Freak Week: Monkey Business

It can be tough when PETA decides to rip you a new one. But when Dodge and Wieden + Kennedy found themselves in the line of fire recently, they made the most of a bad situation. At issue was a Dodge spot in which a chimp in an Evel Knievel suit detonates a cloud of confetti — an impromptu delight that the voiceover (from Dexter’s Michael C. Hall) says is one of the few things that could make Dodge’s Tent Event more amazing than it already is. PETA, being opposed to any use of apes whatsoever in commercials, pressured Dodge to pull the spot. Instead, the client and agency digitally stripped out the chimp, but left the Knievel suit — and revised the copy to say the only thing that could improve the Tent Event would be an invisible monkey detonating the confetti. This solved the problem, technically — the chimp was gone — but it could be seen as a tongue-in-cheek move, almost a joke at PETA’s expense. (No monkeys allowed? How about invisible monkeys?) After reading our AdFreak item on the matter, PETA called and told us they were happy with the revised ad. And on its Web site, Dodge insisted the change was heartfelt. “Make no mistake — we’re not making light of the issue,” its note reads. “We hope our attempt at humor keeps the discussion about animal rights alive.”

In other comical news last week, the inventor of the Shake Weight gave an interview to Inc. magazine in which he insisted his now-notorious arm-toning product actually isn’t as sexually provocative as everyone seems to think — if used correctly. “We never intended for the women’s device ad to have innuendo,” Johann Verheem insists. “We had a bunch of people here from the industry, and a lot of women on the set, and they didn’t make many comments. But it depends how you shake it as well. If you do it based on the three exercises that we have laid out, it’s not that suggestive.” Verheem isn’t completely oblivious, of course. He knows the infomercial hasn’t been viewed millions of times on YouTube for nothing. “Some of the women would say, though, oh, if you shake it this way, it looks like … well,” he admits. But any product, he says, must “look different enough for someone to stop and watch it. And that movement you make with a Shake Weight, well, it looks different.” That it does it.

Finally, among the lots of fun work we posted over the past few weeks, two campaigns stood out: an out-of-home McDonald’s effort from Canada and a set of vintage-style ads for modern-day social networks from Brazil. For the McDonald’s campaign, touting a free-coffee promotion, ad agency Cossette cleverly recruited people to sleep (or appear to sleep) beneath subway posters that read, “Looks like someone could use a free coffee.” The social-network ads, meanwhile, done in a great 1950s style, promoted a conference on how social-media marketing tactics can quickly become dated. So, be sure to stay current with Twitter, that “sublime, mighty community with just 140 letters!”

Best of BrandFreak: Snooki’s anti-product placement

Designer brands have courted celebrities for decades, but leave it to MTV’s Jersey Shore to turn that practice on its head. As our sister blog reported last week, fashion houses have allegedly been experimenting with a mischievous new marketing tactic of late that might be described as anti-product placement. Instead of sending your own product, free of charge, to a well-regarded celebrity in the hope that he or she will show it off in public, the idea is to send a competitor’s product to celebrities that everyone hates — in the hope that that person’s poor image will reflect poorly on the product. The guinea pig in this newfangled game, apparently, is none other than Nicole “Snooki” Polizzi from Jersey Shore. A great choice for a wicked new anti-branding approach.