Heinz Farmers' Market soup commercial cleared by ad watchdog

LONDON - A television ad for Heinz Farmers' Market soup that invited viewers to 'Taste the Countryside' has been cleared by the ad watchdog despite 25 complaints that it misled consumers.

The commercial, which was created by ad agency McCann Erickson, attracted complaints from 19 members of the public as well as organisations such as Sustain, The Real Jam and Chutney Company, Pollen Organics, and Hampshire Farmers' Markets.

The complaints objected to the ad on the basis it implied the ingredients in the soups came from farmers' markets, while others said the ad exploited their reputation.

The spot featured a series of scenes showing city dwellers carrying out rural activities such as a woman collecting eggs from hens nesting inside her kitchen cupboard and a businessman climbing into a tractor in an underground car park.

It ended with the line: "Got a taste for the countryside? Heinz Farmers' Market Soup. Taste the Countryside."

The theme was carried over into press ads in Asda magazine, The Grocer and The Observer Food Monthly.

Heinz argued that consumers understood that farmers' markets tended to sell small quantities of their own, fresh, produce from stalls in towns or villages, while their own products were sold by a multinational corporation on a very large scale.

It added that statements in the ads clarified the source of the ingredients and the ad itself was intentionally humorous and light hearted.

The Advertising Standards Authority cleared Heinz of misleading viewers and said in a statement: "Most viewers would understand that it was unlikely that a canned product, distributed on a national scale by Heinz, would be made from ingredients sourced locally from farmers' markets."