Hellmann’s: In search of real food




Hellmann’s Real Mayonnaise was first made for a mass market in 1913 and is now America’s favourite mayonnaise.

Hellmann’s asked their agency partner Ogilvy to develop a summer marketing initiative that would explain the product’s ingredients and range of uses in an attention-grabbing way, and reinforce Hellmann’s positioning as the epitome of simple, honest, real food.



With the insight that people wanted to say no to over-processed food yet had time, cost and taste considerations when it came to making meals, Ogilvy devised a pioneering marketing initiative called ‘In Search of Real Food’.

Part of the project involved traditional print and TV advertising that used real people to deliver Hellmann’s point of view on food made from natural, simple ingredients that are good for you.

In tandem with this strand of the campaign, Ogilvy created a Hellmann’s-sponsored ‘In Search of Real Food’ microsite hosted by media partner Yahoo! Food. This creative platform was designed to drive consumer conversations about real food, using interactive branded content, co-created content and a variety of fun community features.

In order to draw people in to join the conversation and keep them coming back to the site, Ogilvy created a 12- episode branded content web series presenting celebrity chef Dave Lieberman on a weekly road trip through America in search of real people making real food – from the proprietors of a Mexican food cart in SoHo, New York creating a pulled pork taco, to a bighearted lady’s regular fundraising Friday Fish Fry in New Orleans. Each episode was split into four three- to four-minute chapters for easy web consumption.

The challenge with branded content is to maintain the authenticity of the production while maximising the potential for the brand. This show offered incredibly rich content, allowing multiple channels for consumer engagement. By teaming with Rock Shrimp Productions and Dave Lieberman as our host, we had a ready-made fan base that was looking for the ‘real food’ point-of-view that Hellmann’s as sponsor is all about.

Doug Scott, President, OgilvyEntertainment

Beyond watching the weekly video content, ‘In Search of Real Food’ website visitors could:

  • continue the real food conversation by reading Dave’s blog (including his recipes) and posting comments.
  • share their own ideas and recipes on the Real Food group page.
  • ask and/or answer questions using a Yahoo! widget embedded in the site.
  • look for real food restaurants in their neighbourhood using a local dining guide widget pre-programmed with real food locations.

To promote the web series to consumers, Ogilvy used web banners in which excerpts of the show were embedded, TV and print ads, and creative on Hellmann’s jar tops. There was also coverage on US TV news channels, inviting people to star in the show by making their own ‘real food’ cookery videos.

‘In Search of Real Food’ was a programming concept that captured the fast changes taking place within the food industry – the emphasis on local-grown and real foods – as well as the changes within the entertainment industry. Finding new ways to reach consumers using interactivity, this show set a new standard for consumer engagement.

Bobby Flay, Celebrity chef; Executive Producer, Rock Shrimp Productions


The ‘In Search of Real Food’ initiative tapped into cultural conversation and delivered:

  • 1 million unique visitors to the campaign website
  • 5,000 Real Food community members

We’ve always been about what’s simple and real. Whether it’s the quality ingredients in our jar or the real experiences people have with others when they share food made with our Mayonnaise. This effort leveraged the technology available to have a conversation about that with consumers, offering recipe ideas and a point-of-view about food that kept the brand relevant to moms and built affinity to new and younger users.

Brian Orlando, Senior Brand Manager, Hellmann’s


This groundbreaking project teamed branded content with traditional advertising, forged an innovative media partnership with Yahoo!, and capitalised on celebrity connections for Hellmann’s.

Consumers shared and commented on the branded content via YouTube and social media networks, and even created their own real food videos. This activity resulted in the spread of the conversation about real food (and Hellmann’s’ association with it) far beyond the original campaign site.

Ultimately, the integrated mix of traditional advertising and branded content enabled Ogilvy to convey positive brand messages about Hellmann’s Real Mayonnaise, while provoking a dialogue with consumers about real food.

This case study was originally published in the 2014 Edition of Best of Branded Content Marketing (BOBCM), co-edited by Justin Kirby and Greta MacFarlane.

About the author

Justin Kirby is a consultant, educator and thought leader with a 20+ year career in industry as a digital strategist, producer and entrepreneur. He chairs and speaks at conferences around the globe, judge industry awards, and advise brands and agencies.