NAD Finds Presence of Baby ‘Experts’ in Prego Commercial to be Puffery; Recommends Campbell Modify Ad to Better Disclose Basis of Comparison

New York, NY – June 8, 2017 – The National Advertising Division has recommended that Campbell Soup Company modify broadcast advertising that features babies eating pasta to  better disclose that the claim “even Ragu users prefer the taste of Prego Traditional 2-to-1,” is based on a comparison with Ragu Old World Style Traditional.

NAD determined that the presence of babies in the commercial “amounts to puffery and does not constitute a claim about the preferences of toddlers.”

NAD is an investigative unit of the advertising industry’s system of self-regulation. It is administered by the Council of Better Business Bureaus.

Campbell’s claims, made in broadcast and online video advertising for the company’s Prego Traditional pasta sauce, were challenged by Mizkan America, Inc., a maker of competing pasta sauces.

Mizkan took issue with claims that included:

  • “In blind taste tests, even Ragu Traditional users prefer the taste of Prego Traditional 2-to-1. Just ask these experts.” [Image depicts two toddlers eating spaghetti.]
  • “We took lifelong pasta experts and gave one Prego Traditional and one Ragu Traditional. This is what happened. . . . That’s because even Ragu users prefer the taste of Prego Traditional 2-to-1.”
    • “*Taste test ages 6 and up. Prego Traditional vs. Ragu Old World Style Traditional.”

The commercial features two toddlers on a split screen. The voice over states, “We took lifelong pasta experts and gave one Prego Traditional and one Ragu Traditional. This is what happened.” The child given pasta made with Prego Traditional pasta sauce is shown delightedly eating all of his pasta. He has sauce all over his face and is depicted overturning an empty bowl. The child given pasta made with Ragu pasta sauce looks askance at the forkful of pasta being offered by his mother. He turns his head away and waves off the offer.

The challenger expressed a number of concerns about the truthfulness and accuracy of the commercial. It contended that the side-by-side “toddler taste-off,” when viewed in conjunction with the other audio and visual elements of the advertisement, conveyed the message that not only “Ragu users,” but even toddlers who are given these products prefer the taste of Prego Traditional. It noted that such a claim would be difficult, if not impossible, to substantiate.

The advertiser noted that the claim that “Even Ragu users prefer the taste of Prego Traditional 2-to-1” in the challenged commercial is substantiated by a recent taste test comparing Prego Traditional pasta sauce against Ragu Old World Style Traditional pasta sauce.  The study was conducted with individuals who had regularly eaten Ragu Old World Style Traditional sauce on pasta at home over the past six months. It used industry standard methods and found that 65% of the regular Ragu users it tested preferred Prego Traditional and fewer than 30% preferred Ragu Old World Style Traditional.  It noted that the results were statistically significant.

The advertiser also contended that the babies in the commercial, each aged 12 months at the time of filming, are used as a humorous device. The advertiser asserted that the humorous line identifying the babies as “life-long pasta experts” established that the babies eating pasta are simply a comedic device to capture the viewers’ attention.

NAD found that the depiction of the toddlers in the commercial amounted to puffery and did not constitute an objectively provable claim about the taste preferences of toddlers. The description of the children as “life-long pasta experts,” NAD found, was a tongue-in-cheek reference to their inability to make such discernments and the vignette that followed bolstered the joke about their “expertise,” with one child ending up with as much sauce and pasta on his face as in his mouth and the other refusing to eat altogether.

As NAD noted in its decision, “while the imagery generally paints the picture that eating Prego is an enjoyable experience for the one toddler and less so for the other, the juxtaposition serves as a depiction of the advertiser’s general opinion that its sauce tastes better, not a provable claim that very young children definitively prefer one sauce to the other.”

NAD also found that the commercial did not make it sufficiently clear that Ragu Old World Style Traditional pasta sauce was the basis of comparison for its claim that “even Ragu users prefer the taste of Prego Traditional 2-to-1,” and recommended that the advertiser modify the claim to make clear the specific Ragu product being used as a basis of comparison.

Campbell, in its advertiser’s statement, said the company “will take the NAD’s opinion into account when developing future advertising.  We sincerely thank the NAD for its careful attention to this matter.”

Note: A recommendation by NAD to modify or discontinue a claim is not a finding of wrongdoing and an advertiser’s voluntary discontinuance or modification of claims should not be construed as an admission of impropriety. It is the policy of NAD not to endorse any company, product, or service. Decisions finding that advertising claims have been substantiated should not be construed as endorsements.