‘Mad Men’ Spawns Real Heinz Campaign 50 Years After Don Draper’s Rejected Pitch

Mad Men ended its seven-season run two years ago on AMC, but the pitches from the advertising-themed drama continue to inspire real-life ad men. Fifty years after Don Draper’s fictional pitch to Heinz execs fell flat, his slogan is now part of a real-life campaign for the famous ketchup company, according to Adweek.

Mad Men fans may recall the Season 6 episode “To Have and to Hold,” which featured Don Draper’s (Jon Hamm) unconventional idea to create an ad campaign for Heinz ketchup without showing the product at all. The character’s “simple” campaign included close-up photos of ketchup-free French fries, cheeseburger, and a slice of steak, with the tagline: “Pass the Heinz.” Unfortunately, the client called the idea “half an ad” and Don didn’t get the account.

But, as Heinz would say in a later ad campaign, “It’s worth the wait.” Just a few months ahead of Mad Men’s 10th anniversary, the episode has inspired the company to launch a print ad campaign that will finally use Draper’s famous idea and tagline.

Heinz’s current adverting agency, David Miami, is sharing credit for the ads with Mad Men’s fictional firm, Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce. Mad Men creator Matthew Weiner even approved the joint venture.

The Mad Men-themed ads will appear on billboards in New York City and will run in print magazines. The ads will also get an extra boost on Heinz’s social media channels, which is something our Mad Men hero probably never would have dreamed of.

Heinz execs gave props to Mad Men’s retro campaign, which was originally set in the 1960s, saying it’s three-word copy and “mouthwatering food images” still say a mouthful today.

While Mad Men protagonist Don Draper would be 91-years-old today, a David Miami exec joked that he went over the campaign with the TV ad man over drinks. Old Fashioneds, of course.

“Don did a great job,” ad exec Anselmo Ramos said of the Mad Men lothario.

“This is just 100 percent on-brand positioning. It is about never settling. You look at these beautiful shots of empty fries, or a burger, and there’s something missing. And when you say ‘Pass the Heinz,’ that’s all you need to say. You don’t need to show the product.”

Of course, diehard Mad Men fans are familiar with some of the characters’ other pitches for the famous company. Early episodes of the series featured Draper and his wingman, Harry Crane (Rich Sommer), trying to score a Rolling Stones-themed “Heinz is on our side” ad, while Peggy Olson (Elisabeth Moss) famously gave the company’s execs an animated “bean ballet” pitch with the tagline: “Home is where the Heinz is.”

At the time, the Pittsburgh-based food company told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette they were happy to get a shout-out on the popular drama series, although execs admitted they weren’t involved in the product placement in any way.

“Heinz is pleased that the storyline featuring Heinz beans featured in the season-opening episode of Mad Men has reappeared in recent episodes,” company spokeswoman Jessica Jackson said. “The company was not involved in placing this product in the series, nor have we had any dialogue with the show’s producers.”

Of course, the recent Heinz deal is not the first time Mad Men has inspired real commercials. In 2010, AMC inked a deal with Unilever for a season-long sponsorship agreement that centered on six Mad Men-inspired commercials for Dove, Breyers, Hellmann’s, Klondike, Suave, and Vaseline. After the retro-style ads aired, they were followed by modern day ads for the same product.

Mad Men made great use of real life products throughout the show’s run on AMC. In Season 5, Don tried to deliver a Cool Whip pitch, but his partner Peggy couldn’t remember the tagline, “Just taste it!”

Later, the show’s Jaguar campaign storyline featured office manager Joan Harris (Christina Hendricks) selling her soul for a five percent piece of the SCDP partnership by sleeping with a slimy Jaguar dealer.

Jaguar executives told Ad Age they were caught off guard by the sex storyline, but still praised the pitch, which was: “At last, something beautiful you can truly own.” The luxury car company’s Twitter page also gave a shout-out to the Mad Men episode while skillfully distancing itself from the sordid side story.

Ditto for John Deere. In the Mad Men episode “Guy Walks Into an Advertising Agency,” Ken Cosgrove (Aaron Staton) drove a John Deere tractor into the office to celebrate landing the tractor company’s account, but things went awry when he ran over a few co-workers. AMC later clarified that John Deere did not authorize the graphic scene and issued a disclaimer on the Mad Men blog: “John Deere did not participate in the development of this episode. The company does not approve of unsafe use of its equipment.”

Take a look at Don Draper’s Heinz pitch in the Mad Men scene below.

[Featured Image by Cindy Ord/Getty Images for Madame Tussauds]