Joe Pytka performs his emotional magic for ConAgra spots

Two spots directed by Joe Pytka for ConAgra Foods, the massive Illinois food conglomerate, that aired on an NBC Special March 26 were edited and finished by The Colonie’s Bob Ackerman four days after receiving the dailies, dailies, for an important show that came up quickly. 

The commercials were an integral part of the March 26 half-hour NBC Special with Al Roker on child hunger in America, co-sponsored by the Feeding America Foundation and Child Hunger and Fear. 

The spot duo, part of a four-spot campaign that shot in L.A., were warm, longform family slices-of-life, for which Pytka won all those gold Clios and Cannes Lions.  

Familiar ConAgra brands were integrated into food preparation. In “Movie Night,” mostly youngsters in kitchens in different apartments, are preparing Banquet Pot Pies, Chef Boyardee Ravioli, Reddi-Wip and Orville Redenbacher Popcorn. Interspersed are scenes of them carrying chairs upstairs to what turns out to be a rooftop party with a movie.

Egg Beaters, Pam and Swiss Miss are the products as a father and son prepare “Breakfast in Bed” for a new mother  

A last-minute ConAgra-requested spot was a 30-second graphic treatment showing the partnership between ConAgra and the Feeding America Foundation, rendered by The Colonie’s graphic designer Lyndsay McCully. 

Pytka shot the package with a Canon 7D.  The other two spots in the same style but with different scenarios will air in late summer or early fall. 

If there are similarities between the ConAgra spots and the heartfelt tug of a Hallmark spot it’s because they were created by the same advertising geniuses.

The writer was ConAgra SVP/advertising Dave Linne, a former multi-honored creative director at Leo Burnett, Hallmark’s agency since 1988.  ConAgra’s staff producers, Dennis Bannon and Patrick Brennan, are also Leo Burnett veterans, with Brennan coming recently from Element 79.

Long before Burnett, Joe Pytka had directed those gold statuette-winning longform Hallmark Hall of Fame stories and Ackerman edited many of them, including the 2009 Clio-winning “Brother of the Bride” which also got a national Emmy nod. 

“The opportunity to work with agency veterans, skilled in creating spots rich in dialogue and storytelling is something every editor dreams of,” Ackerman says.  

“Whenever you find yourself smiling the whole time you watch dailies, you know you’re in good shape.”

To see the spots, click here.