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NewsFlashAugust 17, 2022

“Heinz A.I. Ketchup” Attempts to Prove Industry Dominance With Machine Learning

August 17, 2022
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Cory Schröder
Senior Content Marketing Manager

When you think A.I., you think ketchup, right? Well, maybe not — but that hasn’t stopped world-famous American condiment brand Heinz from making the connection in its latest ad campaign.

Text-to-image machine learning programs are sweeping the internet, and people all over the world are having fun testing out the A.I.’s capabilities. The creations are often a bit off and surreal, but continuously fascinating.

Industry leader Heinz clearly saw this as an opportunity to prove its market dominance — after all, if you ask an A.I. program a question, its only option is to produce factually correct, unbiased answers. That’s where “Heinz A.I. Ketchup” comes in.

In an interview with The Drum, Mike Dubrick, the executive creative director at creative agency Rethink, explained the goal behind Heinz’s latest campaign, saying:

“Heinz is an icon, but we don’t want it to be a heritage brand. (And) like many of our briefs, the task was to demonstrate Heinz’s iconic role in today’s pop culture.”

Last year, Heinz released a similarly-themed campaign — but instead of tapping into machine learning, it used real consumers — it was a kind of “a social experiment asking people across five continents to draw the red condiment”.

According to the brand’s campaign video, all the participants were asked to “draw ketchup” and — believe it or not — they drew Heinz bottles. Now, this campaign was charming and fairly believable. Heinz is one of the largest, most well-known ketchup brands in the world, so it makes sense that your average consumer would think of it when prompted with “draw ketchup”.

More recently, the Rethink team decided to take this concept a step further and jump on the “text-to-image” bandwagon using DALL·E 2 — which is “a new AI system that can create realistic images and art from a text description.” The creative agency’s goal was then to figure out how to use this machine learning algorithm “to demonstrate that Heinz is ketchup”. And, in Dubrick’s own words “the AI gave us a completely unbiased opinion on the subject.”

The outcome is a wild and wacky minute-long video of all the various creations from DALL·E 2. They started by prompting the A.I. with “ketchup” — only to get more imaginative as the video progressed, using “ketchup renaissance”, “ketchup impressionism”, and “ketchup street art”. According to the ad, all A.I. roads led to Heinz.

The campaign is fun, creative, on-trend, and effective. It attempts to prove that even machine learning technology recognizes the market dominance of the Heinz ketchup brand. However, skeptical consumers have been hesitant to take the brand at its word — with some actually testing out the DALL·E 2 tool themselves with similar prompts.

On the ad’s YouTube page, comments are rolling in — while many are praising the ad’s creativity, others are saying they tried the DALL·E 2 tool and got… something different.

Source: Heinz YouTube

But this was a risk the brand and creative agency took when using an open-source tool like DALL·E 2 — there will always be skeptical consumers that want to fact-check brands’ claims.

As outsiders, we have no idea if the creative team behind the “Heinz A.I. Ketchup” ad really only got Heinz-related A.I. artwork when plugging in their search terms — but it makes for a compelling ad campaign.

As Dubrick told The Drum, he believes tech “enhances the human element. It allows the wildest, most imaginative creative thoughts that pop into people’s heads to be transformed into vivid illustrations”. And that’s really where this ad campaign shines — it combines the latest in technological advancements with human creativity.

So, 100% real or not, this ad is a winner in our eyes.

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Cory Schröder

Senior Content Marketing Manager

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