The 30 Freakiest Ads of 2010 Clowns to human socks, drivable butts to domestic violence
Wieden + Kennedy, Portland, Ore.
Click to view. We're including this more for the whole campaign than any individual spot. Has there been a weirder, more loony ad character from a major marketer in recent memory than Maria Bamford's bat-shit-crazy, shopping-obsessed Christmas Lady from Wieden + Kennedy's Target ads? Overzealous holiday shoppers are a common trope, but rarely are they as serial-killery as Bamford. (In her stand-up comedy career, she's known for her jokes about depression and loneliness, which will come as no surprise to anyone familiar with these ads.) The oddest part is that 2010 was a return engagement for the Christmas Lady—which means she presumably moved product in 2009. You have to salute Target for taking the leap with her, not once but twice. Now, please make her go away.
Click to view. Not a commercial proper—more of an ambush. For this stunt PSA on behalf of St. John's Ambulance, BBH treated a live audience of moviegoers in London to an idyllic family scene that turns ghastly when one of the daughters begins to choke on popcorn. Not knowing how to handle the situation, the parents panic—and the mother screams for help as the girl goes limp. Suddenly, a woman stands up in the audience, shouts that she can help, and hurries backstage in the movie theater—she then appears on screen and saves the day, emphasizing the importance of knowing first aid. It was a clever trick that mostly redeems the unpleasant shock tactics. The audience applauds at the end, though it's unclear whether they appreciated the experience or are just being polite as the actress returns to her seat.
TBWA\Chiat\Day, New York
Click to view. The first of two Skittles ads from TBWA\Chiat\Day on our list, this one featured a guy with a pesky Skittles tree growing out of his stomach. He's filthy and tired and just wants to have the thing looked at, and hopefully removed, so he can go to college and have a life. But his nightmare of a mom won't hear of it. His miraculous Skittles bounty at harvest time is just too valuable. The ad sticks closely to the Skittles formula, with a guy who is both blessed and cursed by the candies, and battling a wrecked anatomy for good measure. Directed by Guy Shelmerdine.
Lowe Strateus, Paris
Click to view. Our Freakiest Ads of 2009 collection last year included a brutal drunk-driving PSA from New Mexico that was told in reverse, beginning with a dead girl whispering to her guilt-ridden father in prison and proceeding backwards to when the tragedy was still avoidable. This Lowe Strateus spot for Sécurité Routière in France uses the same trick. It opens with a wrenchingly realistic hospital scene (the dude lost a leg!) and tracks back to a few hours earlier, when the driver avoids his fate by choosing to spend the night at a friend's house. The New Mexico spot was maybe more jarring, as its message was even bleaker—offering no chance of reprieve. But the French ad has the bloody stump. OK, let's call it even!
Director: Dougal Wilson, U.K.
Click to view. The 10:10 environmental campaign, aimed at getting individuals to cut their carbon emissions by 10 percent a year starting in 2010, misfired spectacularly with this video from comic screenwriter Richard Curtis and director Dougal Wilson (and featuring a bizarre cameo from Gillian Anderson at the end). The idea was: Anyone who doesn't want to cut their carbon emissions will get blown up, literally, creating a bloody mess. This was depicted perhaps a tad too realistically, as viewers generally howled their disapproval. That reaction eventually prompted an apology from the 10:10 people, but not before they replied brusquely: "We 'killed' five people to make 'No Pressure'—a mere blip compared to the 300,000 real people who now die each year from climate change."
Click to view. Spot is NSFW. TBWA Paris has done some impressive work on behalf of AIDES, the French association dedicated to fighting HIV and AIDS. (We included one of the agency's animated spots in our recent feature on epic ads.) This clip is no different, featuring whimsically obscene bathroom graffiti fleeing a penis as it tries to have a good time—without a condom. Eventually it cleans up its act, which is more than you can say for those bathroom stalls. Man, they are filthy! Directed by Yoann Lemoine.
Click to view. DDB Toronto went the horror-movie route with this anti-smoking spot in which an attractive young woman takes a drag off a fag and instantly transforms into a haggard old goat. "Every cigarette you smoke can take years off your life," says the copy. The ad gets high marks for creepiness, though one could argue that a good way to keep from getting old and wrinkly is actually to smoke more cigarettes, thus boosting your chances for an early exit, before those awkward elderly years hit. In fact, if smoking made people prematurely wrinkly, as opposed to prematurely dead, there would probably be a lot fewer smokers around.
McCann Erickson, Bangkok, Thailand
Click to view. We didn't include many Asian ads on this list (weird Japanese commercials alone could fill 10 times this space), but we had to mention this Thai floor-cleaner spot, as well as the Indonesian mouthwash ad below. In McCann's Vixol spot, the grime between a floor's tiles is personified by a bizarre, tiny, stretchy, rubberlike man who won't budge—despite the best efforts of an exhausted homemaker and two muscly, white-afroed guys representing Brand X. But Vixol, portrayed simply by a woman dressed up as a Vixol bottle, calls to the horrid brown Gumby, and he jumps up and runs off. Exceptionally odd.
Ogilvy & Mather, Jakarta, Indonesia
Click to view. Likewise, this Indonesian spot by Ogilvy & Mather for Frezza mouthwash is off-the-charts strange. It is surely the year's only dental-care commercial to feature a person being put to death in a gas chamber. "Bad breath kills," says the tagline, as the doomed prisoner is strapped into his chair and subjected to the noxious exhalations of a bunch of dudes with nasty, rotten teeth. These guys need a dentist more than a new brand of mouthwash. Weird idea, but hey, great execution!
"The Intimate Scent of a Beautiful Woman"
Click to view. Spot is NSFW. In America, you can't even say the word vagina on TV. In Germany, things are more lax. You can create a scent called Vulva Original, featuring the actual aroma of its namesake, and advertise it with a commercial showing a dude sniffing the seat of an exercise bike that's just been ridden by a woman. Yes, the ad is NSFW, but it's like a PBS Kids special compared to the gallery of print work on the Web site. Doesn't make a great gift.
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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.