Ad Space: Body Horror for Snowmen

You are now entering Ad Space, a realm of commercials, brought before us so we might examine how they work and discuss why we both love and hate them so. So it is written …

The Product:
Campbell’s Soup

The Promotion:

The Pitch:
Campbell’s makes happy children … and dead snowmen.

There are two different ways to look at this commercial.

One is the way the advertisers clearly intended. The frowny faced snowman represents a kid who’s been outside in the cold a long time, and once he comes in and has a hot bowl of Campbell’s Soup, it warms him right up, and all the cold and snow just melts away. It’s a cute commercial that marvelously calls up how good it feels to have a nice, hot meal in the middle of winter.

But there’s another way to interpret this commercial, a way that can’t help but occur to anyone who grew up watching Frosty the Snowman each Christmas. What we have here is a living, intelligent, undeniably cute little snowman who just wants to enjoy a good bowl of soup … but in doing so, he starts to melt, his flesh turning soft and liquid and falling off his body in huge clumps. Thought of that way, it’s downright horrific.

Sure, there’s a kid inside at the end, but that arguably makes what happened more disturbing: instead of simply melting to death, his body was torn apart by another creature growing inside him, destroying him from the inside out. It’s the snowman version of the chestbuster from Alien.

And what’s weird is, I can watch this commercial and enjoy it on both levels simultaneously. I can appreciate the unironic nostalgia, the soothing music, and the happy ending of Interpretation 1, and the ironic, this-is-f*#%ed-up-if-you-think-about-it level of Interpretation 2, and neither gets in the way of the other. That’s a miraculous thing.

Does the commercial work on both levels for you? Does it work on only one? Or did it use to work on one, but now that the body horror angle’s been pointed out, you can’t look at it the same way?

Tell us what you think, and stay warm, everybody!