I felt sure if we waited long enough, someone would grasp the nettle and prove that the art of copywriting isn’t dead, just having a lie down. The fact that this little miracle has been achieved by one of the nation’s best known (and best loved) brands, is just the icing on the cake. Or at least the sauce on the beans.
Every copywriter of a certain age recalls one of advertising’s most successful straplines in an instant. ‘Beanz Meanz Heinz’ accompanyied the familiar blue tin for years - and served the little orange morsels very well. Times change, every strap has its day and eventually ‘Beanz Meanz ...’ was retired. What came after it was mostly average, mostly forgettable. You see, that’s the trouble with a classic line - with what do you follow it?
‘It has to be Heinz’? It's okay, but not exactly award winning.
But never mind. The new TV spot for that staple addition to toast, is an absolute gem.
And no disrespect to the art department, but this one is definitely a writer’s baby. Although perfectly adequately directed and styled, the beauty here lies in the screenplay and script.
I’m not a gambling man, but I’d have a couple of quid on the whole idea growing from a lovely little ‘lightbulb’ moment. I imagine (and I really am guessing here) the brief asked for an execution which reminded the consumer that baked beans are actually one of their ‘five a day’. Obviously a worthwhile selling point, particularly for overstretched parents.
Kids tend to like baked beans. A lot. But not so much the cauliflowers and the sprouts. So, with all the current fuss about the little ones' diets (thanks for that, Jamie), this is a smashing bit of brand value leverage.
But back to the copywriter’s ‘lightbulb’. Playing with this proposition, it’s delicious to picture his or her face when the phrase ‘magic beans’ drifted into the thought process. Because it’s a line so superbly simple and sublimely right, you’d have to check it hadn’t been done before.
On discovering it there for the taking, I’m thinking the rest came pretty quickly: a modern interpretation of the Jack and the Beanstalk tale. It’s totally believable that a boy would swap a rather rubbish toy cow for a tin of his favourite snack, so we’re bought into the scenario from the start. That this would puzzle and please his Mum, is convincing too. Then comes the exquisite little twist - she assures her son that the beans are so nutritious, they’ll help him grow to be a giant. As if this wasn’t smart enough, we leave the scene with Jack (which is now one of the most popular boys’ names and therefore, double smart) whispering to himself ‘Magic!’.
It’s just perfect really. The copy is lean and straightforward, the concept clever but not contrived. The proposition is impressive and strong and the execution handled with a joyful lightness and warmth.
So thank you Heinz. Not only have you been making the best baked beans for nearly a century, you have now (along with your agency) restored my faith in copywriting and the power of the charmingly witty TV ad.
Magnus Shaw - writer, blogger and broadcaster