Freak Week

The Showtime comedy Weeds has enjoyed some great advertising over the years. There have been marijuana-scented inserts in magazines and giant baggies of (faux) pot stapled to billboards. Now, with the program set to begin its fifth season in June, Showtime has released a fun, animated video that gives viewers “a brief history of weed” from 2727 BC (when China began using the stuff medicinally) to the present. The gist of the video is that marijuana has been considered socially and culturally unacceptable only recently — and that the show, therefore, isn’t that subversive after all. In fact, it upholds a proud tradition.

Agency antics last week included an unusual eBay auction set up by Crispin Porter + Bogusky. The merchandise for sale? Its summer interns — or the output of their brains over a period of three months, anyway. Bidding started at $1, and was up to $5,600 by press time. All proceeds will go to the interns themselves. “Bid early and often, and world-class advertising can be yours for a fraction of the going rate,” says the eBay listing. Wrote one AdFreak reader: “So clients pay CP+B, who then give that money to their interns. Doesn’t that just make them … underpaid employees?”

Pepsi and TBWA\Chiat\Day unpacked a case of nicely chilled 15-second spots last week promoting Pepsi Throwback, its nostalgia beverage featuring a ’70s can design and real sugar instead of high-fructose corn syrup. The spots amusingly show the Throwback can interacting with ’70s artifacts like an 8-track player and a lava lamp. The retro theme cleverly extends to the media buy, too, as the ads are running on Hulu alongside old shows like Hill Street Blues and The Mary Tyler Moore Show.

A particularly controversial post on AdFreak last week involved a recent VCU Brandcenter grad named Hank Leber who is launching an operation called Agency Nil. His idea: He’ll work for agencies or clients directly without a set price, with the understanding that they’ll pay what they think it is worth at the end of the job-no strings attached. In theory, the model takes the risk out of the equation for companies, allowing Agency Nil to operate somewhere between intern and full-fledged freelancer. Reaction to Leber’s plan was strong, both positive and negative, with some feeling it’s a worthwhile experiment in an industry whose pay system is out of whack, and others feeling like it further cheapens the business as a whole. “Agency Nil shows a lot of guts and creativity,” wrote one reader. Added another: “What other self-respecting business would allow themselves to have a customer come in and set the price they wish to pay? None. … Christ, even Kinko’s would laugh you out of their store if you tried to pull this crap.”

Finally, Doritos Australia and the ad agency Make in Brisbane gave us the most searing image of the week: an American Beauty-style erotic daydream with Mexicana-flavored Doritos instead of rose petals and a hairy, chubby Mexican guy instead of Mena Suvari.

BEST OF TWEETFREAK: Threadless putting tweets on T-shirts

Customized T-shirts are all the rage, and last week we saw the first big attempt to market shirts with Twitter messages on them. Not surprisingly, the idea came from Threadless, which has already built an interesting company and powerful brand around the idea of crowdsourcing. On the new Threadless site Twitter Tees, people submit tweets for consideration as T-shirt headlines, and then the community votes to select two per week that are made into shirts. It’s a pretty ingenuous model when you think about it: They’re creating scarcity in digital media. Expect to see people promoting their nominations all over Twitter. It should provide an interesting case study on the viral marketing potential of Twitter, particularly if brands can tap into the self-promotional nature of the service. In our TweetFreak post last week, we compared Twitter Tees to two other T-shirt ideas born online: Anomaly’s i/denti/tee service, which lets users vote on which song lyrics starting with “I” get made into T-shirts; and CNN Shirts, the CNN.com store where users can order a T-shirt with any headline from the site printed on it. The CNN model isn’t community based, but that doesn’t seem to bother people much. In a TweetFreak poll, more than half of the readers said it was the best idea of the three.