Campbell's Soup Offers No Concessions on Gay Ads to AFA

Conservative Group Hits Out at LGBT Magazine Ad Despite, But Company Stands Firm

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NEW YORK (AdAge.com) -- They don't come much more conservative than Campbell Soup, but the iconic marketer is nonetheless standing fast against the American Family Association, which has taken issue with a print ad aimed at gays and lesbians the marketer ran in The Advocate.

Swanson ad
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Campbell made no apologies for the series of ads.

The ad, a two-page spread for Swanson's broth, showcases the female proprietors of a Manhattan restaurant and a young boy basking over the warm hue of a box of Swanson's. The accompanying text identifies the women as a couple and the boy as their son.

No apologies
The ad, created by the staff of The Advocate for Campbell but part of a larger campaign crafted by Omnicom Group's BBDO, New York, was challenged by the conservative media watchdog group American Family Association, and the resulting online to-and-fro gained considerable traction over the weekend.

On its website, the AFA has urged consumers to e-mail Campbell and demand they stop "pushing the gay agenda" and then call the Swanson division directly to ask that it "remain neutral in the culture war."

Campbell made no apologies for the series of ads, which it said is its first in any LGBT publication, and instead took a decisive stance on the criticism. "Our position on this is pretty straightforward," said company rep Anthony Sanzio. "Inclusion and diversity play an important role in our business, and that fact is reflected in our marketing plan. For more than a century, people from all walks for life have enjoyed Campbell's products, and we will continue to try to communicate in ways that are meaningful and relevant to them."

He added: "Our plans for the Swanson brand include additional placements in The Advocate."

Third-largest audience in the country
On its website, Campbell states that the company strives to avoid advertisements that "disparage any religious, ethnic or political group; or imply that Campbell supports specific points of view."

The AFA has previously taken issue with Home Depot, PepsiCo and the U.S. government at large.

Misti Graham, president of the LGBT-specific agency MDG Marketing Group, said gay and lesbian marketing targets an estimated $690 billion niche of buying power, and a generally affluent, educated and exceedingly brand-loyal consumer audience. "The LGBT audience is the third-largest in the country behind African-Americans and Hispanics," said Ms. Graham. "And we're very in tune with which brands embrace the community and whose messaging and imaging reflects that."

To that end, she added that she considers the Campbell's ads an accurate and effective representation of the lesbian community. "They're done as mainstream as they possibly could."

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