Last year was the year that one of the world's great brands finally delivered with its advertising. After years of mediocrity, Heinz pulled itself together and through Leo Burnett, the agency it appointed in 1999, produced its best work since the noteworthy BSB Dorland campaigns of the early 80s.
The challenge was immense. Two years ago, Heinz was on its knees, seen as a soft takeover target for the likes of Unilever and facing falling sales in key categories such as Ketchup.
It started setting things right with a restructuring and pledged to back its key brands with an increased marketing spend despite cutting almost 4,000 jobs across its workforce.
Heinz's advertising is impressive in its variety and its effectiveness.
The challenge facing each brand was different - for instance, Ketchup is a global brand that needed strong global advertising but Salad Cream is a brand sold in far fewer markets and one that requires distinctly local work.
The creative is outstanding, particularly when you bear in mind the solid nature of many of Heinz's products. Among the best work was for Heinz Salad Cream. This is a campaign that successfully repositioned the brand for a younger, more upmarket audience with its 'Any food tastes supreme with Heinz Salad Cream' line. Highlights include the TV spot featuring a vagrant buying a bottle of 'his usual' before revealing he has bought salad cream rather than alcohol, some brilliantly disgusting print ads and great radio work and online creative.
Sales of Heinz Salad Cream grew by 14 per cent in nine months. But Heinz's advertising worked on other brands too. The campaign for Ketchup somehow added attitude to a hitherto solid and dependable brand using the idea that the sauce 'has issues'. Heinz's ketchup volume share shot up 1.7 per cent, a sizeable movement in what is a relatively static market.
Leo Burnett's print work for Heinz soup was also extremely successful.
Slick work for the core soup brand using the line 'Not your everyday soup' sits alongside some original work for the Big Soup brand that shows a range of broken utensils to illustrate the power of Big Soup. Heinz soup has seen a sales volume increase of 8.1 per cent this year and has its highest volume share, 55.9 per cent, since 1993.
But the ace in Heinz's pack has been the John West range. Leo Burnett has produced some stunning print campaigns for the tuna brand, including the award-winning 'fishing' spot. The final triumph of the year came with the hilarious TV spot for John West Red Salmon featuring a man fighting a bear for the best salmon. Again, Heinz showed its commitment to a range of media with some great radio work to support the tuna brand.
Leo Burnett produced a body of original, effective and highly visible advertising for Heinz all year. Every execution was crafted to suit the requirements of the brand and Heinz's marketers have rightly received plaudits. Clodagh Ward, its general manager for European condiments, won the Marketing Society's prize for best new marketer. The work has already picked up a pile of awards and seems set to receive more. More importantly, Heinz's brands have been re-established as the nation's favourites for a new generation.
COI Communications pushed Heinz close for Campaign's advertiser award.
It had an excellent year - rebranding, launching a strategic consultancy unit and investing large amounts in digital media. Carol Fisher, its chief executive, is creating a new dynamic organisation capable of running the Government's record pounds 113 million advertising spend.
COI's reel is one of consistently high quality, something that could not have been said in the past. The standout work includes army recruitment, police recruitment and tobacco education.
The change in COI over the past couple of years has been phenomenal.
Its consistently high standards are really making a difference. For instance, St Luke's Working Families Tax Credit work has generated more than one million responses and 8 per cent of the population installed a fire escape plan in their homes after the Fire Safety ad campaign.
COI deserves recognition for being brave, producing some fine advertising and for not settling for second best. It has moved away from being a middleman procuring cheap media to a multi-faceted organisation offering genuinely creative ideas and consultancy.
One of the best campaigns of the year was Weetabix's 'Withabix, withoutabix' work through Lowe Lintas. Weetabix deserves a mention as a high achieving advertiser for its bravery in signing off work that does not feature a single product shot. This is unique in cereal advertising and was pulled off with aplomb by Lowe Lintas through a great mix of TV and print advertising.
A final mention goes to Adidas, which once again produced some excellent work across all media. Its TV ads featuring stars including David Beckham and Jonah Lomu were followed by some striking ads around the Olympics.
Adidas has a commitment to supporting its advertising with strong interactive and ambient work and last year was no different. Its series of 'advertorials' themed around different sports and featuring stars such as Lee Evans also worked well in raising brand credibility and creating PR.
Recent winners: French Connection (1999); McDonald's (1998); Volkswagen (1997); Orange (1996); Daewoo (1995).