Heinz – Talk to the Plant (The Interactive Ketchup Growing Experiment)

We’ve all heard that plants grow better when they have human interaction, but Heinz wants to put that theory to the test with the Talk to the Plant experiment. In addition, they want to prove their slogan that “no one grows ketchup like Heinz”.

The central focus of the campaign is a webcam rig that features live views of two different tomato plants. One plant is growing by itself, and one is growing next to a speaker that’s connected to a voice synthesis device, which is in turn controlled by anyone participating in the experiment via the website. To take part, users simply type their message into the prompt and select a voice, and their message will be put in line, and then read out loud through the speaker. A microphone in front of the speaker also transmits the message online so that anyone watching can hear the message live as its being played, and to further prove that the video is live, they’ve even put a little clock in the background so that you can verify that it’s ticking away in real time.

What’s great about this campaign is that it personifies the plants, and makes people really think about what goes into something as simple as their ketchup. In addition, the interactivity is a fantastic way to ensure repeat visits, because once you commit to coaxing the plant, you’re more likely to check back in and see how it’s doing, and perhaps even offer up more words of encouragement. Having a live counter of the number of love messages sent also helps, because it provides social justification for participating, as well as a little bit of digital peer pressure.

They also used the blog to celebrate achievements and milestones, such as the 10,000th message broadcast: “everybody if you can, do the bartman, shake your body, if you can turn it out man”. In addition, the blog serves as a documented history of the campaign, including periodic measurements and details on the necessary rebuilding of the camera rig.

What’s unfortunate is that they didn’t create more video assets. Though they created a trio of videos and published them onto their own YouTube account, one video is dominated by a pre-roll ad, one is very short, and the other just isn’t that interesting:

What they should have done is created a few time lapse videos of the plants growing, gathered together some of the funnier messages, or even just done a full video walk-through of the camera setup and the experiment process.Since it’s a very visual campaign, any additional information would go a long way towards drawing new viewers in.

The objective with talktotheplant.com – The Interactive Ketchup Growing Experiment was to explore if tomato plants grows better with human interaction. And to prove that no one grows ketchup like Heinz. Experiment time was set to six weeks. Evaluation after those six weeks resulted in a prolonged experiment. The total time for the experiment was eight weeks.

Result of the Experiment
The sound-only interaction from participating humans (18.774 messages sent in total) resulted in 153 cm growth.The control plant grew 146 cm. A difference in 7 cm. Does it prove the effect? Hard to say. The height lead was not constant during the experiment and even at more message intense days, the test plant did not take a clear lead over the control plant.

Advertising Agency: Crispin Porter + Bogusky, Europe
Creative Director: Björn Höglund
Copywriter: Anders Gustafsson
Art Director: Jonas Hedeback
Designer: Anders Johansson
Year: 2009
Silver Lion


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