Freak Week: Rainbow Arches

Europe glimpsed the future and the past in notable ad campaigns over the past few weeks. A progressive McDonald’s spot airing on French TV made headlines worldwide with a gay-friendly theme. As a father waits in line to order, his son sneaks in a phone call with his boyfriend. When the father returns, they get to talking, and Dad mentions that he was quite the ladies’ man when he was younger — and predicts the same for his son. The son keeps quiet, preferring not to contradict his old man. Reaction to the ad was mixed. LGBT leaders were largely pleased with the message, though some saw a disconnect. Wrote one AdFreak reader: “The ‘Come as you are’ slogan implies that McDonald’s is a venue to gain acceptance, but instead we have a father oblivious to his son’s sexual orientation. Totally incongruous.” And a reader of The Advocate was more blunt: “OK, the ad is cute, but the last thing the LGBT community needs is a bunch of obese greasy queens inhaling fast food and ending up with diabetes.”

In Italy, meanwhile, response was much more one-sided to a poster campaign from fashion store New Form showing Adolf Hitler dressed in pink, with a heart armband instead of a swastika, and the line: “Change style. Don’t follow your leader.” Hitler gets dragged out fairly often by advertisers looking for a quick hit of publicity. In this case, local ad agency ZeroCentro said people should lighten up-that the ads humiliate the German leader, not to mention reinforce the brand positioning. “We have ridiculed Hitler in a way that invites young people to create their own style and not to be influenced by their peers,” said agency rep Daniele Manno. No one was really buying it. “The use of an image of a person responsible for the worst chapters of the last century is offensive to our country’s constitutional principles and to the sensitivities of citizens,” said a Palermo politician.

What kind of iPhone app could convince men to buy condoms? How about one that simulates the hell of being a new parent? An entry in the Cannes Future Lions 2010 competition offers just that — a Durex app that gives you a crying, vomiting baby to take care of. In a nice touch, rubbing your phone on someone else’s causes theirs to give birth, too. To remain babyless, you have to buy a pack of Durex condoms and scan the QR code, which lets you download an “Anti Knock-Up Application.” You can still rub phones, then, but without worrying too much about the consequences.

Finally, World Cup ads continue to pour in, and Wieden + Kennedy remains in the lead with the more inspired entries. Following up its “Write the Future” spot for Nike, the agency unveiled 32 murals — one for each country — that it commissioned from South African illustrators on behalf of ESPN. The images are amazing, capturing each country’s cultural and soccer histories, and will be used in print, outdoor (including hand-painted versions), digital and an art book.

Best of BrandFreak: A little NBA logo on your pizza?

I’ll have a large pizza with pepperoni, mushrooms, onions and that new Boston Celtics topping, please. Well, you’ll have to wait to make that kind of order, but not for long: Fans will soon be able to spend an extra $5 to have an edible NBA logo added to their pizza pies. (The term “edible” is used somewhat loosely here, judging from the ingredients: sugar, starch and food coloring. Maybe with enough beer it’ll be tolerable.) The NBA, reeling from a drop in licensed merchandise sales, has made a deal for about 1,200 independent pizza parlors to offer the colorful logos of 30 teams on their pies, starting next season. The league won’t stop there, and is planning licensed toasters (already the province of Hello Kitty and tons of kid entertainment properties), panini sandwich presses and more. What, no vending machines?