McCain Foods launched an anthem for returning restaurant workers today to mark National Fry Day. “Time For Me To Fry,” performed in restaurant kitchens to REO Speedwagon’s Seventies hit, marks McCain’s first commercial effort and the brand’s shift from sales to service in marketing.
McCain Foods makes one quarter of all the frozen fries produced in the world. Since hiring agency of record Smiths Agency at the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic 16 months ago, McCain has created a series of marketing features that help restaurant customers turn its French fries and appetizers into business winners.
“Collectively, we’re leaving behind all the tragedy of 2020,” says Giana Pisellini, Senior Manager Integrated Marketing and Digital at McCain Foods. “After all the challenge and heartache shouldered by the people of this industry over the last year, we wanted to highlight the joy of getting back into the kitchen. ‘It’s Time For Me To Fry” captures that feeling. With real hope on the horizon, our customers are ready to bring restaurants back.”
The commercial campaign was shot in four different restaurant kitchens, three of which had been shut down during the pandemic. Strict COVID safety protocols were in place during all phases of video production. The actors in the video auditioned over Zoom from their kitchens at home, often substituting a kitchen spoon or a whisk for a microphone. All extras used in the video are restaurant staffers. New York music house, Store Front Music recreated the backing track from REO Speedwagon’s original song, which REO front man Kevin Cronin wrote about breaking up with his high school sweetheart.
“We leveraged a simple insight that back-of-the-house restaurant workers use music to move them through their workday,” says Lindsey Smith, Founder and Chief Co-Creative Director at Smiths Agency. “With just a tiny tweak, REO Speedwagon’s Time for Me to Fly gave us that post-Covid liberation anthem that we were looking for. It’s a break-up song that acknowledges heartache but celebrates what’s next.”
The spots showcase workers singing to the music from kitchen radios throughout their establishments. From loading boxes to making fries, line-cooks lean into each other, back-to-back, as they sing “I make you laugh,” while another cutting onions chimes, “you make me cry,” and a colleague at the griddle looks up, dances and bellows, “I believe it’s time for me to fry!” Add air guitar, raised fists, and ear-to-ear grins, and the entire staff is having a ball with it.
“There’s a special camaraderie in a commercial kitchen operating at full speed,” adds Alaina Girlardo, Smiths Associate Creative Director, who worked many years in a restaurant kitchen. “There’s incredible pressure but also a sense of ‘we’re in this together.' We camped it up the way real workers would if they were spoofing a hit song, and it dramatized the joy of working together again. The anthem becomes a statement of renewal.”
The 90-second spot will live on the McCain website, while a 30-second version runs on Facebook and Instagram starting today. All of the ads lead viewers to the longer video on the McCain site.
The campaign marks a dramatic shift from past McCain and foodservice industry marketing, which have emphasized sales materials and price promotions. When the pandemic shut restaurants, restaurants needed advocacy, innovation, inspiration, and support. So, the Smiths team introduced a series of videos and face-to-face blogs with McCain chefs offering tips and techniques for operating in the pandemic.
“This is an emotional time for the restaurant industry,” said Smith. “We pushed past the usual features and benefits’ B-to-B advertising proposition to find a more empathic marketing message. We think this work ‘meets the moment and sets McCain apart.”
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