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.
The Behind the Scenes blog is also a nice touch, and should have been promoted even more considering the amount of work they put into it. One of the most interesting features is a word cloud that shows a visual representation of which words are the most commonly used:
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.
It’s great to see companies embrace new technologies like live video feeds in their ad campaigns, and create things that don’t need a lot of dollars to deliver a lot of value, but it’s unfortunate to see a campaign with so much potential held back by such trivial details. However, with more than 18,500 messages left for the plant already, the campaign was far from a failure, and hopefully we’ll see them revisit the idea again with a little more support now that they’ve seen the number of viewers that a campaign like this can bring in.
- Highly interactive campaign encourages participation.
- Live webcam footage enables viewers to track the campaign at any point during the day that fits in their schedule.
- Behind the Scenes blog is filled with interesting tidbits of information, and serves as a permanent record of the ‘scientific’ experiment.
- Voice systhesis doesn’t have the same effect as enabling users to submit their words of encouragement through recorded audio messages.
- Flash website without specific social bookmarking and social networking buttons makes this a difficult campaign to share with others.
- YouTube is a missed opportunity for additional publicity and buzz.
- New technologies give an inside look into some of the behind the scenes elements of an often hidden company, and users participate to make a campaign a success.