Freak Week

Most health-club advertising butters up its target market (albeit with low-fat butter) by lobbing aspirational messages their way. Not this ad from Fitness First in the Netherlands. Using a scale embedded in the bus stop’s seat bench, the ad reveals the sitter’s weight publicly for all to see, in an apparent effort to humiliate him or her into joining the gym and shedding those kilos. As an AdFreak reader noted, the woman here could always blame the unflattering number on her bag.

With Watchmen out of the way, the next big movie ready to be overhyped is Spike Jonze’s adaptation of Where the Wild Things Are, the beloved children’s book by Maurice Sendak. So far, the marketing campaign has been tantalizingly restrained, but last week the public got a major jolt: the first official poster. It shows the hero, Max, screaming wildly as he stands next to one of his furry mates. “There’s one in all of us,” says the tagline. Monstrously good stuff.

In commercial-actor news, one of our favorites of all time returned to the screen last week: The guy who made the whale noises in the old Holiday Inn business-traveler campaign suddenly popped up in ads for PlayStation’s MLB ’09: The Show videogame. As PlayStation’s “director of game accuracy,” he’s locked in a showdown with Red Sox player (and reigning American League MVP) Dustin Pedroia, who’s demanding that the game be reprogrammed, as his avatar can’t hit the high-and-inside fastball. Deadpan as ever, our hero tells Pedroia, “PlayStation gamers demand the most realistic baseball game ever, so we’re just going to keep it as is. It’s called integrity.”

Skittles took another stroll through Weirdville last week with a new TBWA\Chiat\Day spot for Skittles Crazy Cores, which have differently flavored insides and outsides. The commercial dramatizes this with a character named Steve who’s had some kind of extensive transplant operation and now has the insides of his hospital roommate, Jose. The two now appear to be cosmically connected, mirroring each other’s movements and sharing a tender moment at the end of the spot. “Transplant the rainbow. Taste the rainbow,” says the sign-off copy. This is the first Skittles spot not done by Gerry Graf in quite a while, and AdFreak readers were split on whether it upholds his legacy. “Still trying too hard for wacky,” wrote one. “Nice performances though.”

The disturbing visual of the week arrived courtesy of a new anti-smoking campaign from Canadian ad agency Bleubancrouge. The ads show disembodied arms smoking cigarettes — and themselves getting smoked, burning up like embers, devoured by their addiction. “Cigarettes smoke people,” says the simple, hard-hitting tagline.


Obama-Fingers and other key body parts

A German food maker didn’t make many friends with its latest product: a fried-chicken offering that it gave the rigorously un-PC name Obama-Fingers. A company rep said it was “supposed to be a homage to the American lifestyle and the new U.S. president.” Many felt otherwise.

Bryan Keplesky and Prentice Howe of Door Number 3 in Austin, Texas, filed reports all week for BrandFreak from South by Southwest. They touched on all kinds of branding activity from the festival, from the biggest corporate parties to the littlest indie T-shirts.

The videogame maker capcom wins the award for most gruesomely awesome guerrilla campaign, scattering realistic-looking severed limbs and decapitated heads around London as part of a macabre scavenger hunt. Naturally, the contest was won by a 26-year-old IT guy from North London who looked like he hadn’t left his parents’ basement in months.

Finally, the musical sellout of the week was Todd Rundgren, who licensed one of his most popular songs, “Hello, It’s Me,” for a Tums dual action TV commercial. Apparently, those with weak tummies can now dig into a giant pizza and live to tell the tale, so long as they have the GlaxoSmithKline antacid on hand — and a touching and sensitive 1970s ballad playing in the background.