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

UBISOFT • Guitar Baby10

Agency: Cutwater, San Francisco
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Babies doing disturbingly grownup stuff—it's a tradition that goes back to the Dancing Baby of the mid-'90s, which was one of the first viral videos ever. Since then, we've had everything from the talking Baby Bob to the fun-loving Evian roller-skating babies. This year, we got a new talented tot—Ubisoft's guitar-playing baby, a dexterous little guy who mastered the Rocksmith video game practically from the moment he touched it. He also had the rock-star persona to match, pulling his dad's ear and flashing the devil horns for good measure. He's a bad seed, this one.


Director: Jonas Arnby
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Sometimes a Popsicle is not just a Popsicle. For example—the Popsicle in this spot from a lawyers' group in Finland, addressing the issue of sexual harassment in the workplace. Is the spot NSFW? Probably, although that's really the question it's asking. It shows a woman really, really savoring a frozen treat at the office, much to the embarrassment of her male colleagues, who can't seem to stop watching. "Is this sexual harassment?" asks the on-screen copy. "We know the answer." We never did get a definitive yes or no on that. But suffice it to say, the question itself was one of the most uncomfortable of the year.


Agency: TBWA\Chiat\Day, New York
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Sadly, TBWA lost the Skittles account this year after a marvelous string of supremely weird commercials—but not before delivering some great final global spots, including "Park," which showed giant trench-coated pigeons pecking Skittles off the ground. The ghostly pack of death-birds scatter creepily when a dog runs through, then they return to continue their feast. Comical yet unnerving—right in the brand's wheelhouse.

AYUDIN • Sausage Flan7

Agency: Grey, Buenos Aires, Argentina
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Mmm, look at that delicious flan with the big nasty sausage sticking out of it. Would you eat that? If not, then you need Ayudin, a dish soap made by Clorox. Ayudin cleans your plates properly, so you won't have yesterday's flavors unfortunately mixing with today's food. It was a bit of a convoluted premise, but this campaign from Grey Argentina was just so oddball-awesome, it couldn't be denied. (Another ad in the series had a chocolate bar with a chewy whole-fish center.) The 1950s style of the sausage-flan spot was irresistible, too. The food, not so much.

COORS LIGHT • Van Damme6

Agency: VCCP, London
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The year's craziest celebrity endorsement? It had to be this Coors Light spot with Jean-Claude Van Damme comparing the beer to his frozen crotch. No, seriously. Here's his dialogue verbatim: "My pants froze, and froze hard. So tight. Even thinking about it takes me back. Have you ever seen a man-penguin walk after an intense mating season? Have you? When a man's pants freeze as rock solid as mine—let me tell you, my friends, even that was nothing compared to the ice-cold refreshment of a Coors Light. Man, my pants were tight." Chatting about your tight, frozen crotch and comparing yourself to an oversexed penguin—an interesting second act for the Muscles from Brussels. Points for not taking himself too seriously.

SUNTORY • Rickey5

Agency: Dentsu, Tokyo
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We could do a whole separate list about crazy yet oddly fascinating Japanese commercials. Instead, we'll include just this musical one—and let it speak for the country. It's for Suntory Rickey cocktails, which combine liqueur, spirits and soda with lemon, lime or other fruits that you crush yourself using a stirrer. All the women in the ad are played by the same person—Japanese TV personality Becky, who's made a name for herself as one of the country's most popular commercial actresses. (She also provided the voice of Lisa in the Japanese version of The Simpsons Movie.) Even by Japanese standards, this spot was insane. Put it on repeat, and slowly descend into a world of pleasant bubbly madness.

MCAC • Rhian Touches Herself (NSFW)4

Agency: JWT, London
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You think a woman can't demonstrate the proper procedure for a testicular-cancer self-check ? You don't know lingerie model and Page 3 girl Rhian Sugden, whose talents know no bounds. This NSFW PSA for the Male Cancer Awareness Campaign certainly had a shocking twist—definitely one of the most ballsy ads of 2011.

DEEP SILVER • Dead Island Trailer3

Agency: Axis Animation, Glasgow, Scotland
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This gory trailer for the zombie video game Dead Island has the distinction of being the only spot on this list that also appears on Adweek's selection of the 10 Best Commercials of 2011. (It came in at No. 7.) It depicts a zombie attack on a vacationing family—with the footage running backward in reverse time. The visual disorientation adds to the terror of the action, which is ultraviolent and set against a quietly mournful piano. Utterly horrifying yet beautifully made, it was the crossover spot of the year.
See also: The 10 Best Commercials of 2011.


Director: David Lynch
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It was weird enough that David Lynch decided to market his own brand of coffee—David Lynch Signature Cup Organic Coffee. But then, perhaps not surprisingly, he gave it some even weirder advertising—this four-minute clip, in which the famed director flirts with a disembodied Barbie head as he talks about the product. Lynch has never been too fond of marketing—he once responded to a question about product placement in movies with a blunt obscenity. But here, at least, he has some fun with it. Mattel was probably less amused.

HELP REMEDIES • Dream Scenarios1

Creatives: Nathan Frank (Help), Paul Caiozzo (Agencytwofifteen)
Directors: Jason Jones, Geordie Stephens
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A man dressed as a dog has an emotional conflict with a chew toy. A woman steps out of a painting and has depressing sex on a girder with a man who makes weird sounds with his mouth. A chef wants to work tableside, but scabs from his face keep falling into his sausage mix. These nine ads from boutique pharma company Help Remedies were truly the oddest of the year. They promoted the company's sleep medication—called simply "Help I Can't Sleep"—by presenting odd little skits that acted out dreams you could be enjoying if only you could drift off. Except the dreams don't seem too enjoyable. In fact, they're bizarre in the extreme. That's what separates these ads from many on this list. They're legitimately, authentically peculiar, artful and risky and probably repellent to some people—not at all calculated for effect. Help Remedies has a cult following for plenty of reasons: its simple package designs, its combative relationship to Big Pharma. It also just does things for fun, and it does what it likes. These crazy ads are part of that—without a doubt the freakiest of 2011.

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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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