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Ad Watchdog: Toddlers Are Not Legitimate Pasta Experts

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Who do you respect as a culinary expert? A recent commercial for Campbell’s Prego brand pasta sauce used split-screen images of 12-month-old children as representatives of children who took part in a taste test, jokingly presenting them as “lifelong pasta experts.” Were these toddlers supposed to represent taste test participants, or something else?

Mizkan, maker of Ragú, the brand presented as inferior and not even worthy of being dumped over a baby’s head in the ad, filed a complaint with the National Ad Division, an investigative body run by the Council of Better Business Bureaus.

While the ad’s voiceover said that the majority of “Ragú users” preferred Prego in a taste test, fine print says that taste test participants were actually “six years and up.”

Campbell Soup Co. representatives told the NAD that the taste test showed that in a group of children whose families had recently eaten Ragù at home, 65% preferred Prego and 30% preferred Ragú.

The advertiser also pointed out that the side-by-side babies were meant as a funny visual, not a representation of the taste test that the commercial is actually talking about. Yet its competitor, and the panel at NAD, don’t agree.

The taste test, as described, is legitimate, but the images on screen aren’t related to the taste test. While the world needs more cute kids dumping food on their heads on television, the NAD found the toddler image to be “puffery.”

Campbell said in a statement that 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.”

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