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Johnson's Baby Is Sorry Not Sorry in Awkward Reply to Customer Concerns Here, these origami storks might help

We'll always listen and be here for you. Even when you're wrong.

That's the somewhat odd message that Johnson's Baby offers consumers in this video emphasizing the Johnson & Johnson brand's commitment to the safety of its products—to the point of reformulating them even when there's nothing wrong.

The ad, "Our Safety Promise," explains that Johnson's Baby heard the worries of customers bothered by news that "chemicals of concern" had been found in its products. "Although always safe, for your peace of mind, we removed them," the video says of the chemical.

That message may be transparent. To me, it's also condescending. It's like saying, "We're doing this to appease you. But we still know better than you." Perhaps it's a legal thing. Still, the wording could be much better.



The brand then goes on to celebrate its bigheartedness by having its employees make 1,000 origami storks, which apparently signify "a hope granted and a promise fulfilled," according to a Japanese legend about origami cranes.

It could be I'm just not the target for the ad, which is obviously meant to be touching and sweet. (I'd call it more feel-good for feel-good's sake.) But after watching, I was even more curious about the controversial chemicals.

The spot is part of a new social-media effort that will see 40 more videos released throughout the rest of the year. Let's hope they're less awkward than this one.

July 30, 2014, 1:08 PM EDT

Indian Ad With Female Boss Sparks an Uproar: Is It Super Feminist or Super Sexist? Strange plot wants it both ways

There's a lot going on in this new ad from India, and the Internet is fired up about it.

The spot, for mobile provider Airtel, opens on two working professionals in a meeting. A woman, who's the boss, gives her male employees a task, and one protests, claiming there's not enough time to finish it. The boss is sympathetic, but lets him know it has to be done.

She heads home for the day, while he begrudgingly burns the midnight oil. We watch her make dinner, and then there's an O. Henry twist.

Watch the spot before reading further:



Now, I don't speak the language, so maybe I'm missing something. But still, I'm confused. The mix of progressive and regressive messaging here is mystifying. At work she's a strong, resolute boss, but at home she's a lonely housewife pleading for her husband to leave the office and spend the evening with her? Or maybe she just really likes to cook?

Whatever the case, the Internet is certainly taking sides.

Also, I'm probably being picky in pointing this out, but reporting to your spouse is sort of a corporate no-no, isn't it?

What say you?

July 30, 2014, 10:57 AM EDT

Self-Driving Car Wreaks Havoc, but Not for the Reasons You Think, in Hilarious Dutch Ad Boon for an insurance company

Some aspects of the techno-utopian fantasy are especially worth skewering, and Dutch insurer Centraal Beheer does a pretty nice number on one of them: the self-driving car.

The brand has a knack for making disaster funny by casting some obnoxious stereotype as fictional villain. A couple of years back, it was a moron in a red Speedo doing circus tricks with his speedboat wheel. Now, in a new ad, it's a self-important ass reading the paper in the backseat of a Volkswagen that's being driven by a computer.

The commercial does bear a resemblance to Liberty Mutual's 2012 spot about human error, but adds another layer to the slapstick joke, and keeps it au courant by blaming the escalating fiasco on the disbelief of spectators distracted by the driverless VW. That premise is a stretch, but it's definitely good for a chuckle.

Now, if only the computer chauffeur would take its passenger into the ocean, or maybe just into a shipping container bound for a remote island inhabited entirely by robots.

Click to Read More →

July 30, 2014, 10:27 AM EDT

We Asked Agencies to Share Their Oddest Decorations, and They Did Not Disappoint Creepy paintings, taxidermied mascots and a rather cozy panic room

Not every marketing agency can be an architectural marvel, but they do all tend to have at least one oddly compelling bit of decor that reminds you you're not in a law office.

Just for fun, we decided to ask our Twitter followers to share some of their favorite pieces of office decoration, and they did not disappoint. Below you'll find a recap of our favorites.

July 29, 2014, 6:04 PM EDT

Adman Writes His Own Hilarious Obituary, and It Goes Viral 'Please, don't email me, I'm dead'

Leave it to an ad guy to write his own hilariously entertaining obituary, and have it go viral in the days after his death.

Kevin J. McGroarty, who died last Tuesday at age 53, had worked in advertising since 1983 and ran Rhino Media in West Pittston, Pa., until 2006, according to the obituary in the Wilkes Barre Times Leader—a 500-word mini masterpiece that gets off to a flying start with the line: "McGroarty achieves room temperature!"

Every paragraph is amusing, though the high points include:

• He was preceded in death by brother, Airborne Ranger Lt. Michael F. McGroarty, and many beloved pets, Chainsaw, an English Mastiff in Spring 2009, Baron, an Irish Setter in August 1982, Peter Max, a turtle, Summer 1968; along with numerous house flies and bees, but they were only acquaintances.
• McGroarty leaves behind no children (that he knows of), but if he did their names would be son, "Almighty Thor" McGroarty; and daughter, "Butter Cup Patchouli."
• He would like to remind his friends: "Please, don't email me, I'm dead."
• A Mass of Christian Burial will be held at 10 a.m. Monday in St. Cecilia Church of St. Barbara Parish, 1700 Wyoming Ave., Exeter, following a brief rant of how the government screwed up all of the Bugs Bunny cartoons trying to censor violence.

God bless him. Read the full obituary below.

Click to Read More →

July 29, 2014, 5:10 PM EDT

Everyone in This Ad (and Who Worked on This Ad) Was Paid in Meat Restaurant tests the limits of barbecue bartering

Ah, the barter system, humanity's oldest economy. And it's alive and well in the modern marketplace—at least if you're using slow-cooked meat as currency.

Canadian restaurant chain Montana's Cookhouse & Bar has created an entire ad paid for with meat to promote its Best of BBQ Sampler. The crew offered Montana's smoked meat spread to a wide range of merchants in exchange for goods and services ranging from massage and yoga lessons to a manicure and permanent tattoo.

Even the ad agency (One Twenty Three West) and production company (OPC Family Style) agreed to work on the project in exchange for barbecue. 

When the crew went door to door, not everyone said yes. But they seemed to have a pretty good success rate, and it's good to know that if I'm ever strapped for cash and need an MMA lesson, I can always bring a billfold full of brisket.

Click to Read More →

July 29, 2014, 12:32 PM EDT

Agency Tries to Make an Ad That's All but Unskippable as YouTube Preroll Doing more in those precious first five seconds

The numbers don't lie: When a YouTube preroll ad comes on, users are primed to click the "Skip Ad" button the very millisecond it appears on screen. Research says 94 percent of preroll gets skipped shortly after the first five seconds (which are unskippable). And frankly, that number seems low.

The seemingly obvious solution is to make the first five seconds so compelling that people have to watch the rest—rather than just post your TV spot and hope for the best. Embracing the former, ad agency Nail in Providence, R.I., did a simple experiment. It tried to come up with an unskippable YouTube preroll ad.

See the results below.

It's not very subtle, and it uses a trick from an old National Lampoon magazine cover. It's also super low budget. Yet it got a view rate of 26 percent, which is impressive. And it made a few bucks for charity along the way.

What do you think? Is it worth building ad executions specifically to work better as YouTube preroll? Or is that just too much of a bother?



Here is Nail's blurb about the dog video:

Click to Read More →

July 29, 2014, 11:22 AM EDT

David Duchovny Daydreams of Life as a Russian in Beer Ad Exalting the Motherland Serious? Satire? Lengthy spot tries for both

Is Special Agent Mulder looking to defect? In a decidedly unexpected career move, David Duchovny appears in this two-and-a-half minute rah-rah-Russia commercial for Siberian Crown beer.

The spot's schmaltzy patriotism and odd humor combine with Duchovny's earnest-yet-goofy acting style to create an entertaining viewing experience for the A-B InBev brand. Will you be hitting replay? Da! (It's topped 2 million YouTube views since posting late last week.)

We open on a stateside rooftop party among the beautiful people where the X-Files and Californication actor gets distracted by deeper thoughts: "There is another country where I got my family name from. And sometimes I wonder: What if things turned out differently? What if I were Russian?" (He's actually of Ukrainian/Polish/Scottish extraction … but close enough, and those probably fall under Putin's mental map of Russia, anyway.)

What follows is an extended montage that plays out like a Saturday Night Live spoof of a Central Committee propaganda reel. Our hero takes on a host of stereotypically Russian personae, including a cosmonaut, a hockey star (missing a tooth, naturally), a ballet choreographer and, most unsettlingly, the bass player in a Russian rock band, having a bad hair day on both his head and upper lip.

The intended tone seems to have been muddled in translation, or maybe the spot just feels awkward when viewed with American sensibilities. At times, the concept's clearly played for laughs, strictly tongue-in-cheek. Then, suddenly, it gets all heartfelt and serious. ("I found out that being Russian, I’d have many things to be proud of.")

Duchovny's performance heightens this schizophrenic effect. His approach is best described as Shatner-light: hammy, but on the lean side. He manages to be wink-wink self-conscious and intensely self-important at the same time.

It's also, of course, an awkward time for a Western icon to be aligning himself with Russia, whose government is perennially one of the world's least admired and is currently facing increased sanctions over its support of rebels in eastern Ukraine. But clearly this is not an ad aimed at foreigners, and Russians seem to be feeling just fine about how their government's being run.

All told, it's the kind of dubious escapade Dana Scully would've debunked ("Mulder, this commercial—Nyet!"), so it's a good thing she's not around to spoil the fun.

July 29, 2014, 10:28 AM EDT

Sink Into the Comforting Folds of the 'Skin Chair,' Which Looks and Smells Like Human Flesh Or, you know, don't

At last, you don't need to be a degenerate military dictator (or Ed Gein) to soak up the luxuries of sitting on piles of human skin. Or at least, creepy facsimiles thereof.

London-based designer Gigi Barker has made a leather "Skin Chair" that looks (and smells!) like actual human flesh, thanks to the modern miracle that is pheromone-infused silicone. The design and smell of the chair are apparently modeled after an actual individual's body, and it probably feels a lot like sitting on Jabba the Hutt.

Barker made these for the London Design Festival in September, but they're for sale to the public as well, just in case you have $2,500 lying around. (The ottoman, though, officially called the "Skin Stool," is a steal at $675.)

July 29, 2014, 10:22 AM EDT

Bad Idea: Baby Brand Hands Out Candy in Realistic Pill Bottles at BlogHer The response is about what you'd expect

Photo: Morgan Shanahan

Coming up with promotional freebies that will stand out in the sea of swag at BlogHer is always a challenge. But one brand may have taken its creativity a bit too far this year.

Bright Starts, a major producer of toys and toddler gear, was apparently on hand at the massive mom-blogger conference this weekend—and giving out realistic-looking pill bottles promoting its Baby Laugh Index microsite. Inside were Red Hots, packaged as some sort of giggle pills that "may cause serious laughter."

These were promotional items created for adults attending the conference, and not something you can expect to see on store shelves. Still, as blogger Morgan Shanahan points out, it's a bad idea to put candy in medicine containers, especially when you know they're likely to end up back in homes with children.

"Pills are not funny. They’re not toys. They’re not even swag," Shanahan writes. "They’re deadly when placed in the wrong hands. So what were you thinking, Bright Starts?"

UPDATE: An AdFreak reader points out that Sam's tried something similar in 2009 and quickly apologized for the promotion.

We reached out to representatives of Bright Starts parent company Kids II and will update if we hear back.

UPDATE 2: Miles Bohannan, vp of marketing communications for Kids II, sent the following statement to AdFreak:

Our “prescription for laughter” in a pill bottle was part of a booth experience designed to support Bright Starts' “Fun Comes First” campaign, which also featured a “Baby Laugh Index” quiz and a “dress as a baby” photo booth—all very tongue-in-cheek reminders of the importance of baby laughter.

Once we realized that the giveaways were concerning to some, we immediately stopped passing them out. We certainly understand and regret any misunderstanding this has caused, and welcome the opportunity to visit further should that be helpful.

Hat tip to Heather Spohr on Facebook.

July 28, 2014, 3:48 PM EDT

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AdFreak is your daily blog of the best and worst of creativity in advertising, media, marketing and design. Follow us as we celebrate (and skewer) the latest, greatest, quirkiest and freakiest commercials, promos, trailers, posters, billboards, logos and package designs around. Edited by Adweek's Tim Nudd. Updated every weekday, with a weekly recap on Saturdays.

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