The 30 Freakiest Ads of 2011 Van Damme to David Lynch, zombies to food phantasmagorias

SONY ERICSSON • Kristen Is Killing It20

Agency: McCann Erickson, New York
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Kristen Schaal is one crazy chick. You may remember her as the loony fan-girl from Flight of the Conchords, or from The Daily Show, or from The Simpsons (after they misspelled her name in the credits). But after this year, you may remember her, too, from her Xperia Play ads for Sony Ericsson. Schaal is a weird combination of totally normal seeming and totally nuts, which made her an inspired choice to pitch this phone, which has a business side and a fun side. Nowhere was the dichotomy more hilariously illustrated than in the "Kristen Is Killing It" spot, where Schaal transforms from demure businesswoman into mindless killing machine. Screaming obscenities as she mows down her enemies with an AK-47, she delivered one of the most memorable celebrity endorsements of the year. Triple kill, bitches!

ISPCC • I Can't Wait19

Agency: Ogilvy, Dublin, Ireland
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There weren't as many disturbing PSAs in 2011 compared to past years. But this anti-child-abuse appeal from Ogilvy Dublin was painfully visceral. The brutal PSA, funded by the Irish Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children, aimed to galvanize viewers into financially supporting the fight for children's rights by laying bare the emotional and physical toll of abuse. It shows a boy being beaten up at home while still managing to articulate, in grown-up language, a manifesto for what children deserve in life—and the future he dreams for himself in a present that's unbearable. Heartbreaking yet inspiring, it was one of the year's most powerful PSAs.


Agency: Stately Mansion, Marina del Rey, Calif.
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Here's a real WTF commercial. It features a family of eggheads—literal ones, with giant white orbs atop their bodies. Mom and Dad are watching as Junior tries karate—with nasty, messy results. "If you're an egghead, putting your son in karate doesn't make a lot of sense. Neither does paying too much for a hotel room," says the voiceover. The connection to the brand is gratuitous and stupid, and the spot as a whole is embarrassingly lame. But the gushing, dribbly yolk-face is a sight not soon forgotten.

VIVIDENT • Unexpected Turn17

Agency: Selection SRL, Milan, Italy
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Here's some oddvertising in the candy/gum category—a weird and randomly disturbing Italian spot for Vivident gum, featuring some family secrets best left undiscovered. The father who whips out his man-boobs was certainly one of the most shocking ad characters of the year. And the son who turns into a marionette is creepy as well. Once again, though, the connection to the brand couldn't be more indiscriminate. "If you like unexpected turns, you should try Vivident Blast," says the spokesman, who then gets squashed by a whale at the end. Lame. But hey—man-boobs and marionettes.


Directors: Matias & Mathias
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Speaking of nonsensical—it isn't just candy advertisers who've perfected it. High-fashion advertisers are right there, too. Among the year's most ludicrous fashion-related spots was this loony film from Norway's Bjørg Jewellery in which a woman gets burned at the stake. Why is she burned at the stake? Don't ask why—this is art! (Well, it's artful . . . well, OK, it's just kind of stupid.) For some reason, Bjørg left the disclaimer off this ad: Unless you are certain your friend is a witch, do not try this at home.

BASEMENT • Rabbit15

Director: Martin Romanella
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Here's another depraved fashion commercial, this time with a celebrity kick—Kate Moss seducing a giant bunny for Chilean clothier Basement. Kate's had a tough time in the dating department over the years, but this seemed desperate. There's plenty of suggestive imagery in the ads, including Kate offering a big bunch of carrots for her furry friend to munch on (or find some other use for). At the end, we see Kate the next morning, surrounded by dozens of little baby bunnies—yet another reminder that shacking up with a non-human character from Donnie Darko is never a good idea.


Agency: Organic Inc., San Francisco
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This list wouldn't be complete without a terrifying anti-drug PSA, and here's one of the most harrowing—an anti-meth spot directed by Darren Aronofsky, part of a series the Hollywood director did this year. Aronofsky knows a little something about the horrors of addiction, having made Requiem for a Dream. There are no amputated limbs or double-ended dildos in his PSAs, but the campaign's message was similar—that drugs lead to all manner of physical, emotional and sexual degradation. Visually, the spots frighteningly transition from the floaty, foggy dreamworld of a user's high to the harsh realities of his or her shocking self-destruction. There's been plenty of shocking anti-meth ads in recent years, but this work topped them all.

THELOGOFF.ORG • Mommy Facebook Song13

Agency: Barton F. Graf 9000, New York
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Know any moms who spend way too much time on Facebook, leaving their kids isolated and furious and singing about their predicament for all the world to hear? Then this is the PSA for you. Created by Gerry Graf and Harold Einstein, the mini-musical encourages moms everywhere to put down the laptop already and play with their kids. It was an unbranded effort, but it did appear on (and was sponsored by) the parenting Web portal The spot sends you to, which simply tells you to "log off . . . at least for a little while." Graf said the point was to "promote online moderation." In one of the oddest ways imaginable.

ACTIVISION • Zombie Lab12

Agency: TBWA\Chiat\Day, Los Angeles
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Zombies—they're everywhere these days. And nowhere were they more alarming than in this disgustingly amusing two-minute spot for Call of Duty: Black Ops Rezurrection, the final chapter in the Activision franchise's zombie gaming saga. The setting is a test-lab facility, only here the scientists are working not to create a better condom or Cheeto but to find optimal ways of surviving and destroying the undead. One creature gets shot with a laser and promptly explodes. Another is forced to run on a treadmill, humiliatingly pursuing a dangling brain. (He eventually gets his lunch, and it's fresher than he could've imagined.) "What we're doing here is something special—getting to know zombies inside and out," says the deadpan voiceover, as a janitor slips while wet-vac-ing zombie parts. Comical and nasty—the year's best zombie spot.


Director: Harmony Korine
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You want a weird ad? Get a weird director. Fashion line Proenza Schouler followed that logic this year with its controversial spot directed by Harmony Korine promoting the brand's Native American-inspired fall clothing. In the film, two white-masked, war-bonneted, helium-voiced girls wander around the economically depressed Southwest singing lines like, "Oh man, we are trouble. We love trouble … We dance on raindrops. We are God's children." Feel like buying the clothes yet? There are teepees, trailers and a potbellied guy whose fingertips burst into flames like candles. The ad was criticized for being racist, but really it was just self-consciously odd. In an interview, Korine said it was inspired by a man he knew who "kept a gun in the freezer, and breathed through a machine at night," and whom he once saw "turn into a goat and run around the living room." There—that explains everything.

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AdFreak is a 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.

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