After a successful pilot, Kraft Heinz Canada is growing its in-house social media agency The Kitchen, adding two senior-level staffers in managing director Bianca Myers and executive creative director Simon Au.
The company currently sits at 20 people, with plans to grow to 24 full-time employees by the beginning of 2022. The short-term plan hiring plan includes both a director of strategy and a strategist, as well as a senior writer and business lead.
Kraft first partnered with Salt XC to launch The Kitchen about 18 months ago, with the goal of creating data-led social work moving at “the speed of culture.” The model has since been exported to other Kraft Heinz markets including Chicago, the U.K. and Amsterdam.
The appointment of Myers and Au marks a reunion for the two, who previously worked together at John St. “I am so excited to team up with Simon again,” said Myers. “He’s so incredibly talented and just being part of the team with him was really exciting.”
While there’s considerable debate in adland on the merits of in-housing versus using traditional agency arrangements, Myers said they operate without the day-to-day concerns of running an agency, such as pitching and profitability. “To only have to worry about the culture, and the people and the work, versus having to worry about the numbers,” she said. “That to me was a dream job.”
Au, who has spent most of his career in network agencies including Grey and Zulu Alpha Kilo, predicts that the in-housing trend will continue if brands can ensure the creative product maintains the high standards of agencies. “A lot of times [clients] take it in-house and the creativity plummets,” he said.
The Kitchen’s approach to creative—using what he calls a “newsroom approach” in which work reflects the social zeitgeist and can be produced in as little as a couple of hours—was one of the things that attracted him to the new role.
“I don’t personally like to do the same thing over and over again,” he said. “One of the reasons I took this job is because every day’s different and you’re trying to something out all the time.”
Au said that the ephemeral nature of the creative also provides more latitude and freedom. “You throw it out there and then if it’s not great pull it down and do something else the next day,” he said. “It’s not like you’re spending $1 million on a TV spot where everything hinges on it and people are stressed.”
The Kitchen has been instrumental in driving the company’s ambition to develop “best-in-class digital creativity and data intelligence,” said Nina Patel, vice-president of brand and innovation at Kraft Heinz Canada.
“I’ve been thrilled to watch the success of this capability piloted right here in Canada to a model that’s now being leveraged globally,” she said.
Because there are so many cultural moments happening on social at any given time, the key for The Kitchen is to be judicious in which moments they engage with, said Myers. “We don’t want to be spraying a bunch of content constantly… We want to be meaningful and purposeful and have them make sense for the brand.
“It’s figuring out the balance between quality over quantity, which is something we haven’t navigated before,” she said, “It’s just figuring out appropriate moments to hit rather than just filling feeds for the sake of filling feeds.”
One of The Kitchen’s key areas of focus at the moment is TikTok, including a Halloween-themed campaign for Heinz Ketchup in which it created a challenge to people to use its product to help with their spooky transformations. “TikTok will definitely be a big focus, not just for Heinz Ketchup but the other brands as well. It [offers] an interesting pulse on what’s happening right now.”
While there has been debate about social’s role in fostering mental health issues and the role brands can play in making it safer for everyone, Myers said that The Kitchen is committed to being “purposeful” with the content that it’s putting into the social sphere.
“At the end of the day, the channels are there and we have to figure out how to navigate them,” she said. “Those are ongoing conversations we need to have, but also want to be conscious of the fact that this is still very much an active space.”