The Philly Angel is passing the bagel in new campaign

Who: Philadelphia Cream Cheese and Rethink, with Starcom for media.

What: “#PhillyCastingCall,” a national campaign that brings back the brand’s iconic Philly Angel (played by Canadian actor Linda Kash) from the afterlife. The premise is that the Angel, who appeared in Philly’s advertising from about 1994 to 2010, is conducting a search for her successor.

When & Where: The campaign broke today with a video announcing the contest, which invites Canadians 18+ to apply for the role via Instagram, Twitter, YouTube or Facebook. It’s a TV-led campaign, complemented by digital, social and other below-the-line efforts. 

The brand says it is looking for someone “charming, clever and relatable” and reflective of Canada’s diverse cultural makeup. The winner will be determined next month, with the first work featuring the new Philly Angel expected in May.

Why: Heena Verma, senior marketing manager, brand build and innovation, for Kraft Heinz Canada, says Philly is purchased by nearly 60% of Canadian households and possesses a nearly 80% share of the overall cream cheese market.

With Philly’s brand health and loyalty scores also high, Verma says the goal is to “future-proof” the brand and strengthen consumers’ attachment. “We really want to establish the brand meaning beyond just the product that we sell,” says Verma.

The key objective here is loyalty. “It’s ensuring that every cream cheese lover in the country continues to buy their third and fourth tub of Philly versus anything else,” says Verma.

How: A 15-second video launched today features Kash, whose resume includes roles in shows ranging from Fargo and Seinfeld, reprising arguably her most famous role to enlist people to submit their videos. There’s a winking nod to the fact that the Angel isn’t entirely up on contemporary culture when she asks “what’s a hashtag?” at the end of the spot.

Kash is also doing the rounds of breakfast shows across the country to raise awareness of the initiative.

The campaign is a deliberate attempt to take advantage of the ’90s nostalgia that is currently fuelling everything from fashion to entertainment. “As we were thinking about what’s next from a marketing communications standpoint, it really stood out as the strongest idea in terms of tapping into our consumers’ nostalgia,” says Verma.

While the campaign is broadly targeted, the objective here is to tap into what Verma calls the “latent love” that younger consumers may feel for the Philly brand. “A lot of them grew up with Philly in their household… so as they grow up and they start to have their own families, we want to ensure that Philly remains the relevant brand for them.”

Numbers: Philly is among the $1 billion brands within the Kraft Heinz portfolio, and now encompasses more than 60 SKUs. While the soft and brick businesses account for about 70% of total sales, it is seeing strong growth in its snack-oriented Philly Whipped line, says Verma.

But the entire packaged goods industry is also being enormously challenged by changing consumer tastes, with Kraft Heinz coming off a tumultuous year which saw it take a $15 billion write down on its Kraft cheeses and Oscar Mayer brands.

The Philly Angel is one of the Kraft Heinz Canada’s most iconic marketing assets, recognized by more than 55% of Canadians according to research conducted by the company.

And we quote: “There’s so much love, so much excitement and so much passion for the Philly Angel, I think it’s going to be a great campaign.” —Heena Verma, senior marketing manager, brand build and innovation, for Kraft Heinz Canada.


Chris Powell