Serving Up Smiles and Scowls

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Near the end of 2015, Campbell Soup launched a new advertisement for their soups featuring the infamous Star Wars characters for their seventh episode (as if the movie needed any more promoting). The commercial begins with a father mimicking Darth Vader’s and quoting his signature “I am your father” line while feeding his son a spoonful of soup. The camera then pans over to show a second man — also the boy’s father — also quoting the famous line, albeit less successfully. The ad ends with the phrase “made for real, real life” flashing across the screen before the screen goes black.

Adorable? Absolutely. And a lot of people agreed. LGBT advocates praised the ad for deviating from the traditional nuclear family commercial with a mother and a father. On Facebook and Youtube where the video was posted it garnered thousands of likes and upvotes, and hundreds more positive comments praising Campbell for daring to be different by featuring a gay couple. With the ad, Campbell strove to show “actual” families, meaning families of different configurations, cultures, and races. And with an adorable Star Wars twist, they succeeded. Like the Cheerios commercial with the interracial couple two years ago, companies are evolving with society and becoming more daring with their ads. And the overwhelming majority was pleased with Campbell’s decision.

Of course while many were pleased with the commercial, it also created a lot of uproar.

Conservative groups were infuriated with the soup company’s actions. One Million Moms protested the advertisement for featuring a same-sex couple. Evangelicals and other conservatives quoted bible verses that claim homosexuality is a sin. Thousands took to Twitter and other social media mediums to voice their unhappiness with the ad. Others stated Campbell was taking a political stance with their decision, attempting to brainwash viewers with the “liberal agenda.” Some even vowed to boycott the company’s products as a result of this advertisement.

With all the controversy surrounding Campbell’s ad, was it a wise decision to air it? Especially when the company was likely well aware that not everyone would approve of a gay couple acting as the focal point of the commercial?

In my humble opinion, yes.

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Publicity is publicity, whether good or bad. Campbell is far from a newbie to the advertising scene. Their marketing team knew what they were doing, and knew that a same-sex couple would generate a lot of buzz among its viewers. Sure, a company can cram an advertisement down our throats during every commercial break during our favorite sitcom, but creating a successful word-of-mouth campaign is a more difficult task. A week after the commercial aired I had seen at least half a dozen of my friends share the video on Facebook, and had had a handful of conversations in person about the two dads mimicking Darth Vader. By combining Star Wars, a movie that has generated over $875 million at the box office in North America alone, with a non-nuclear family that helps deviate it from traditional ads and helps it stand out, Campbell knocked this campaign out of the park.

After all, how can you ignore a can of soup with the adorable Chewie on the label?

The controversial commercial has nearly 1.5 million views on Youtube with 77.5% of the votes being positive. Scroll down to the comments (that Campbell’s conveniently did not disable) and all the most voted on comments are positive. Take a stroll through your local grocer’s soup aisle and you’ll see plenty of Campbell’s soup on the shelves eagerly awaiting purchase. Glance at Yahoo! Finance to see the company’s stock is still healthy and that they are still profitable despite boycotts from customers. Despite the negative publicity Campbell received from some, customers are still reaching for the signature red can to fill their pantries when a cold can only be cured with healthy spoonfuls of egg noddles and chicken broth.

In the end the commercial generated plenty of attention for Campbell’s product, accomplishing the intended goal of advertisements. Now if you’ll excuse me, I think I’m suddenly in the mood for some chicken noodle soup for lunch.

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