Last night Ragú debuted the above ad during NBC’s telecast of the Olympics.

We had to rewind it a few times before we actually believed what we saw.

Ragú, in case you don’t know, is a brand of spaghetti sauce. It has been the favored canned spaghetti sauce at SBM for many years, because of its low acid content (i.e. it’s sweet) and we have a sweet tooth. It has been around for years, and this ad—which caused Ragu to trend on Twitter for a little while—is remarkably hip coming from this old, trusted brand.

There is so much to love. The concept—a child is traumatized by seeing his parents engaged in some kind of sex act, until a helping of comfort food in the form of spaghetti makes everything okay—is distasteful but the execution is a perfect 10, from the great acting by the kid to the country-tinged song, which has all the warmth of a beer jingle but covers events so much more horrifying:

Parents in bed, but it’s just eight o’clock.
That’s why they taught you, you should always knock.
Give him RAGÚ because growing up’s tough.
Give him RAGÚ he’s been through enough.

As masterful as this ad is, however, after the 20th time I watched it, I realized that there is one tiny flaw. The first time I watched it I thought that the kid was so upset by what he saw that HE raced downstairs and immediately made himself a pot of spaghetti. The ritual of carby comfort food—so perceptively shown by the bubbling waterfall of Ragú and the breaking of the spaghetti as it goes in the pot—was captured so well. The idea of the kid making his own spaghetti—much as a jilted woman might head straight to the ice cream freezer, or The Beat reaches for a bowl of unagi don—left me giggling uncontrollably for several minutes.

But whoever is making the spaghetti isn’t the kid. And it isn’t the mom, either or dad, either, as neither wears the same shirt as the spaghetti cook. Perhaps the idea that mom would make dinner without washing her hands was too unsavory. The situation we’re left with, however, is that post coitus (or whatever they were doing) the whole family sat down to some heaping helpings of spaghetti and everything was fine. The child is pretending to forget, and dad is all smiles because he just got laid. The faceless mother remains an enigmatic caregiver.

But at a terrible cost.

Interestingly, the father of psychoanalysis, Sigmund Freud, believed that a child witnessing a sex act between his or her parents was one of the most pivotal moments in their emotional development. He called it the “Primal Scene.” Although several of his early, most influential patients seemed to have a primal scene in their past, Freud wasn’t sure if it had actually happened or they were just making it up but continued to look for examples of it in his future patients. As we now know, Freud’s insistence on interpreting all behavior in sexual terms left his theories dangerously underdeveloped, leaving no room for the study of how humans medicate with mac ‘n’ cheese, Rocky Road and, yes, spaghetti and meatballs. With this commercial, Ragú has finally corrected that omission.


  1. Disgusting……………….. Is there nothing sacred in this world anymore.
    Been married 47 yrs. and buying Ragu for as long as I can remember.
    Guess what? Ragu will never be found in our home again.
    Of all the ideas that can be created for advertisement, this is what you came up with.
    No respect, no morals, it is rediculous……….

  2. Good, I’m glad I wasn’t the only one whose eyes this caught. I was absolutely shocked, and couldn’t figure out what good came out of the ad campaign. I am assuming the backlash will be significant.

  3. I felt this commercial was in very poor taste. My kids are all adults now, but I can only imagine millions of kids watching the Olympics turning to their parents and asking them, “What’s the little boy afraid of?”. No more Ragu at our house!

  4. Poor Ragu: Once the industry leader, but now after burning through an incredible 20+ campaigns in 30 years, Ragu is still struggling to find its way.

    And I too was astounded to see it last night too….but I never thought I’d read about it in the Beat! What a nice surprise.

  5. I cannot tell whether I am reading note-perfect parody in the comments, or if some parties are legitimately scandalized.

    Oh, and nice analysis, The Beat.

  6. Oh, I think it’s pretty clear. There are several strangers living in the house.

    One, a boy who wears the dark long sleeved checked shirt, opens the Ragu bottle. He is very strong,as those jars are strongly sealed.
    Another male, older, breaks the pasta into pieces, symbolizing castration and anger.

    The man and woman at the table who are eating supper are also visiting. (Mom and dad are still upstairs in bed) Likely inlaws.

    There is also the older brother in the short sleeved dark shirt who catches the Ragu bottle whizzing along the bar.

    Almost as many characters as Dark Knight Rises, and almost as many unknown relatives.

  7. It’s 2012. Sadly, I don’t think they’re parody posts.

    Concerned Women of “Whatever It Is Up Your Craw Today” lighten up already. HOLY crapola, it’s some kid that catches his parents having sex (something that HAS happened to real human beings) and you now refuse to eat Ragu spaghetti sauce because of it? Get a life.

    Actually, Ragu is nasty stuff. So you’re all the better for it. Pick yourself up some Classico or Bertolli sauce and a funny bone.

  8. Ragu has a nice variety of sauces, and they’re usually on sale.

    I don’t ever remember an actual ad campaign, and only remember the name because of a Wacky Packages parody.

    (And you forgot the acute accent. No, notta thatta one! This one: Ragú !)

    From the website (near the bottom):
    “Let’s talk about what really happens at dinnertime.”
    “How do you Spice up your Pasta?”

  9. All the prudes need to lighten up, my wife and I laughed about the commercial for nearly 30 minutes. Well played Ragu, I’ll be buying some in the near future, right after I install a lock on my bedroom door!

  10. We prefer our supermarket house brand, ’cause it’s cheap, and Prego otherwise. But that commercial made me smile, and the professions of outrage in the comments made me sadly shake my head. Marital sex is now immoral? Where will the next generation of Republicans come from?

    On second thought …

  11. Not to disparage any particular “political” party, but, I do find the outrage over this to be perplexing.

  12. Ragu is corn syrup and tomato paste…who the hell would feed that to their kids in the first place?

    “Oh no, I might have to explain something or possibly talk to my children! Oh, no! I’m banning Ragu from my house!!!”

    Give me a break people.

  13. LOL,LOL,LOL,LOL. the look on that kid’s face as he’s walking away from his parent’s bedroom is priceless. as for you tight-asses, i’ll be scoring a few jars of ragu and thinking of you as i slurp my way down to the bottom of the jar.

  14. I’ll cut Ragu some slack. They’re trying to deepen whatever remaining connections they may have to America’s heartland as the definition of what passes for “spaghetti sauce” and doing it in a way that appeals to folks who enjoy the comic stylings of Larry the Cable Guy.

    I, however, prefer to think that the kid busted in on his parents not engaged in some middle class definition of the word “frisky,” but in their true form as Metalunans digesting the remains of Sparky, the family Cocker Spaniel.

  15. RAGU just helped to destroy America’s childhood innocence. :-P


    some of the comments on here are funnier then the commercial was…

  16. The Beat must have gotten on the top of Google searches or something. I think there are some commentators appearing that have otherwise never been here before.

  17. Wow. I’m one of the most far-right people I know (and definitely one of the most far right known by any of my friends — they say I’m to the right of Rush Limbaugh and I thank them), but I thought this was funny. A little “outside the bounds,” perhaps, but not disgusting or dirty in any way. Risque, perhaps, but even that’s pushing it in terms of descriptors.

    I’ll just leave it at this: I thought it was funny.

  18. Lighten up ppl. If u ever did walk in on ur parents you would be able to relate. What a bunch of wusses. The act is implied and never shown , in case u didnt know thats how babies are made.

  19. This ad is unacceptable. It should be forbiddent to depict such things: spaghetti are not supposed to be snapped in two! ;)

  20. Ragu is pretty nasty stuff. It’s offensive just on it’s own.

    All I’m saying is don’t buy your pasta sauce from Wal-Mart.

  21. This ad is amazing! So hysterically funny. The music is perfect. The lyrics and style just kitschy enough. Comfort food. I laughed my butt off. Ragu, marketing manager, I applaud you. Stand out – GREAT AD!