A Social Campaign In The Can

A TV ad for Heinz that featured children, teenagers and adults using empty or full tins of Baked Beans to drum out the rhythm of ‘the #cansong’ has been canned by the Advertising Standards Authority on health and safety grounds.

The ban follows three complaints that the ad encouraged unsafe practice, and six further complaints that the #cansong could be dangerous if children copied it.

Heinz responded that all surfaces were safe to tap on and the ad did not depict any movements that involved placing a hand or fingers inside the can. It assured the ASA that the call to action directed viewers to its Facebook page, where tutorials and safety videos were hosted. Nonetheless, the ad is off the TV indefinitely due to the “associated risks of cuts”.

Heinz reminded the ASA that consumers had already created their own video versions of the #cansong and uploaded them onto social media sites. So far, there have no been no reports of injury. There are 36 YouTube videos captioned #cansong, whereas ‘Heinz can song’ reveals significantly more films, exceeding 89,000 uploads.

The ad was inspired by a similar and wildly popular concept using cups. The first instance, “You’re gonna miss me” was a musical arrangement using ambient sound, voice performance and cups, first published by LuLu and The Lampshades in 2009. It was later popularised by Anna Kendrick, following her starring role in Pitch Perfect:

And this impressive impromptu performance on the David Letterman show.

To boss the challenge you need a bit of skill; a hat trick of musicality, internal rhythm and physical co-ordination. It’s just as entertaining to watch it go wrong, as it is to see the musician get to the end of the song. It’s no wonder the internet seized it with both hands, and it could gather momentum in the wake of the ASA’s actions.

It’s a successful example of how user-generated films can boost brand passion and awareness. If a brand can re-purpose the assets, they too can become powerful sales tools, helping translate fun marketing into measurable ROI.

Consumers and marketers alike are debating if the #cansong ban is fair. Were health and safety concerns justified retrospectively, when so many consumers had taken up the challenge and come to no harm? 

The volume of digital UGC, combined with complaints caused by the television advert suggests that Heinz has two very different audiences to cater to. 

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