The initial flight of two commercials breaking Feb. 10 is themed "M'm! M'm! Good for the body, good for the soul," but Campbell also needs the effort to be good for the bottom line. Both the marketer and BBDO Worldwide, New York, Campbell's primary shop, have been under pressure to raise volume.
Campbell's U.S. soup sales were up only 3% last year, despite a 30% increase in ad spending.
The stakes are high enough that Campbell CEO Dale Morrison, a former PepsiCo executive, personally tapped Phil Dusenberry, chairman of BBDO's New York office and creator of the "Pepsi Generation" campaign, to spearhead the new campaign.
Campbell won't discuss spending on the new effort, but Mr. Morrison said 25% of its total soup ad spending will go to the umbrella campaign, with the remainder to product-specific advertising.
Campbell said it spends $130 million annually on soup advertising.
BBDO handles condensed soups as well as the new campaign, while Y&R Advertising has Chunky soups.
"Campbell's orientation has shifted from relentless margin improvement to trying to get the top line growing," said DLJ Securities analyst William Leach. "You can only goose earnings so far, so they are looking to models like Coke and Pepsi."
But Campbell said the campaign isn't aimed directly at the financial community.
"If [the campaign] does its job on Main Street . . . we'll do fine on Wall Street," said Mr. Morrison.
NOT JUST ADVERTISING
Despite slowing volume, Mr. Morrison said he's "never considered changing agencies," adding that business is affected by more than just advertising.
"Advertising alone will not allow us to do what is possible in this category," said Mr. Morrison. "We will need better and more impactful in-store advertising, big event marketing, more platforms," he said.
"A relationship [with a client] is only as good as your work is," said Mr. Dusenberry. "I feel we are beginning to move the [sales] needle, and consider this project special -- to take the brand to the moon, to icon-status level."
To hit that status, he, along with Co-CEO and Chief Creative Officer Ted Sann and Vice Chairman-Executive Creative Director Michael Patti, put together a campaign that aims to show an emotional side of soup and fit the Campbell brand more squarely into a world no longer populated with traditional nuclear families.
In the first commercial, a lonely and frightened foster child is brought to her new home and cheered by a steaming bowl of Campbell's soup.
"My mother used to make me that soup," she says to her new foster mother, who replies, "So did mine."
BREAKING ON OLYMPICS
The TV breaks on the Winter Olympics coverage, only weeks before the official start of spring. That's highly unusual for soup advertising, which generally runs heavy from fall through winter and winds down by March.
But Mr. Morrison said the ads aren't late.
"Great campaigns don't happen overnight. We wanted to make sure it's right," he said.
Two more spots are in production for the prime-time, daytime, cable and syndicated TV schedule; Campbell said 90% of consumers will see the ads 12 times during February alone.
Mr. Morrison said that only TV is being used because the emotional platform "lends itself to TV."