Campbell’s wants to spread some light and warmth in new brand campaign

Who: Campbell Company of Canada, with Leo Burnett for creative and strategy, TonicDNA for animation (directed by Joe Bluhm) and Grayson for music.

What: “Warmth to share,” a new masterbrand campaign that puts a focus on the hope and optimism that can come from home-cooked meals, rather than the typical product focus so common to canned soup advertising.

When & Where: The campaign is on TV now, running as a :30 into January, with shorter and longer (60-second) versions running online into March.

Why: At first glance the ad may seem like it was inspired by the pandemic, with its emphasis on bringing light to a dark time. But, the insight and vision for the creative was actually in the works since late last year—before anyone knew what social distancing was.

Research revealed that a lot of Canadians felt a strong emotional connection to the Campbell’s brand, said Kristen Knox, director of marketing for soup at Campbell Company of Canada. “But really they were seeing us as a bit more of a day-to-day practical product, and we really wanted to lean into that emotional connection.”

Part of the research was about looking at what families, particularly younger families, are feeling these days, added Tahir Ahmad, Leo Burnett’s senior vice-president and head of strategy. They found a lot of people were worried about a lot of things. “It started to feel like this world has become a bit greyer and it’s lacking a bit of compassion and kindness and joy.”

“We arrived at this insight that gave Campbell’s a real credible role to play, which is this kindness and compassion that we seek and crave can really start at home,” he said.

“We wanted to shift consumers that thought about Campbell’s from being just something they eat as a soup from time to time, towards a product that they think about cooking with and something that really evokes an emotional response for them.”

How: Enter June the firefly, which Knox describes as “a symbol of light and hope and inspiration.” The animated spot presents the world from June’s point of view. The firefly arrives in a cold, dark, empty city. “As she sees this world her light starts to go out… She’s losing some of her innocence and some of her hope.”

June finds a young boy who at first seems to be as sad as her. Soon his mother arrives and takes him to a bright, cozy kitchen where she makes him a home-cooked meal—using Campbell Cream of Chicken soup—and June’s hope is renewed by the warmth of the scene in front of her. “June then flies off and she has the rest of her firefly friends with her to symbolize that warmth spreading,” said Knox.

“The overall takeaway we think you’ll be feeling is one of positivity and warmth, and the idea that Campbell’s really can bring that into your kitchen, through the products you cook with.”

But it’s not a pandemic ad?: It’s really not. It may seem more relevant right now, but even prior to the pandemic a lot of people were feeling pessimistic about the world, and coming together and sharing a warm meal with family and loved ones at the end of the day was a powerful message even before this year. “We wanted to make sure that it wasn’t just coming across as a pandemic message,” said Knox. “We believe it is relevant at any time… because sadly this is the world we live in.”

The music: A cover of Steve Winwood’s “Higher Love” by the Canadian artist Willa, to appeal to new generations.

Why animation: They considered a number of tactics to deliver the message about warmth and hope, including live action, said Anthony Chelvanathan, senior vice-president and creative director at Leo Burnett. “We went through animation because it has so much emotion that you can pull out of it,” he said, giving special credit to the work of director Joe Bluhm.

“At the same time we also thought about the production consequences during that time [the pandemic]. Everything was shut down so we had a lot more control doing animation, and we could do so much more.”

And will we see more of June? I wouldn’t say she’s our mascot by any means, but I definitely see June and her light being a key element through the campaign,” said Knox. Her future beyond that, however, is less certain. “We’ll see how she renegotiates her talent rates.”

David Brown