Heinz Ketchup and McCain Fries show their love

“You had me at preheat oven to 450° F.” “I wish I knew how to pour you.”

Brands engaging in friendly (and occasionally unfriendly) banter on social media has become relatively commonplace in recent years, but previously platonic dinner companions Heinz Ketchup and McCain Fries are openly courting each other in a new Valentine’s Day promotion.

The first signs of the budding romance came on Feb. 1, when the made-for-each-other brands signalled their intention to become exclusive by trimming the number of Twitter and Instagram accounts they were following down to just one: Each other.

In the days afterwards, the two began exchanging increasingly flirtatious messages. The McCain Fries account tweeted an image of a Heinz Ketchup bottle carved out a potato, accompanied by the message “A little something for you, made from a little piece of us,” while Heinz responded with a sliced tomato in the shape of a heart, accompanied by the message “It has to be McCain Fries.”

Things have escalated steadily since then. On Wednesday, McCain’s social feeds shared an image of “Bath Fries,” French fries floating on a heart-shaped inflatable in a bathtub covered in rose petals and surrounded by candles, while Heinz sent an image of a heart-shaped locket filled with ketchup.

And the brands literally began shouting their love from the rooftops this week, moving the conversation offline by erecting billboards outside of each other’s corporate headquarters. McCain’s message reads “Heinz Ketchup, we can’t live without you,” while the Heinz billboard reads “McCain Fries, you complete me.”

Developed by Kraft Heinz and McCain’s mutual agency partner Rethink (which quietly became lead agency on the latter’s business last year), the promotion arose out of a brief from McCain, said Rethink’s managing partner and national chief creative officer, Aaron Starkman.

“We saw several ideas, and this was the one that jumped out,” he said. “We approached Heinz with this romance idea, and fortunately they loved it as much as McCain. The two brands started talking together, with us as a bit of liaison, to make it happen.”

Working as a go-between between two accomplished—and presumably demanding—marketers seems like it could be challenging, but Starkman said the process has gone smoothly. “You’d think there’d be extra challenges, but it was quite the opposite,” he said. “Both brands want the exact same thing, [which is] work that stands out. They both loved the idea, so it’s been going well.”

If we’ve learned anything from rom-coms, though, it’s that there’ll likely be a rancorous break-up that sends McCain into the arms of French’s ketchup, followed by an emotional reconciliation. Here’s looking at you, spud.

Chris Powell