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Lagging soupy sales inspire nasty commercial warfare

02/15/02


While greater minds contemplate the conflicts in Afghanistan and the Middle East, I think about soup. Soups, plural, actually.

Campbell's and Progresso are at war. I realize that conflict is part of life. I'm resigned to the fact that there will always be Arabs and Jews fighting, men and women fighting, cats and dogs fighting. But soup companies fighting? I don't like that. It's unseemly. Soup is supposed to be comforting. I don't like all this back and forth business. Why can't two soups co-exist? Can't they all just get along? Clearly, Progresso is the superior product. But Campbell's is the nostalgic favorite. See, there's room for both.

Apparently, Progresso and Campbell's don't see it that way. If you've been watching television lately, you might have noticed it. The first commercial went something like this:

Opening Scene Attractive Young Couple In Kitchen Unpacking After Moving Into New House

He: "You getting hungry? How about I make us some soup? (He holds up suspiciously Campbellesque red and white label can of soup).

She: "Honey, don't tell me you still buy that kind of soup.

He: "What's wrong with this? (Looking and feeling like an idiot).

She: "You're old enough for grown-up soup.

He: "Grown-up soup?"

She: "Yes. Progresso's. (She holds up blue label can). It's rich and chunky and more delicious. It's soup for grown-ups."

Next Scene, Same Couple Eating Progresso Soup

He: "Babe, you were right. It is delicious. This soup is for adults. You're a genius!"

She: (Batting bedroom eyes) Isn't that why you married me? (They both laugh wickedly as he puts his hand seductively on hers.)

It wasn't long before I saw another soup commercial on television. It looked a lot like the first. With one big difference. It went something like this:

Opening Scene Attractive Young Couple Getting Ready To Have Lunch

He: "Shall we have some soup?" (holding up a suspiciously Progressoesque blue label can).

She: "Oh not that stuff!"

He: "Why, what's wrong with this?

She: "Haven't you heard of Campbell's Select ? (She happens to have a red and white label can in her purse and holds it up.)

He: "I haven't heard of it. Is it new?" (Looking and feeling like an idiot.)

She: "Campbell's Select is the soup for people with good traditional values who know delicious healthy food when they see it."

He: (Throws blue can of soup in the trash) "Honey, that's why I married you. You know everything."

You get the idea. What I was wondering is where this kind of negative advertising might lead. It got me to thinking what the next round of soup ads might look like. If soup is anything like politics, these things do tend to escalate.

Man Enters Kitchen With Groceries To Greet Woman At Kitchen Reading A Magazine

He: Honey, ready for lunch? I bought some soup. (He holds up red and white label can).

She: (Grabs can from his hand and throws it violently through window shattering the glass.) "Are you insane? Can't you read?" (She thrusts magazine called Soup Research Monthly in his face)

He: "What? (Terrified.) I didn't know!"

She: "According to research, that soup is made from sawdust, nuclear waste, and the gangrenous noses of three-legged feral dogs!"

He: "I had no idea. What should we do?" (Looking and feeling like an idiot.)

She: "Let's have some Progresso brand soup." (Pulls blue can from her purse.) "It's healthy and delicious and cures cancer."

Later, Over Empty Soup Bowls

He: "That was swell. Honey, you're the greatest."

She: "Isn't that why you married me?" (They both laugh.)

This stuff could get out of hand. Campbell's soup would have no choice but to retaliate with something this:

Swarthy Man With Long Dark Beard Wearing Turban And Robes Sits In Front Of Cave Opening Somewhere In The Desert. In The Background, Group Of Similar-looking Men With Kalishnakov Rifles Huddles Around A Smoking Fire While Glancing Furtively About.

Turban Man Looking into Camera : "American infidels, we hate your country, but we love your soup."

(Camera pulls back to reveal the man is holding a blue can of Progresso soup)

Announcer: "Progresso soup: choice of terrorists everywhere."

Contact Michael Heaton at:

mheaton@plaind.com, 216-999-4569


© 2002 The Plain Dealer. Used with permission.
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