How Campbell’s Soup Lost Its Marbles

Nowhere is trickery more commonplace than in food advertising. One example is the use of mashed potatoes as a substitute for ice cream because the real thing melts too quickly. Perhaps that’s why nobody batted an eye with Robson Ballantine, an art director at BBDO ad agency in New York, restored to some visual slight of hand in 1968 when photographing a campaign for Campbell’s new Chicken & Stars soup. The problem was that the solid ingredients sank to the bottom of the broth. So, Ballantine solved the problem by putting marbles in the bowl to push the chicken and pasta to the surface. He had no idea the storm he was about to unleash, which resulted in the FTC taking a string of legal actions that went on for two years. The FTC began investigating BBDO’s campaign in April 1968. Both client and agency agreed not to use such techniques again and the case seemed closed. However, the following year, the FTC made the details public, issued a formal complaint against Campbell’s, and invited public comment. The result was petitions and appeals involving 14 federal judges. In December 1972, the FTC dismissed the case against Campbell’s, which was never ordered to run corrective advertising. Unfortunately, the concept of deception had been born…..