Soup and creativity cook up prize-winning ad

Contact: Maridith Geuder

Emory B. Smith of Jackson made alphabet soup the basic ingredient in an advertisement he developed to promote literacy.

Both USA Today and the Campbell Soup Co. took note. The rising fourth-year architecture major at Mississippi State University won the Grand Prize over nearly 300 entries in a national Collegiate Challenge sponsored by USA Today, in cooperation with Follett College Stores and Aramark.

Smith's entry, which is earning him $2,500 and a trip later this month to Washington, D.C., ran May 7 as a full-page advertisement in the 2 million circulation national newspaper. Campbell's representatives spotted the soup as theirs, gave the artist a call, and said they'd match his prize money. He also gets a case of alphabet soup.

Smith, whose minor is art, entered the contest as part of a graphic design class assignment.

"Each year, I search for a competition that can be incorporated into the design curriculum," said assistant art professor Jamie Mixon. "What made this competition different was the public service idea. Emory's approach was beautiful."

In his black and white ad, Smith spells out "illiteracy is starvation" in alphabet soup. The ad continues, "Help feed hungry minds. Volunteer. Literacy should be shared."

"I wanted a universal image of food to show that learning to read is as basic as nutrition," he explained. To achieve the image, Smith scanned a photograph into a computer and created the letters to spell his message.

A 1992 graduate of St. Andrews Episcopal School, Smith is the son of Dr. R. Arnold Smith of Greenwood and Dr. Beverly McMillan of Jackson.

The Collegiate Challenge is a way to involve students in issues of importance to the community, said Steve Word, manager of Mississippi State's Follett-operated campus bookstore.

"By some estimates, illiteracy affects one in five Americans," Word said. "This competition raised awareness of the problem and encouraged students to help solve it."

Senior Mississippi State art major Candace L. Miles of Fulton also was recognized with an honorable mention. The daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Moman Miles, Miles was one of 44 students whose efforts also were noted in the USA Today advertisement.