This collection is the result of a year-long study of Campbell's "Red and White" Soups advertising and marketing, supported in part by a grant from the Campbell Soup Company. Thirty-one oral history interviews were conducted by Dr. Barbara Griffith for the project, and a variety of related materials were gathered by the Center for Advertising History staff. The objective of the project was to create a collection that provides documentation, in print and media, of the history and development of advertising for Campbell's Red and White Soups in the decades following World War II.
Scope and Contents:
This collection is the result of a year-long study of Campbell's "Red and White" Soups advertising and marketing campaigns. Oral histories conducted by Smithsonian Institution staff with individuals involved with the Campbell's Soup Corporation and its advertising campaigns form the core of the collection. Also included are clippings and background research files, abstracts of the oral history interviews, television and radio commercials, company publications, and promotional items and packaging.
A 2015 addition to the collection was born digital and consists of materials from the groundbreaking "Real Life Campaign" which featured inter-racial couples as well as a gay couple. These materials include storyboards, scripts, consumer feedback both postive and negative, focus group material, labels, commercials, supporting documentation on the development and implementation of the campaign. These materials are available in the Smithsonian Institution DIgital Asset Management System (DAMS).
Collection is organized into nine series.
Series 1, Research Files, 1939-1989
Series 2, Interviewee Files, 1989-1990
Series 3, Oral Histories, 1989-1990
Series 4, Television Commercials, 1957-1990
Series 5, Radio Commercials, 1966-1975
Series 6, Print Advertisements, 1905-1989
Series 7, Promotional Items and Packaging, 1968-1991
Series 8, Company Publications, 1983-1988
Series 9, Real Life Campaign, 2015
Biographical / Historical:
The Campbell Soup Company's "Red and White" advertising campaigns are remarkable not only for their longevity, but for the consistency of the advertising message. Since 1898, when the red and white label was incorporated, the packaging and the message have changed only marginally. When Andy Warhol painted his pop art Campbell Soup cans in the early 1960s, he presented an immediately recognizable image with which all of America could identify.
Campbell's condensed soups, first marketed in 1897, have become a staple of the 20th century American household. The Joseph Campbell Preserve Company, a canning concern which grew out of an 1869 business partnership between a fruit merchant and an ice box manufacturer, was well established by the time Arthur Dorrance succeeded Joseph Campbell as president. When Dorrance's nephew, John T. Dorrance, a chemical engineer and organic chemist trained at MIT, developed a process for making condensed soup, the company was faced with the task of successfully marketing the revolutionary new convenience food. The soup won a gold medallion for excellence at the 1900 Paris Exposition, and the company incorporated the image on its labels and in its advertising.
In the developing consumer culture which began to grow during and after the industrial revolution, women were identified as the primary consumers of household goods and services. Homemakers have been the target of Campbell' s Red & White advertising since its inception, and this focus is reflected both in the content and the placement of the advertising. The identification of a predominately female consumer market was also influential in the creation of a widely recognized and long-lived symbol, the Campbell Kids, created in 1904 by Grace Gebbie Drayton. The Kids were meant to convey a sense of wholesomeness and physical well-being associated with eating Campbell Soups.
The advertising of the early teens and twenties most often consisted of black and white or two-color depictions of the can and the product, often accompanied by images of the rosy-cheeked Kids. A large portion of the ad was devoted to narrative description of the soups' healthful properties, suggesting that"Campbell Soups Give Vigor and Strength", "I Couldn't Keep House Without Campbell's Tomato Soup", and "If Every Woman Realized How Much Her Husband Likes Soup - She Would Serve It Everyday".
The advertising of the 1930s tended towards idealized illustrations of women and children; the Kids were less visible during the 1930s and 1940s, deemed too "chucklesome" for the Depression years, and too old-fashioned
during World War II. Ad copy continued its appeal to women's sense of responsibility for the well-being of husbands and children, with slogans suggesting "It Takes a Bright and Sparkling Flavor to Attract Children", "When a Man Says It's Good, It's Good", and "Wouldn 't I Be Silly to make It Myself?"
Campbell broadened the scope of its advertising by sponsoring radio programming, beginning in 1931 with the "Hollywood Hotel" program on CBS. Later radio sponsorships included the George Burns and Gracie Allen show, "Campbell Playhouse", "Amos and Andy", the "Jack Carson Show", "Hildegarde", and "Edward R. Murrow with the News", among others . The jingle "M'm M'm Good" was first aired during the radio broadcasts of this period, and was reinforced in the print advertising. Beginning in 1950, Campbell began to sponsor television shows, continuing its focus on women and children as primary purchasers and consumers of suop. Most notable among these sponsorships were "The Donna Reed Show" and "Lassie" . Print ads of the 1950s featuring Johnny Carson, Donna Reed, and the cast of the Lassie Show helped to reinforce the Company's sponsorship of these popular shows.
In 1954, Campbell moved its $10 million dollar condensed soup account from Ward Wheelock Company, the Philadelphia firm which had handled the account since 1910, to Batten, Barton, Durstine & Osborn (BBDO) of New York. By 1966, BBDO account executives urged "selective but not major" use of the Kids and the slogan "M'm M'm Good", choosing instead to employ advertising that stressed health claims and fitness issues rather than the wholesome, comforting associations of hot soup. The Kids became more athletic and less rotund.
Reflecting changes in American social and family structures Campbell' s advertising, began to depict the working wife and the busy schedules of a family "on the go". A 1960 ad declares "Good Things Begin to Happen When Working Girls Have Soup and Crackers" or "Somethings Happened to Supper". In light of the women 's movement, which was gaining momentum during this period, Campbell advertising remained decidedly traditional. In the 1970s, "Give Me the Campbell Life" recognized women 's expanded roles as working mothers, but "They Always Eat Better When You Remember the Soup" and "Get Your Campbells Worth" reveal a more conservative pitch to homemakers responsibilities. Other societal changes are suggested in the advertising, for instance, the "Soup is Good Food" and "Health Insurance" campaigns of the 1980s reflected a new emphasis on health and fitness.
In 1981 the company transferred the soup account to another New York firm, Backer Spielvogel and Bates . The 1980s saw a renewed emphasis on network primetime, strategic radio advertising (where ads for hot soup are tagged to reports of rain or snow, or are aired just before the noon lunch hour), and regional marketing of specialized products or packaging designed to appeal to local tastes and changing nutritional standards. These new products have engendered some changes in Campbell' s time-honored red and white label to emphasize the "new and improved" characteristics of the products
In 2015, Campbells developed the "Real Life" campaign. This campaign was groundbreaking in many ways. The commercials portrayed not only inter-racial couples but also a gay couple, two fathers and their son. This campaign had a product tie in with the 2015 release of the new installment in the motion picture franchise, Star Wars. The campaign received commentary from the public both pro and con. Campbells continued the campaign without revising or pulling any of its commercials. While running in selected markets, the campaign made nationwide headlines and pointed up the continuing change in the make-up of the American family.
Paul N. Mulcahy, V.P. Marketing Services, Campbell Soup Company,1990. Made for the National Museum of American History, Smithsonian Institution by the Center for Advertising History, 1989-1990.
Collection is open for research.
Collection items available for reproduction, but the Archives Center makes no guarantees concerning copyright restrictions. Other intellectual property rights may apply. Archives Center cost-recovery and use fees may apply when requesting reproductions.