PROGRESSO SOUP GETS DIRECT VS. CAMPBELL'S IN NEW ADS TV, PRINT TIMED TO COINCIDE WITH READY-TO-SERVE VARIETIES SLATED FOR SAMPLING, TOO

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Progresso, the perennial also-ran in canned soups, is taking the offensive in a comparative campaign that slams rival Campbell's.

Marketer Pillsbury Co. said it was doubling the ad budget for Progresso, which still will put its expenditure far behind that of market leader Campbell Soup Co.

In a TV spot now on the air, a woman walks into a kitchen where a young man is eating a bowl of Chicken & Stars soup, with a red-and-white can with the word "Condensed" written in Campbell's signature script prominently beside the bowl.

SOUP REVIEW: NO STARS

"Hey there, big brother, what are you eating?" says the woman. "Mmm, condensed soup? You know, Chicken & Stars used to be my favorite. Then I learned to ride a two-wheeler. Come on, you're an adult now. There's a better-tasting soup."

"It's not a direct comparison," said John Buenneke, marketing manager on Progresso. "There is an element of taste preference to which we refer."

The taste preference resonates even stronger in print ads that break in November; they show a bowl of Campbell's condensed chicken noodle soup, identified by name, next to a bowl of Progresso White Meat Chicken Noodle soup.

LILLIPUTIAN LADLING

Even though Pillsbury will put an estimated $13 million behind the effort-in national TV, print, sampling and free-standing inserts-that's still a 10th of the $130 million Campbell ladles up in soup advertising annually.

Because Progresso only makes ready-to-serve soup, the Campbell comparison isn't exactly apples to apples. Within the industry, Progresso is considered to compete mainly with Campbell's ready-to-serve Chunky soup. Pillsbury said Progresso has more than 25% of the ready-to-serve soup market.

A Campbell spokesman wouldn't comment directly on the Progresso campaign, saying only "our ready-to-serve business is growing 20% year to date."

Progresso's campaign is from Nelson Henry, Wayzeta, Minn.

FIRST NATIONAL EFFORT

The spot is the first full-scale national effort for Progresso, which normally runs regional advertising, mainly in the Northeast.

The new effort dovetails with the launch of two new soups, the category's first ready-to-serve French Onion and two chicken varieties, Roasted Chicken Rotini and Roasted Chicken Italiano.

In addition to the new ads, Progresso will give away 10-ounce cans of soup in two markets in a door-to-door sampling drive, and its "Swoop Team," a legion of samplers, will hit the streets in November in 14 markets, sampling soup from tanks on their backs.

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