinz’s eight product categories to go for a global campaign.
While the scale of its global market share makes it the strongest
contender for such an approach, other Heinz categories could adopt a
So what does the man who has just agreed to invest dollars 50 million on
advertising expect for his money? ’The ketchup equivalent of ’Beanz
Meanz Heinz’,’ he says. ’Wouldn’t that be wonderful! If we can produce
anything that has the endurance of ’Beanz Meanz Heinz’, we would be
Nice idea and no doubt one that is keeping Burnetts’ executives awake at
night. More seriously, Clare says the job of advertising is to
’reinforce the traditional Heinz values, to make those values
contemporary with consumers and to add power and a bit of excitement and
magic at the same time’.
He wants his agencies to be opinionated and non-conformist. The quality
of the advertising itself is vital, he says. ’I want management and
employees to feel good about our advertising and feel it really does
communicate the values of our product, our business.’
While this may sound positive to the advertising community, it is
surprising that Clare does not volunteer the suggestion that it is the
job of advertising to sell product, especially given his reputation as a
dour numbers man. Surely if you’re spending so highly on a campaign, you
want more than a reinforcement of traditional values and for your staff
to feel good about what they see on TV?
’Yes, its role is simply to sell product as well as communicating all
those values,’ he says and admits he would ’jump at’ a campaign that
shifted beans off the supermarket shelf but did not reinforce Heinz
values, ’provided it did not damage the long-term trust of the brand in
any shape or form’.
Asked if he gets what he wants from the agency business, Clare pauses
then gives a diplomatic: ’Yeah, we can ... and we do. It has got to be a
mixture; it’s got to be great art, it’s got to be impactful.’ If there
is too much focus on creativity, he says, it is as much the client’s
responsibility as the agency’s to redirect the work.
’I think it’s wrong for someone who leads a food business to turn round
and just accuse them of pushing advertising in a self-serving direction.
I come from a camp that says, don’t knock ’em, change ’em. I have
exactly the same sort of honest interactive relationship with the people
who work directly with me as I do with our agencies. To me, they’re
partners in the process, they have to be and if they can’t demonstrate
they can be, they don’t reach first base.’
He also wants his advertising agencies to play an important role in the
development of public relations. ’It’s another form of consumer
involvement which is much underrated,’ he says. ’Good advertising on its
own is not enough.’
Successful advertising, he says, means rising market share, ’but you
have to be realistic about how you have achieved it. Has your share
moved forward? If it has, it is because you have got all the other
things right as well. Rising market share is a school report on getting
it all right.’ For Clare, ’it’ is as much about pack design,
distribution and ensuring the quality of what’s inside the 1,000 cans
that emerge from his biggest manufacturing plant near Wigan every
minute, as it is about advertising.
In the past three years, Clare says Heinz has steadily increased its
brand promotion spend each year. Clearly, the dollars 50 million ketchup
move is a big step - particularly given that it was only earlier this
year that Heinz briefed Euro RSCG to produce its first ever pan-European
campaign for ketchup.
Clare may well say a lot of things - and believe them - that the agency
business wants to hear about how his ads should be ’great art’ and
’quality’ productions, but shareholders will want to see tangible return
on that scale of investment. When it comes round to results time at year
end in April 2000, if Heinz global ketchup sales are not significantly
higher than they are at the moment, Bill Johnson at corporate
headquarters in Pittsburgh, for one, will want to know why.
Like many senior managers, Clare wants his agencies to manage that fine
balance between being sufficiently embroiled in his business so they can
understand his markets and his culture on the one hand, and yet remain
detached enough to bring a fresh approach on the other.
THE CLARE FILE
1998 - Leader, Heinz global ketchup and sauces team
1997 - Managing director, Heinz European grocery
1993 - Group purchasing director, Hillsdown Holdings ambient foods. Also
held directorships of other Hillsdown companies, including Chivers
Hartley and HL Foods
Brands/agencies/reach - Heinz Tomato Ketchup, Leo Burnett, global
campaign; Heinz generic, Bates Dorland, European campaign; Heinz Baby
Food, TBWA, UK only
Most admired adman - Henry John Heinz, founder of the corporation, for
’creating the iconic Heinz label that is still here 137 years later; for
being one of the first food advertisers in Times Square and for his
Favourite ad campaign - ’’Beanz Meanz Heinz’ because it is enduring,
appeals to all age groups and makes you feel good’
Business guru - ’Ken Hackett, my first boss, who rose from forklift
truck driver to run the cannery in Montrose’.