Barbara Lippert’s Critique

Talk about condensed. Aside from the fact that a new spot for Campbell’s soup, “Birthday Gift,” takes place in some alternate universe where Dad is downright gleeful about a gift of tomato soup, we also see eight varieties of the tomato flavor delivered to the table and hear a voiceover about cancer prevention. But wait, there’s more!

Returning to his load of tomato soup cans, under the “Happy Birthday” sign, Dad says, “There’s enough Campbell’s soup here to last me 100 years!” “That’s the whole idea!” says his wife, chuckling.

This spot opens up new vistas of advertising pod person behavior, the likes of which haven’t been seen since the early 1960s. It’s got Saturday Night Live parody written all over it—”Happy birthday, Dad! Here’s your new defibrillator! Oh son, how’d you get it in the basket?”

Even worse than the stilted setup is the idea it’s supposed to lead, effortlessly, to revealing important medical information about a property in tomatoes that can prevent certain kinds of prostate cancer. That’s a serious claim to tack on to this parallel universe of birthday revelers. The question is: How can any piece of work that comes out of BBDO require this many layers of disbelief?

Perhaps the problem is the client brief, which demanded that the commercial cover 1,000 points of tomato lite rather than understanding that an entertaining ad with a single, coherent message would be more effective. At the same time, Campbell’s decided to resurrect the “Mmm mmm, good” jingle, first released in 1930. It’s heard at the top of all spots. I’ve always liked the jingle, and as a moonfaced toddler was told repeatedly that I resembled a Campbell’s kid.

The idea of Campbell’s tomato soup, with a can of milk stirred into it during the heating process, summons all sorts of comforting early memories. Recovering the jingle makes sense.

In the early 1960s, the red-and white Campbell’s soup can was iconic enough to launch Andy Warhol’s career in pop art. He took the ubiquity of the manufactured product and manufactured art. But these days, sales of condensed soup are declining, and Campbell’s corporate earnings are falling. That’s all the more reason to go with innovative advertising that infuses the brand with contemporary vitality.

Not everything in the campaign is awful—and some of it has yet to be released. The spot called “Don’t Get Up,” which promotes ready-to- serve soup, is cute. It shows an older brother making soup in his kitchen for his much younger sibling, all the while staying in his chair and pounding on his laptop. The other situations are pretty corny, especially the one with Dad making dinner (chicken à la cream of mushroom soup) for his astounded family. Haven’t we seen enough dorky dads lately?

Another spot sports a contemporary setting—a suburban house in which a younger brother and his friend (let’s say they are 12) barge in on an older sister (say 15) and all of her friends in her bedroom. “We’re making Campbell’s soup,” he says. “Anybody want some?”

“We’re watching our weight,” she says. And the 12-year-old, who obviously moonlights as a district manager for Campbell’s, then says, “Lots of Campbell’s soups are low in calories!” So the girls order all sorts of varieties, which the kid happens to stock in the kitchen cupboard.

I found this incredibly insensative—not the brand-infused dialogue but the “What planet are they living on?” part. Given the media hoopla over teenage eating disorders, how can any responsible advertiser have a slim girl announce that she and her friends are watching their weight? That’s hard to stomach. Campbell’s Soup

BBDO New York

Chief Creative Officer

Ted Sann

Senior Executive CD

Michael Patti

CD/Copywriter

Mark Ezratty

CD/Art Director

Ed Maslow

Executive Producer

Brian Mitchell

Director

Jeff Lovinger/LMA