This Soup Ad Bummed Me Out, but Now I Think That Was Maybe Its Goal

So I was scrolling the ol’ Facebook, as the kids are calling it, when a promoted post popped into my view. What I saw next left me confused. It had the text, “Turns out, having the same taste in food can take a first date to new heights” and this video.

Now, I understand how this ad came to be promoted to me. That’s no mystery. I spend more time than most looking at soup articles, recipes, and pictures. It’s no surprise that it was selected just for me to see. What is surprising is that this ad exists.

First, the text of the post:

Turns out, having the same taste in food can take a first date to new heights

You didn’t know it at first, but this was actually them hitting you with a delay-pun. It was the hook that made you think, “Oh! New heights, huh? That sounds good.” Then they start rock-climbing and you realize you’ve been had. They got you, and they got you good. And how do they justify it? By making it a joke.

Advertising evokes and plays with emotion. That’s how it attempts to get through the barriers we put up after being bombarded by paid message after paid message hiding in and adjacent to our entertainment everyday as we stumble through life. It’s taking the comforting image we as a society have of soup and contorting it, packaging it, and selling it. And there’s nothing wrong with that (unless you fundamentally don’t believe in capitalism, in which case 1) this ad is probably not targeted to you, and 2) neither this ad or my deconstruction of it will be changing your mind, as that’s not the goal of either). What makes this seem like such a predatory affront is how it disguises itself and pounces on people at their most vulnerable, by evoking the situation of a first date.

You know who goes on first dates? Believe it or not, it’s largely people that are single. What this ad is tacitly doing is reminding people that are single, that are looking to take a first date to “new heights” and reaching out to them. It’s selling them a fantasy, a dream. I’d argue it’s doing it poorly, but that is what it’s at least trying to do. It’s a more wholesome seeming twist of the light beer and bikini wearing model trope, but in a way it’s sort of more malicious because of the way what it’s selling isn’t just cruising in a sports car with a model; instead it’s real human interest and connection.

Now, back to this ad not even doing what it’s supposed to well. Here are my two least favorite (but also, at the same time, favorite?) lines that this ad throws at the audience:

 “So I pick the torta because I value intelligence.”

“I had the lime-tortilla soup. I always find a way to connect with somebody…as you see here.”

The first is at best some kind of weird connection that if it wasn’t scripted (and I hope, for society as a whole, it was) means that apparently these ads are at least working on somebody.

The second is a hilarious non-sequitur. Except that it isn’t said as if those two facts are as completely unrelated as they are. “Oh, he had the lime-tortilla soup? That guy came here to CONNECT, and he’s making it happen RIGHT NOW.” That must be some soup. The way they predicate what brought them together with what kind of soup they decided to eat that day was immediately funny, until it wasn’t. And then it just made me kind of sad.

I could go on and on and talk about how much of a psycho move it is to just bust out some soup packed in thermos, and how it’s a double psycho move to have not only hot soup, but also some still packaged, presumably uncooked soup chilling in your bag. Unless he literally just came from the grocery store (hint: he didn’t, at some point he had to heat up the soup before they rock climbed) there is no reason for that to be in his bag besides showing you what the product looks like so you can find it on a shelf near you. But the deeper I dive into this ad the more sad and confused it makes me.

But maybe that was the point. More than a date food, soup is fundamentally a comfort food. It’s great for sickness and sadness, hangovers and heartbreaks. So maybe this ad works two ways. If it makes you happy, you buy soup. If it makes you sad, you buy even more soup? But if that was actually the intention, this is bumming me out on like a tertiary level now. Better go grab some Campbell’s Slow Kettle Style Soup, Fiesta Chicken Lime Tortilla with White Meat.!

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