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I Ate Taco Bell's Entire New Dollar Menu in One Sitting, and Here's What I Learned Which ones are worth your Washingtons?

For the record, I don't recommend this.

When Adweek reported yesterday that Taco Bell had rolled out a new dollar menu with nary a TV ad, I felt it was AdFreak's responsibility to bring you vital information about exactly what you can expect from this cornucopia of consumer value.

So I slipped away at lunch and ordered "one of everything on the Dollar Cravings menu." This seemed to cause confusion with the friendly voice taking my order, and a manager suddenly took the mic to ask: "You want one of everything? And this ain't a game?"

No, this was business. Serious business.

They rang me up for the 11 items. I handed over $12.99. And a short drive later, I arrived home with two satisfyingly hefty sacks of warm, damp, processed food. It was time to get started.

First, I decided to spread out and record this bountiful feast:

Perhaps it was my air of supreme confidence that led them to think, "This is a man who's only going to need two napkins. And, hell, three sporks." But god bless 'em, they didn't skimp on the Fire Sauce.

Since I was tackling the project at home, I settled onto the couch with the food arranged before me and fired up an episode of Cosmos featuring Neil deGrasse Tyson, my spirit animal on this fast-food vision quest.

Without further ado, here's my take on each of the items on the new dollar menu. (I've also spared you actual photos of what I ate and instead bring you these delightful promotional images from Taco Bell HQ.)

• Beefy Mini Quesadilla

It's more like a melted beef and cheese soft taco than a quesadilla, but it's actually pretty good. Surprisingly spicy thanks to its creamy chipotle sauce, it's one of the few Taco Bell items I can think of in recent memory that didn't require Fire Sauce.

Is it worth $1? Definitely, though without the spicy sauce it would be a 75-center at best.

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August 21, 2014, 2:46 PM EDT

You'll Be Hot and Cold on W+K's New Honda Work, and That's a Good Thing Testing the Civic in extreme temperatures

This Honda Civic campaign by Wieden + Kennedy London is cool. And pretty warm, too.

The centerpiece is an engaging 30-second film that shows the freezing and thawing of a Civic on a stylized desert set. This dramatically illustrates that the automaker tests its vehicles at temperatures ranging from -22°F to +176°F. (This is helpful in case you're planning a road trip from the North Pole to Hell.)

The tagline for the pan-European campaign is: "Reliability in the extreme."

Delightful details include a cowboy skeleton that morphs into a snowman and a rolling tumbleweed/snowball. According to a post on W+K's blog, the agency (and Johnny Hardstaff, who directed through RSA Films) encased the car in ice and let it melt over five hours—filming 200 takes using a motion-control rig, with 3-D enhancements providing the skeleton's transformation and other effects.

An interactive version is in the works that will allow users to control temperature changes and see the results. I wish they'd let us melt the Civic into a plastic-metal soup, then freeze it until it explodes into sparkling, razor-sharp shards of ice. Now that would be some fancy branding!

Nissan also recently launched ads that show the temperature testing of its vehicles. Though with Poison's Bret Michaels performing a power-schlock version of "Endless Love," that campaign is extreme for entirely different reasons.

Check out a print ad from the campaign below.

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August 21, 2014, 1:41 PM EDT

'Got Milk?' Isn't Dead. In Fact, It Just Made Two Curious New Ads Tackling sales slump with comedy and drama

There was major media hubbub earlier this year about the death of the "Got milk?" campaign. But while it's no longer being used nationally by the Milk Processor Education Program (MilkPEP), it's still very much alive in California, where it originated with the California Milk Processor Board.

And now, Goodby, Silverstein & Partners, which created the legendary tagline back in 1993, is launching new "Got milk?" work in an unusual partnership with Grupo Gallegos, which created the "Toma leche" campaign—and acknowledging that milk sales have been in decline for years.

"Milk is losing relevance, and sales have been in decline as family life and diets have changed," GSP says. To reestablish milk as the right choice for families, the two agencies have partnered on a campaign "that highlights how a person's future self is determined by the nutritional choices he or she makes today—starting, of course, with milk."

The agencies are approaching California as one whole market to deliver bilingual work that appeals to all consumers, regardless of ethnicity. The campaign launched Wednesday with two spots, each airing in English and Spanish, that couldn't be more different.

"Champion," directed by Dummy's Harold Einstein, is an amusingly quirky set piece that takes place in a grocery store. "Brave," meanwhile, directed by Anonymous Content's Armando Bo, presents a much more emotional appeal by showing a firefighter rescuing a family.

"It's time to start addressing the California market on the basis of things we all share," GSP chairman Jeff Goodby said in a statement. "California consumers are extremely diverse, but when it comes to wanting what's best for our children and their future, we are one united front. This campaign embraces every parent's personal desire, which is preparing our children for a successful and healthy future." Credits below.

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August 21, 2014, 12:03 PM EDT

Kia's Hamsters Are Back, and Getting Lucky With Sexy Lady-Hamster Girlfriends Electric vehicle tests lead to some unsettling experiments

Kia's oddly endearing and enduring hamsters have returned, this time dabbling in experiments that make Weird Science look scientifically responsible by comparison.

The new ad from David&Goliath for the plug-in 2015 Kia Soul EV takes us into a laboratory, where everyone's favorite human-size hamsters are performing tests on the electric vehicle—and, inadvertently, their normal-size pet hamster. The results change the researchers' priorities faster than you can say "hamster balls."

Check it out below, and know that any feelings of discomfort are totally normal. But also know that life can be lonely for terrifyingly huge man-rodents, and they need love, too.

Credits below. Hat tip to our friends at Unruly Media.

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August 21, 2014, 10:35 AM EDT

Anthropologie Learns a Lesson in How Not to Treat Breastfeeding Moms Cautionary tale from Beverly Hills

It's World Breastfeeding Month, but Anthropologie doesn't want to see your boobs.

Ingrid Wiese Hesson claims she was unceremoniously escorted off an Anthropologie sales floor and into a stock-room bathroom for breastfeeding her baby. (Remind you of any ads?) Here's the email she sent to the company, and then posted to Facebook:

I'm writing to share an unfortunate event that occurred at the Beverly Hills anthropologie location. As a long time Anthro member and loyalist, it seemed natural to do my first postpartum shopping outing at Anthroologie. Anxious to use my birthday discount, I brought my six week old infant along and we both smiled as I walked away from the register with $700 worth of Breastfeeding friendly clothing. But baby began to cry and I found a chair at the back of the store and sat down to feed him. Imagine my surprise when the manager Meredith approached, "I'm here to escort you to the ladies room where you can finish feeding your baby." Shocked. I unlatched the infant, he began to cry, and we did the walk of shame to the stock room bathroom. There was nothing but a toilet in the room. "Sorry we don't have a chair." I left the store embarrassed and called back to talk to Meredith and verify what I had just experienced. "I thought you and the other customers would be more comfortable off the sales floor," she explained. Please inform Meredith that CA law grants me the right to Breastfeed in public. As a store that caters to women, I would hope your staff would be more understanding. Meredith said, "we must be fair to all the customers, not just moms." Meredith, moms are customers too. At least the many women that have already liked my Facebook post in the past hour seem to think so. Shame on you anthropologie.

Hesson's story has been circulating through Facebook, Twitter and Instagram like wildfire. The Anthropologie manager's actions were not just unwise, they were also in violation of Hesson's legal rights. From the California Civil Code: "Notwithstanding any other provision of law, a mother may breastfeed her child in any location, public or private, except the private home or residence of another, where the mother and the child are otherwise authorized to be present."

People have been tweeting and leaving messages on Anthropologie's Facebook page, threatening to boycott. A nurse-in at the specific Beverly Hills Anthropologie was arranged:

Finally, Anthropologie responded with a somewhat vague PR cut-and-paste, saying:

We are disappointed to hear of the unfortunate experience that occurred in our Beverly Hills store. As a company comprised of hundreds of mothers, which seeks to put the customer first, we celebrate women in all of their life stages. Given our staff's dedication to providing exceptional customer service, we welcome this as an opportunity to enhance our customer experience by providing further training and education for our staff. Our aim is that all women—all mothers—be comfortable in our stores and delight in their relationship with Anthropologie.

The craziest part? All of this has gone down in the past 23 hours. Technology is wild and impressive, but somehow people are still asking me to fax them documents? Weird.

Photo via Flickr.

August 20, 2014, 4:27 PM EDT

Nike and AKQA Create an LED Basketball Court to Help Kids Learn Kobe's Moves Visual display fueled brand's search for Chinese talent

Global design firm AKQA and ubiquitous shoe manufacturer Nike have collaborated on a full-size LED basketball court for Nike Rise, a program designed to train Chinese youth based on the techniques and practice drills of Kobe Bryant.

Called House of Mamba (a reference to Kobe's Black Mamba nickname), the LED court guides and reacts to the players' movements with an impressive range of visual displays, to the point where you wonder how the athletes aren't distracted by it. 

Nike Rise centered on a reality show where 30 Chinese teens trained with Kobe and LeBron James, and three of them will go on to the Nike World Basketball Festival next month.

Via DesignBoom.

August 20, 2014, 1:22 PM EDT

Reggie Watts Has Created Truly Odd Greenpeace Ads Aimed at the Tech Industry 'My grandma clicks dirty'

Reggie Watts yodels, raps, hangs with woodland fauna, floats on a giant leaf and generally goofs around in a quartet of new videos from Greenpeace.

The environmental group is sending a message to certain tech giants about using sustainable energy sources. "Some of the Internet's biggest and most innovative companies, such as Apple, Facebook and Google, are powering with modern, renewable energy," Greenpeace rep Dave Pomerantz told BusinessGreen. "The #ClickClean movement expects the rest of the companies behind our online world, like Amazon and Twitter, to join them."

No firms are named in the ads, which were created by The VIA Agency.

"We set out to develop a campaign that had humor at its core and that people would rally behind and share," said Via executive producer Mary Hanifin. "Reggie’s unique brand of comedy, devoted following and ability to convey complex themes through humor made him a perfect fit."

The comedian and musician has some experience with the clean-power issue, having contributed to a Climate Reality Project spot last year. For Greenpeace—fresh off its gorgeous ad attacking Lego for partnering with Shell—Watts sustains a tone that gives the material an offbeat, non-judgmental spark. He uses improvisation to amp up the scripts, and his silly, slightly subversive comic energy feels just right.

Via Fast Company.

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August 20, 2014, 11:41 AM EDT

W+K Develops a Series of Underwater Apps for Sony's Waterproof Phone The life aquatic, half an hour at a time

If you ever hoped to pretend your phone were a fish or an aquatic plant, Sony would like to present its Xperia Z1S.

The brand, along with Wieden + Kennedy and development partners Motim and SoftFacade, is demonstrating the phone's waterproof technology by developing apps designed to be used in and under the water.

A new feature on the phone uses ultrasound to sense when the phone is submerged. A handful of 30-second videos (directed by Sean Pecknold of Society) demonstrate the apps, which capitalize on that detection technology in ways unusual, somewhat amusing and mostly frivolous.

One of the apps is "Goldie," an on-screen fish that flops around like it's dying when you take the phone out of the water. Another is "Plantimal," a modern cross between a Tomagotchi and a Grow Monster. There's also "Rainy-oke" for, quite literally, singing in the rain, as proven by a drag queen performing Cyndi Lauper.

"Photo Lab" mimics the process of developing photos by hand, in an extra cutesy twist of the knife to a practice all but eradicated by the digital age. "Sink Sunk" offers perhaps the funniest and most practical application of the water detection technology: It's a simple game for when you're bored and cranky, hanging out in your kiddie pool.

That's it, at least so far. The brand is making the source code for the feature available via Github, so other developers can play with different uses, too.

In the meantime, it's a reasonably fun way for Sony to promote waterproofing, even though that feature is not unique to the smartphone manufacturer or model. And it fits well enough into the art-meets-engineering motif of the brand's "Be Moved" platform, launched with W+K early this year—even if it does feel a little heavier on the engineering part.

The brand recommends you avoid submerging your phone for more than 30 minutes at a time, though. Just in case you were planning to take it on a nice long scuba dive.

August 20, 2014, 9:18 AM EDT

Lovely Ad for Pinterest Shows How It Can Inspire Collaborative Brilliance (or at Least Dinner) Messaging opens up new possibilities

Pinterest touts its newly unveiled messaging feature in this handsomely shot two-and-a-half minute video from production house Strike Anywhere.

The clip is Apple-esque, as are so many personal-tech ads these days, celebrating Pinterest's heightened functionality as a means of enhancing everyday life. Using the new messaging system, people engage in pithy yet productive text conversations about pins showing canoes, casseroles and spaceships. This demonstrates Pinterest's ability to help folks collaboratively plan outings, dinners and work projects. (Of course, it could also create fresh opportunities for advertisers.)

The music track, Kishi Bashi's "Philosophize in It! Chemicalize With It!" is a fine choice. It's uplifting and accessible, but doesn't overpower the spot. It works here, and would work equally well in any number of recent ads for Apple, Samsung or Microsoft. In fact, this spot, while true to Pinterest's vibe, is a good example of how ads for tech companies increasingly blur the picture, instead of putting their services into sharper focus.

But for Pinterest, building on earlier long-form ads, it represents a noticeable step toward being a major marketer in the social tech arena. Take a look below and see what you think.

August 19, 2014, 3:39 PM EDT

Creator of That Godawful Viral Shopping Mall Ad Isn't Surprised You Love It So Chris Fleck's plan works like a charm

A laughably bad commercial for the East Hills Mall in St. Jospeh, Mo.—which we wrote about yesterday—has gained a rather large following this week. A piece of ironic Internet treasure, it's already well on its way to a million YouTube views. 

Given the amount of Internet hoaxes, though, and the ad's perfectly executed terrible-on-purpose quality, we wondered if it was real—and who was responsible for such a jewel.

Well, according to the report below by a local Fox affiliate, the spot is indeed authentic. In fact, it's the work of local producer Chris Fleck. In the interview, he tells Fox he isn't really surprised at the enormous popularity of his masterpiece.

"The whole time we pitched this idea, we said, 'Maybe it would go viral.' Boy, it did," he says with a laugh.

This isn't Fleck's first time at the rodeo, either. He's amassed a few thousand clicks on some other spots, including one with a rapping Mitsubishi dealer and another for a liquor store featuring a jockey riding a cooler.

His advertising philosophy is simple: "If you can entertain, and then slide the message in, you’ve accomplished your goal. I just love that it's getting this much response. That's what commercials do, you get response."

Check out the mall ad, and a few of Fleck's previous works, here:

August 19, 2014, 1:45 PM EDT


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