Maple Leaf aims to mitigate hot dog guilt

A campaign for Natural Top Dogs addresses the category's 'baggage' by reminding parents of the 'Real Food' commitment.

Among all the products at the grocery store, hot dogs might just carry the most “historical and cultural baggage,” says D’Arcy Finley, VP of marketing at Maple Leaf Foods.

The meat company’s new spot for Natural Top Dogs hot dogs begins by acknowledging some consumers’ less-than-superb impressions of the category. A mom posts a simple question on social – “My kids have friends over. If I give them hot dogs, is that okay?” – triggering responses from other parents who express guilt over wanting to capitulate to their children’s hot dog-loving ways.

“It essentially surfaces the emotional tension that can come to some parents when serving hot dogs to kids, while acknowledging the love many have for the category,” Finley says. “We believe our hot dogs can ameliorate some of the concerns some parents have, particularly around the perception of its ingredients.”

The purpose of the new campaign is to ease parents’ guilt by reminding them that Maple Leaf committed to making sweeping changes to the formulations of its entire product line last year, removing artificial preservatives, colours and flavours and keeping only the simple ingredients that consumers can actually pronounce.

“We talk with our consumers regularly and they’ve been seeking options that have real, simple, and understandable ingredients,” Finley notes. “They want confidence in the quality of the meat used, and our team has worked hard to make that a reality.”

He says the slightly longer online spot delves deeper into different elements of the narrative, including “uncovering the perceived ingredient story and the associated feelings of guilt,” but that the 15- and 30-second commercials, which focus more people’s diverse opinions on the product, still aims to capture all the pertinent messages of the campaign.

The campaign, led by agency Sid Lee on creative and strategy, launched on May 17 and will be followed with OOH and print ads in early June.

While hot dogs comprise a significant part of the Maple Leaf product portfolio and is a key business priority leading into the summer months, Finley says the company has additional work planned for its Natural Selections line, Maple Leaf Prime, as well as a new Organic offering.

Maple Leaf’s early “Real Food” efforts featuring the “We’re for Real” tagline focused on the change in ingredients, while later ads have focused on its products’ place in family meal occasions.  For instance, it debuted a spot during the Super Bowl this year that played on the many difficulties of feeding children and, like the current effort, aimed to mitigate parents’ guilt about given them their preferred meal.

Cundari is handling media duties, while Edelman works on PR.