Under Da Sea Campaign Sells Lotsa Chowda

By Matt Van Hoven 

So for awhile there was this thing in Seattle where a soup company, Ivar’s Seafood & Chowder, revealed in a news story accompanying the image above, that in the 1950s the restaurant’s founder anchored billboards in the Puget Sound &#151 as in under water &#151 thinking that before long everyone would be traveling by submarine. Natch, advertising under water made perfect sense. Ads ran next to stories about the unwatering, as did a TV campaign. Earlier this month the story was revealed to be a fake, which happened to work: sales of clam chowder soared from 19,000 cups to 83,000 cups for September 2009 compared to that time last year.

To fully sell the story, documents “from the state’s Department of Fisheries and a Ballard diving service &#151 supposedly found in the archives of the legendary Seattle seafood restaurateur?” revealed info about the billboards.


A local historian authenticated the billboards, too, sealing the deal for many. Why not believe the story? Exactly.

Tie in the fact that the founder, Ivar Haglund (who died 24 years ago), was at times called “one of the greatest self-promoters in city history,” according to the Times &#151 and the audacity of such a campaign becomes nothing more than a great story. Did we mention that Ivar’s modified its prices to match those from the 50s during the campaign?

The Times were a bit miffed by the whole thing, noting “the story had legs because of well, how to put it? How about like this: People you wouldn’t expect to lie, did.” And oh gosh, more people bought chowder. They lay out the entire story, including how the noted historian was convinced to play along and where clues were hidden revealing the truth. It’s all a bit of fun, and successful fun at that. Though it begs the question: where is the line for deceptive advertising drawn? The agency “responsible”, Heckler Associates, probably doesn’t mind.

Denver Egotist via Seattle Times

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