It can be considered a victory as a home cook or caregiver to surreptitiously stuff zucchini into muffins or carrots into mac and cheese, serving those dishes to people who routinely shun vegetables. Mmmm, covert cuisine.
But is it more satisfying to wait until the “victims” finish the meal, then tell them all the ingredients?
A new campaign for Wholly Veggie with the saucy tagline, “Haha you just ate vegetables,” goes one step further. It adds a hard-driving heavy metal soundtrack that says to its unsuspecting snackers: you just got punked, and your tormenters are really enjoying the moment.
The work comes from independent agency Party Land, which has a history of quirky campaigns with Liquid Death, Drizly and other brands. Matt Heath, co-founder and chief creative officer, and creative director Matt Rogers applied their singer-songwriter chops—both are former musicians—to compose and perform the original score.
The goal was to grab attention in a jam-packed plant-based food space, while aiming to put Wholly Veggie in league with powerhouse competitors like Totino’s, TGIF and other staples in the frozen aisle of the grocery store.
“Knowing we wanted to stand out, heavy metal felt like a surprising approach for not just the category but for advertising as a whole,” Heath told Adweek. “Metal is one of the more mischievous genres, which connects well with the idea underpinning the campaign.”
Wholly Veggie, which launched in Canada in 2017 and has since expanded to the U.S., has previously limited its advertising to locally targeted digital and social media buys. This is its most significant marketing to date, and its first work from Party Land.
The brand continues to grow its distribution. Its sweet potato popcorn, mozzarella-style cheese sticks, cauliflower wings and other products will be available in 6,500 retailers such as Wegmans, Whole Foods, Sprouts and Fresh Thyme by year’s end, with some 700 Target stores recently added.
Timing of the campaign is key, since the partners want to get jump on consumers’ New Year’s resolutions and the cavalcade of health-conscious marketing that hits in January. And because there are numerous finger foods in the product line, Wholly Veggie wants to be top of mind in the run-up to the Super Bowl.
“Haha you just ate vegetables” features three 30-second spots. In the most laugh-out-loud of the trio, “Mom & Dad,” parents trick their children into eating “wings” that contain no chicken.
When the kids learn of the subterfuge, they go ballistic while the song pokes fun at their “childhood trauma.” Lyrics include “You betrayed their trust, but eating plants is worth it. They’ll resent you.”
Describing the brand as “a bit subversive,” co-founder John Bonnell said he was looking for that same tone in the commercials. Party Land’s concept “takes an old food advertising trope—attempting to get your family to eat healthy—and turns it into something completely unexpected and incredibly memorable.”
The big reveal that fuels the campaign is “empowering but it’s also lighthearted,” according to creative director Natalia Fredericks said, who noted that veggies have gotten a bad rap and her team wanted to take the opportunity to flip that script.
“Most of us know someone who proudly states ‘I don’t like veggies’ and those people are our targets,” Fredericks told Adweek. “It might seem like we’re doing it to them, but we’re really doing it for them.”
The ads will air on connected TV, social and digital across major markets in the U.S. and Canada, into 2023.
Agency: Party Land
Founder and chief creative officer: Matt Heath
Creative directors: Natalia Fredericks, Matt Rogers
Writer: Tyler Archibald
Managing partner: Andy Silva
Account supervisor: Taylor Toomey
Executive producer: Kristin Childers
Production company: The Goondocks
Director, executive producer and owner: Cody Osborne
Editor, executive producer and owner: Pratik Panda
Executive producer and owner: Nick E. Finn
Line producer: Dominic Galeano
Producer: Morgan Young
Director of photography: Jeff Holman
Art: Veronica Xiana, Alex Delgado
Casting: Wulf Casting
Hair and makeup: Amanda Markoya
Wardrobe: Scott Shapiro
Editor: Brendan Hogan, Jonathan Baum
Color: Elias Nousiopoulos
Sound Company: Barking Owl
Creative director and co-founder: Kelly Bayett
Executive producer: Ashley Benton
Senior sound designer: Stu Welch