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Olive Garden Selling 7 Weeks of Pasta for $100, but You'll Have to Move Fast to Get It 1,000 passes go on sale today

Twenty bucks says college students around the U.S. will be racing to their computers at 3 p.m. ET this afternoon. Why? Because Olive Garden, purveyor of sort-of Italian food, has—in a fit of PR genius—announced a Never Ending Pasta Pass.

And that's when it goes on sale online.

For $100, you can get unlimited pasta, salad, breadsticks and soft drinks for seven entire weeks. That's right—49 days in a row of all-you-can-eat carbs, more carbs and bunny food. Alcohol and gratuity not included. Food coma and chocolate mints likely are.

I did the math, and this is cheaper than eating two packs of Ramen noodles for every meal for those 49 days (that would be $133 if you Amazon Prime it).

But you'd better act fast right at 3 p.m. The chain is selling only 1,000 of these pasta passes. (It's a kickoff to the annual "Never Ending Pasta Bowl" promotion, running Sept. 22 to Nov. 9., which lets you eat all the pasta you want for $9.99.)

Clever move from Olive Garden, even if all their Facebook fans are super weird.

UPDATE: At 3 p.m. ET, the site crashed. Oops.

UPDATE 2: Aaaaaand they're sold out.

September 8, 2014, 11:54 AM EDT

Beeping Boy Talks to Machines and Will Steal Your Heart in Charming GE Ad BBDO spot isn't lost in translation

We've seen plenty of ads that use kids to illustrate the power—and limits—of technology. But rarely does it translate in a way that doesn't seem hokey or freakishly dystopian.

GE and BBDO are on a roll lately, making some of advertising's more conceptually profound spots. But their latest collaboration is one of the year's most poignant. In "The Boy Who Beeps," we follow the life of a child who has an unusual birth defect—instead of normal human speech, he emits a robot-like language and communicates more effectively with machines than people.

GE argues that this is perhaps more of an advantage than a handicap, as emphasized by the on-screen line at the end.

Perhaps advertising's sequel to "Her," the spot subtly creates a reality that could go down a subversive path. Instead it weaves today's languages, human and machine, into a charming scenario to which many in our industrial society can relate, despite the bizarre premise.

You have to wonder why Mom was fooling around with the modem, though.

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September 8, 2014, 11:01 AM EDT

DirecTV Kicked Off the NFL Season With an Ad Featuring a Gay Couple Perfect (and coincidental) timing as Michael Sam joined the Cowboys

A same-sex couple locked in an embrace (or is it a tackle?) smash through their home in slow-motion in a surprisingly inclusive spot for DirecTV's NFL Sunday Ticket.

These guys have a "friendly rivalry." One roots for the New York Giants, and the other for the Dallas Cowboys. At first, viewers might think it's just a moment of roughhousing between friends, but they eventually make it clear by saying that, while they may argue sometimes, "we're just like any couple."

Despite the nod to the Cowboys, the ad from Grey New York was almost certainly filmed before the team signed Michael Sam, the first openly gay player to be drafted into the National Football League. The spot broke last Thursday during the NFL's first regular-season game between the Green Bay Packers and the Seattle Seahawks.

Sports has factored into several pro-LGBT ads lately. To protest Russia's anti-gay laws ahead of the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, a Canadian equal rights group created a PSA that claimed, "The games have always been a little gay," a reference to the visual association one might make concerning the two-man luge. While applauding the spot's good intentions, some felt the humor reinforced stereotypes. Norwegian apparel firm XXL took a different tack with its mini-epic Olympic commercial with a lesbian twist.

Some commenters have disparaged the "little yippity dog" in the DirecTV spot as a homosexual cliche, but it otherwise has received a pretty warm response from LGBT advocates. The ad scores because it levels the playing field and presents its themes in the same loud, goofy and accessible style as the client's other "Most Powerful Fan" commercials. Here, sports fandom becomes a fun, credible metaphor for inclusiveness. DirecTV called the right play.

Via The Advocate.

September 8, 2014, 10:35 AM EDT

Kmart Rolls Out Christmas Commercial That Insists: 'This Is Not a Christmas Commercial' 'Merry birthday, everyone'

It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas. Isn't it?

Less than a week after Labor Day, Kmart has launched a cheeky holiday spot from FCB Chicago touting its layaway program. The spokeswoman says, "This is not a Christmas commercial. However, let's say you have an event in late December that you need a lot of gifts for. Like, maybe your entire family is having a birthday on the same day. Now's the time to go to Kmart and put those gifts on layaway."

Meanwhile, a jolly fat man rides through the aisles on a reindeer-drawn sleigh (presumably he's not the appliance-department manager). And those fireplace logs crackling on the screens of the store's TV display look suspiciously "yule" to me.



It seems to be an attempt at disarming the same people who were angry at Kmart last year for airing a Christmas spot in September. Not doing so, after all, was not an option.

"We know it's early, and that is exactly when smart shoppers start thinking about using layaway for the holidays," says Jai Holtz, vp and general manager for financial services at Kmart parent Sears Holdings. "We are expanding no-money-down layaway nationwide to help members and customers who want to make small payments over time leading up the holidays."

Though a Christmas ad in early September is obnoxious, it's probably a smart move, since 40 percent of Americans do their holiday shopping before Halloween, according to the National Retail Federation.

Guess I should get to Kmart today and put plenty of junk—er, presents—on layaway. Joe Boxers for all, and to all a goodnight!

Oh, and before I forget ... Happy New Year!

September 5, 2014, 10:29 AM EDT

Everyone Can Stop Making Billboards, Because These Guys Made One Entirely Out of Cake Having your ad, and eating it too

The greatest idea for a billboard has been realized: one made entirely of cake.

Actually, 13,360 cakes. British confectionery brand Mr. Kipling and agency JWT London are the geniuses responsible for this gift to the the world. Because they are benevolent leaders who understand how things should work, they let everyone lucky enough to be near the billboard, at a mall in London, also participate in the eating of the billboard.

That makes it even more perfect, because a billboard that disappears quickly is the best kind. It's also even more selfless, because making a billboard out of 13,360 cakes is a feat that takes grand vision and steely perseverance—approximately seven hours worth of grueling cake assembly alone, even with the help of a professional food artist like Michelle Wibowo, whose credentials also include making a portrait of Prince William and Prince George out of 16,074 triangle pieces of Toblerone chocolate.

Other, less-conservative estimates place the total commitment required to build a single giant ad out of many small cakes at three days, plus two months of presumably painstaking design. Also assisting were other fine marketing companies like Outside Line, Carat, and Cirkle. Regardless, it is an infinitely more courageous move than a bus shelter ad that hands out a measly 500 Mr. Kipling cakes.



Fortunately such Herculean efforts do not go unappreciated by passersby of strong character. "I really like the board because I love cake, and that motto quite fits me," says one woman in a video about the giant cake ad. "Life is better with cake," says the motto, which 72 percent of the U.K. population believes, according to Mr. Kipling's surely bulletproof research, and also according to common sense.

So, let it be known that for anyone who does make a billboard henceforth, moral imperative dictates it should be made of cakes—perhaps cakes more delicious than Mr. Kipling's cakes, which if they are anything like pre-packaged cakes in America, might not be the best cakes in the world. (These French pastries might be a good place to start.)

Some exceptions to the rule: A billboard that cleans the air is OK, because humans need breathable oxygen to eat cake; a billboard that condenses humidity into water, because humans might be thirsty after eating all that cake, even though milk would be a better companion; and billboards featuring exceptional art, in case someone needs something nice to look at while eating their cake, though such a student probably isn't focused enough on the task at hand. 

But before anyone suggests making a billboard out of ice cream or pie, let's just all remember that we are practical folk who only engage in civil debate about reasonable ideas—and also do not give rise to false hope.

Via The Drum.

September 5, 2014, 9:37 AM EDT

Why Esurance Quickly Took Down This Billboard, Even Though It Looks Fine From a distance, there was a problem

Esurance learned a fun lesson this week: Always take a few hundred steps back and see how your billboard looks from a distance.

The Chicago board above, which carries the seemingly innocuous headline "Cover your home in a click," apparently looked mildly obscene to anyone who spotted it from afar. The "c" and "l" in "click" began to blur, and the sentence looked more like "Cover your home in a dick." (Which is clearly not sound advice from an insurance company.)

Things got worse when someone went and Photoshopped an image of the billboard to more clearly say "dick" and posted it on Twitter. And then, Esurance itself compounded the problem by replying to the tweet and saying the billboard had been taken down—but without clarifying that that particular image had been Photoshopped. (Deadspin, in fact, initially took Esurance's tweet as proof that it hadn't been.)



So, those are your lessons for the day. Look at your billboards from every vantage point. And don't admit to obscenities you never actually uttered.

This article was brought to you by the letters d, c, and lololololol.

September 4, 2014, 3:04 PM EDT

Hans and Franz Pump Up Aaron Rodgers in Hilarious State Farm Ad on Steroids Carvey and Nealon resurrect their classic SNL characters

Like two good neighbors, Hans and Franz have appeared from a Saturday Night Live sweat-dream to peddle insurance—and entertain us again after a few decades of hibernation.

State Farm and DDB Chicago trump their previous (yet still funny) SNL character resurrection with this gem of a 60-second spot featuring comedy legends Dana Carvey and Kevin Nealon in their Austrian bodybuilder alter egos. Perfectly synced to the start of the NFL season, they team up with Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers, a longtime State Farm endorser, and repay him for saving them money on insurance. 

"Hear me now and believe me later! You pumped up our wallets with the Discount Double Checking, so we want to repay the favor and PUMP [clap!] ... YOU UP!" Franz shouts at Rodgers in an amusingly clumsy blend of State Farm's branding and the characters' classic catchphrase.

Watch below as Carvey and Nealon prove they're still in prime shape.

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September 4, 2014, 1:14 PM EDT

Matthew McConaughey Talks a Lot of Bull With Just a Few Words in First Lincoln Ad Three spots launched Thursday

Matthew McConaughey takes his time in his first Lincoln ad through Hudson Rouge.

There are almost more pauses than words of dialogue in the 60-second spot, as the Oscar-winning actor and new brand endorser sits nearly motionless in his MKC on a country road, transfixed by a giant bull who won't let him pass.

There's plenty of Rust Cohle here, but this is also just pure McConaughey—quietly audacious. That could also describe the approach of the whole spot, in fact, which barely shows the vehicle in action. (Indeed, it's vanquished in the end by a creature clearly more powerful than itself.)



Two other spots rolled out Thursday—a :60 that's more conventional, with McConaughey driving around and philosophizing on whether you can or can't "go back," and a meta :30 in which he says straight out that he drove Lincolns long before he was paid to do so.

The spots were directed by feature filmmaker Nicolas Winding Refn, who was last seen crafting this 90-second Grey Goose ad.

Click to Read More →

September 4, 2014, 12:50 PM EDT

Demented Shampoo Ad From Japan Has Everyone Screaming, Including Viewers Wash the insanity right out of your hair

When you think about all the people you need to appease in life, it can get pretty hairy. Your parents, your friends, your significant other, your boss, your co-workers—it's rough.

Well, here's a commercial that sympathizes, and presents a unique solution.

The downright hare-brained spot comes to us from Japanese shampoo brand Mesocare and agency Dentsu. It plays out like Rodgers and Hammerstein's insane night terror, and will freak you out, too. So, without further hairdo, watch people scream at each other while dangling from hair follicles.

Via Ads of the World.



And here's the extended cut (no subtitles), which is worth it for the ending alone:



CREDITS
Client: Mesocare
Agency: Dentsu, Tokyo
Creative Director: Yosuke Hiraishi
Copywriter: Yuto Ogawa
Director: Wataru Sato
Photographer: Onomichi
Producers: Sumina Sugita, Tomomitsu Nakano, Yuki Awatsu, Naomi Yamamoto

September 4, 2014, 11:58 AM EDT

Gillette Razors Are Great for Shaving. Or, You Know, Playing the Piano Son Lux shows you how in weird, cool stunt

Embracing music has become a popular strategy for making potentially dull brands seem cool, and Gillette is leaning hard into the approach with a new spot that turns its razors into part of an elaborate piano-playing machine.

Son Lux, an artist and producer who recently collaborated with Lorde, performs an original composition on the contraption, which rigs a second keyboard into a pulley system that controls the razors—which in turn press the keys on an actual piano.

The ad is meant to demonstrate the rotational capacity of Gillette's Flexball technology. That ends up succeeding well enough, which is a good thing, because otherwise it might just look like an awful lot of trouble to make a perfectly functional instrument unnecessarily complicated just to squeeze in the product. Regardless, Gillette, agency Grey and production company 1st Avenue Machine get props for helping to bring viewers a nice song.



The project also recalls Gillette's symphony of sweaty dudes on gym equipment from last fall (via BBDO), meant to promote the P&G brand's deodorant. GE, meanwhile, has been teaming up with electronic artists to sample the sounds of its heavy machinery, and turn them into very listenable records.

It's hard to say whether razors, free weights, shipping containers or jet engines make the best tunes, though.

Click to Read More →

September 4, 2014, 11:09 AM 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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