Impossible launches its first national video ad campaign and decouples 'plant' from 'meat'

Its burger is still plant-based, but that now comes up as almost an afterthought.

Brian Cooley Editor at Large
Brian Cooley is CNET's Editor at large and has been with the brand since 1995. He currently focuses on electrification of vehicles but also follows the big trends in smart home, digital healthcare, 5G, the future of food, and augmented & virtual realities. Cooley is a sought after presenter by brands and their agencies when they want to understand how consumers react to new technologies. He has been a regular featured speaker at CES, Cannes Lions, Advertising Week and the Publicis HealthFront. He was born and raised in Silicon Valley when Apple's campus was mostly apricots.
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Brian Cooley
2 min read

Plant-based meats are pigeonholed as plant-based first, meat second, if at all. Many consumers still don't consider them as such. Impossible Foods' first national video ad campaign tries to flip that script with the message "it's meat," an assertion notable for its pithy boldness and decoupling from the "p" word -- plant -- until the final second of the spots.

"The thing that makes our brains think that something is meat is taste," says Jessie Becker, senior VP of marketing for Impossible Foods. "When we taste it and chew it and it feels like meat, that's all we need to know," she says, perhaps oversimplifying the degree to which people are also attached to the tradition of obtaining meat from animal slaughter. But Impossible's new campaign is meant for the most ardent meat eaters, with images, sound and tagline that eschew tree-hugging and new technology positioning. The tone is somewhere between the racy campaign that Carl's Jr's only recently abandoned and the beef industry's iconic "Beef: It's what's for dinner" campaign that dates back to 1992.

While comments and forums are filled with heated discussions about the relative health merits of plant-based burgers, one of Impossible's new spots is composed almost entirely of a tilt-up shot of an absurd 12-patty burger. "We're tapping into what you expect from a burger ad," says Becker. "The over-the-top burger, dripping with cheese. We talk about it as new meat in old meat's clothing."

How will all this play in Missouri, the most pugilistic challenger of "meat" labels on plant-based meats? Perhaps fine since the state's Department of Agriculture gives a pass to plant-based meats whose packages prominently feature qualifiers like "plant-based", "veggie", or "made from plants", the latter of which is the most prominent thing on Impossible's packaging after the brand name.

Impossible burger labeling

Only in the final second of its new video ads does Impossible switch on the "made from plants" message.

Impossible Foods

Hear much more about the rationale behind Impossible's somewhat surprising new ad campaign in Jessie Becker's full conversation with CNET's Brian Cooley.


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