Freak Week: Stroke of Genius

With the Tiger Woods story as the backdrop, the big theme last week was transgression. But in an amoral world, it’s nice to be able count on something as rock-solid and virtuous as James Lipton’s beard. In a bizarre and wonderful new PSA campaign unveiled last week by Young & Rubicam in New York, the Inside the Actors Studio host literally lends his facial hair to teens who are wondering whether to send salacious text messages to friends. “Give it a ponder,” he says. And sure enough, after a few thoughtful strokes of the beard, the kids come to their senses and snap their phones shut. The 83-year-old Lipton is beyond hilarious, whether he’s acting out a catfight between two girls or saying of a high-school boy, “The last thing he needs is tweets about his beets.”

Boost Mobile was fortunate to dovetail nicely with the zeitgeist, too, unveiling an adultery-themed animated holiday spot in which Mrs. Claus is seen carrying on an extramarital tryst with a snowman while the hubby’s busy with Christmas. The stop-motion ad extends the carrier’s “Unwrong’d” theme, with Mrs. Claus suggesting her behavior isn’t so wrong, at least compared with cell-phone plans that cost a fortune. Santa appears in his own (live-action) Boost spot this season, but it’s tame by comparison. Burdened by large cell-phone bills, he’s seen bemoaning the cutbacks he’s had to make, including replacing his reindeer with mules.

The strangest spot of the week, though, came from New Zealand, where DDB came up with a bizarre and macabre vision for Sky TV. Over 90 seconds, the commercial shows various men wearily singing “Que Sera Sera” as they get shafted by fate. One guy accidentally hooks up with a transvestite; another is run over by a car; a third loses both of his hands to a shark. In the end, though, they all come home to their one “happy place” in the world: the sofa in front of the Sky TV. Even the shark-attack guy looks content as he operates the remote with his two hooks.

Finally, the design world was abuzz last week as the official logo of the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia, was unveiled. It’s the first Olympic logo to feature a URL, and for once there’s no real cultural image relating to the host city or country. Reaction was mixed, but Sochi 2014 chief Dmitry Chernyshenko was unbowed. “To prove our commitment to innovation, Sochi 2014 will have a clearly digital Games emblem,” he said. “Today, we welcome tomorrow.” 

BEST OF BRANDFREAK: J&R’s ultimate New York campaign

There’s something to be said for authentic street-level marketing that puts the most familiar and entrenched features of an urban setting to use. AdFreak‘s sister blog, BrandFreak, last week presented one of the more impressive examples of this: Toy’s new guerrilla campaign in New York for J&R Music and Computer World. A local presence since 1971, the retailer is using two NYC fixtures — bike messengers and Chinese-takeout menus — in the new campaign. The bike messengers are tooling around town with huge boxes on their backs that are purported to contain J&R appliances. Even more clever is the Chinese menu. It looks just like the real deal, except it lists items like PC hardware instead of the usual General Tso’s chicken. The menus are being dropped under doors, in mail slots and building lobbies-and for once they’re worth a closer look.