Goodfella's brings the Captain Birdseye treatment to pizza in new campaign

Ad by Grey London aims for fresh spin on Italian American tropes.

Goodfella’s is returning to TV for the first time in three years with a campaign that aims to boost perceptions of the frozen-pizza brand by introducing a family matriarch character who acts as its "arbiter of quality".

Created by Grey London, "The Godmother" is set in New York and features visual design that harks back to the mid- to late-20th century, the era when classic gangster films such as The Godfather trilogy and the brand’s (almost) namesake, Martin Scorsese’s Goodfellas, were made.

It follows the stern, silent character of the Godmother arriving at the headquarters of her family pizza business and sitting down for dinner, before giving a nod of approval to a waiter sweating with nerves.

The spot was created by Georgia Horrocks and Matthew Kennedy, and directed by Ben Whitehouse through Stink. The media agency is Zenith.

The £4.2m campaign, launching on Monday, is the first time Goodfella's has advertised since 2016 and follows its acquisition in April last year by Nomad Foods, owner of Birds Eye.

Speaking to Campaign, Claire Hoyle, head of marketing for Goodfella’s, said the campaign was about bringing the "Nomad strategy" to the brand. She noted the creative idea had threads in common with last year’s relaunch of Captain Birdseye, also by Grey, that reinvented the character as a more contemporary, casual figure, but avoided the kind of drastic change carried out when 31-year-old Thomas Pescod was cast as the captain in 1998.

Hoyle said the brand’s research had identified that the brand's Italian American cues and association with gangster movies remained strong. On the other hand, the use of a woman as the head of a family was designed to reflect the growing demand for "strong female characters" but also "put a bit of a twist on the gangster genre", the lead characters of which are almost always male.

"It’s about tapping back into those memory structures but dialling them up to create some distinctiveness," she said.

"The Godmother" (La Madrina in Italian) was inspired by characters including Polly Gray, Helen McCrory’s role in Peaky Blinders, and The Devil Wears Prada's Miranda Priestly, played by Meryl Streep. As well as bringing Goodfella's identity to life, the character was conceived as an "arbiter of quality" to drive home the message embodied in the ad’s endline: "Made with respect."

"It’s a challenge across the frozen category in general," Hoyle said. "Consumers perceive frozen pizza to be lower-quality than fresh. What we can communicate with pride is that our pizzas all start life as an individual dough ball, they’re topped with sauce made every day in-house, the dough is proved and the pizzas are baked on Italian stone imported from north of Milan."

The TV campaign is supported by video-on-demand, Facebook, Instagram and Twitter activity. There is no programmatic display planned at this stage, but Hoyle said this is likely to follow in the second year of the campaign.

Alongside the advertising, Goodfella’s has made improvements to its recipes and is launching new pack designs. It has also just rolled out a second vegan variant after introducing its first last year.

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