Campaign Stirs up Controversy Among Moms

During the Olympics, one of the biggest controversies besides McKayla Maroney’s “not impressed” smirk and Usain Bolt’s legendary status claim was the first commercial from Ragu’s “Long Day of Childhood” campaign. You know the one – the ad in which an eight-year-old finds solace in a bowl of spaghetti after walking in on his parents performing their own mattress Olympics.

The spot stirred up a bowlful of controversy for Ragu. I for one was highly, highly offended by the ad. Mostly because everyone knows jarred spaghetti sauce isn’t the solution to a problem. Gin and Haagen-Dazs is the recommended dinner for drowning your sorrows.


the moment  Dad begins pouring Ragu from the jar for a beauty shot, the scene transitions into Junior twisting up his face in preparation for the king of all dry heaves. Subliminal symbolism or unfortunate editing?

I’m not the only mom Ragu insulted. The watchdog group One Million Moms immediately launched a boycott against Ragu. Its reason according to its website: “The entire ad not only makes someone lose their appetite, but Ragu is also being irresponsible in their new campaign. Instead of being helpful, it is harmful to children in the name of so-called humor.” In fact, OMM said the dissent from moms has been so strong that Unilever, the maker of Ragu, has blocked emails from OMM’s parent organization, the American Family Association.

The sex spot is just the first in the campaign. According to the New York Times on Tuesday, new ads feature parents who try to secretly switch a child’s dying hamster with a perkier– yet differently colored – rodent and a mom cleaning a child’s dirty face with her saliva. While these new ads aren’t as controversial as mom and dad getting freaky, does giving a mundane product like spaghetti sauce an edge resonate with parents?

According to Gerry Graf of BFG9000, Ragu’s creative agency, in an article from Ad Age, it does. Graf remarked to writer E.J. Schultz yesterday, “The first instinct is to treat moms like they are these wonderful multi-taskers…and they are saints and stuff. But moms are kind of sick of that.” He added, “They just want to be talked to like a regular person. When brands speak like human beings, people tend to trust them a little more.”

As a former ad copywriter myself, I tend to agree with Graf. Commercials geared toward parents usually portray moms in one of two ways – the saint who uses the right detergent to wash their precious angels’ designer clothing or the frazzled basketcase who can only find time for herself by harnessing the magic of the Swiffer.

Ragu spices up commercial breaks by showing that parents don’t have to be perfect. In fact, we screw up all the time, and the way to ease the mommy guilt associated with our mistakes is to find a way to laugh at ourselves. Even the morally apprehensible moms out there like me who have the nerve to giggle at something as shocking as married sex.

Because of the commercials, the Ragu brand resonates with a number of moms and dads. But will these ads ignite a national run on spaghetti sauce? Only time will tell.

If anything, Ragu has reinforced the importance of locking your bedroom door.

By Nicole Plegge, Lifestyle Blogger for SmartParenting

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Metro East mom Nicole Plegge has written for STL Parent for more than 12 years. Besides working as a freelance writer & public relations specialist, and raising two daughters and a husband, Nicole's greatest achievements are finding her misplaced car keys each day and managing to leave the house in a stain-free shirt. Her biggest regret is never being accepted to the Eastland School for Girls. Follow Nicole on Twitter @STLWriterinIL 

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