Freak Week

Photoshop shenanigans can come back to haunt you, and it’s done just that to Microsoft, which suffered a PR embarrassment last week when it became clear the company had digitally erased a black man from a photo in an overseas version of one of its business-to-business Web sites. The man appeared in the English-language version of Microsoft’s business productivity infrastructure site, but was replaced by a white man in the Polish-language version. Only a small portion of the black man remained — they forgot to Photoshop out his hand. Microsoft quickly offered its “sincere apologies” and put the man back in the photo.

Everyone complains that banner ads are boring, but it only takes a little creativity to spice them up. A current Web campaign for Rob Zombie’s upcoming sequel-remake Halloween 2 pulls double duty in this regard. It features your prototypical annoying banner-ad characters — sexy singles, pushy insurance salesmen, dancing buffoons — being ambushed by the serial killer Michael Myers, who drags them off-screen for some violent comeuppance. The series even includes a parody “Get a Mac” Apple ad. For some reason it’s the John Hodgman stand-in who gets carted off, instead of the more deserving Justin Long character.

In the grand tradition of Americans doing wacky Asian ads, Brad Pitt returned last week in a few more commercials for Japan’s Softbank. (He previously starred in a wacky, Wes Anderson-directed spot for the client.) In the new spots, directed by Spike Jonze (they sure can afford that Hollywood talent), Pitt plays a personal assistant to sumo-wrestling champion Musashimaru. He feeds sushi to the 520-pound Samoan and daintily carries him around when his clog breaks, all to illustrate Softbank’s tagline: “Serving you in any way necessary.”

PETA loves animals. Women, not so much. The animal-rights group has always gotten heat from feminists for doing stuff like caging women and attaching milking apparatus to them, but they might have finally crossed a line with a Florida billboard that showed an obese woman with the phrase, “Save the whales. Lose the blubber: Go vegetarian.” The ad caused such a ruckus that PETA pulled it down. Others questioned the ad’s claims. Wrote one AdFreak reader: “I went vegetarian and I’m still fat. Maybe I should sue ’em for false advertising?”

Finally, we stumbled across a strange story out of St. Louis last week concerning Dr. Alexander Kalk, a physician known for putting bizarre ads in the local alt-weekly paper. The ads, placed in 2006, included several movie parodies (Star Wars, The Matrix) as well as a spoof of a strip-club ad. Unfortunately, Kalk wasn’t playing around-he was suffering from psychiatric problems that would eventually doom his practice and drive him out of Missouri earlier this year. “You could probably say [my illness started] about the time I started running the ads in the RFT,” Kalk tells the paper now. “That was clearly abnormal.”

Best of BrandFreak: Pinkberry shows just what it’s made of

AdFreak’s sister blog, BrandFreak, last week covered the resolution of a long-standing mystery: just what the hell is in those insanely popular Pinkberry frozen desserts? The chain made a huge splash in Los Angeles and New York about two years ago, drawing lines that wrapped around the block, but always kept disturbingly mum about what exactly was in its exhilarative soft-serve. Most fans figured it was just frozen yogurt. But then the Los Angeles Times sent a cup to a lab, and reported that the stuff didn’t contain enough active yogurt cultures to officially be called frozen yogurt. But now, it seems, the case is finally closed. Pinkberry just unveiled a brand-new Web site,, designed by L.A. firm Ferroconcrete, and the recipe book is wide open. Aside from the ingredients you’d expect to find in the swirly treat (guar gum, citric acid, all your old favorites), there’s not one but three active yogurt cultures-enough, in fact, to win the seal of approval from the National Yogurt Association. (The L.A. Times should call that lab back.) It’s won another seal of approval, too. BrandFreak reports that its fans now purportedly include Nick, Joe and Kevin Jonas, who are among the thousands addicted to the s. thermophilus, l. bulgaricus and l. acidophilus.