Garfield's Ad Review: How can Campbell's Chunky spot be so bad, and still sell?

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As you read this, the football world is reeling over Philadelphia's staggering upset of the St. Louis Rams, triggered by a savage first-quarter sack of Rams quarterback Kurt Warner, an interception-for-TD by defensive back Al Harris and the sterling performance of our close, personal friend, Eagles QB Donovan McNabb.

Or maybe the Eagles got crushed. (We wrote this last Thursday.) Either way, the people at Campbell Soup were ecstatic over the showdown between Chunky Soup spokesjock Warner and Chunky Soup spokesjock, our homey, McNabb.

In fact, it was at a Campbell co-sponsored NFL event that we became totally tight with Donovan ("Hey, how you doin'?" "How you doin'?"). Problem was, we were the emcee, and didn't quite understand Campbell's role, and ridiculed the Chunky campaign, which, regrettably, we said, "sucks."

Oh, the commercials suck all right. They have an enormously high quotient of suckitude. The regrettable part was, a) embarrassing a sponsor at its own event, which was inadvertently rude, and, b) the fact that Chunky sales have doubled-doubled!-over the five-year life of the campaign. How can a campaign so idiotic do so much for a brand?

Consider the current McNabb spot: It opens on the set of a (supposed) shaving-cream commercial, where his "mom" bursts through the scenery.

Mom: "Chunky Soup!"

Director: [In ridiculous Italian accent] "CUT! No! No! No!"

McNabb: "Mom, I'm making a commercial here!"

Mom: "Donovan, Chunky Beef with Country Vegetables now has more beef. More lean beef to fill you up right."

McNabb: "More is good."

Director: "Mama, you can fill him up right after I film him up, right?!"

That's when "Mom" sprays the director in the face with shaving cream and laughs. Ha! ha! From the always hilarious commercial-within-a-commercial gag to the cartoon-character performances to the unprovoked assault, it's just a masterpiece from beginning to end.

And the brand is up 63%. This piteous monstrosity, this apotheosis of suckosity, apparently does the job. But how? And, if it does, why do we here at AdReview even bother to do what we do? These are difficult questions to face. But face them we must.

OK, granted, the ad conveys that Chunky is meal enough for a big strong man. And it portrays serving Chunky as the act of a caring mom. Filming the strategy, that's called, and Y&R Advertising, New York, spares no bludgeon in doing it. Like all Chunky spots, it's badly written, badly staged, badly conceived. And in trying to be funny it's as painfully unfunny as can be.

We'd like to suppose that the credit goes less to the advertising than the product itself. For the harried, guilt-ridden working mother, Chunky (unlike the beleaguered Campbell's condensed soups) approximates real food. For the clueless single man, all you do is pour it in a pan and heat it. So maybe in contemporary America, Chunky was going to prosper in spite of irritating commercials.

But, even if the ads are driving sales, they still suck, because they are a blight on the airwaves. Whatever they may do for the Campbell Soup Co., they despoil the advertising environment for everything else. Plus, they make my man Donovan look ridiculous, which even the Rams vaunted defense could not.

Or-you know, depending on what actually happened-could.

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