Freak Week


August is traditionally a quiet time in the ad business, but Bartle Bogle Hegarty in London shook things up in a big way this month by releasing perhaps the best ad of the year so far: a brilliant five-minute-plus spot, shot in a single take, in which actor Robert Carlyle roams the Scottish countryside, talking about the history of Johnnie Walker whiskey. The spot has it all: bagpiper abuse, well-timed visual cues, pitch-perfect writing and music, and Carlyle's tremendous talent and charisma. Director Jamie Rafn of HLA in London got what he wanted on the 40th and final take of an exhausting two-day production. It was worth it. This production may already be the odds-on favorite for the Film Grand Prix at Cannes next summer.

On the weird-PSA front, we recently came across an instant classic from Brazil, with one of the unlikeliest calls to action we've ever heard: Urinate in the shower, the campaign says, and you'll save the rain forest. The "Xixi no banho" ("Pee in the bath") effort is all about water conservation. By peeing in the shower more, Brazilians will be flushing the toilet less -- and thus saving thousands of gallons of water a year. A colorful, animated commercial from F/Nazca Saatchi & Saatchi supports the cause, and shows characters of all shapes and sizes -- human and not -- relieving themselves down the drain.

You may recall that Crispin Porter + Bogusky held an eBay auction in May to offer the services of its 38 summer interns. Well, a company called Brammo, which makes electric-powered motorcycles, won the auction by ponying up $17,655 -- not a bad price for 12 weeks of work by 38 people. (That's a measly $39 per week per person.) Well, Brammo is now seeing the fruits of the kids' labor, and it includes, bizarrely, a rap-music video about the trials of interning -- a polarizing bit of silliness in which Brammo's Enertia bike makes a cameo. Hopefully Brammo is getting more work out of these kids, because not everyone loved the rap. Wrote one AdFreak reader: "I'm in my late 20s, and I can say without reservation that I hate young people."

Meanwhile, the most suggestive ad imagery of recent weeks came from new U.K. ice-cream brand Icecreamists. Its efforts include a libido-boosting ice-cream cocktail called The Sex Pistol and images of women being squirted with vanilla. The brand's stated mission is to "Liberate the world one lick at a time." That the campaign is lacking in subtlety should not be surprising: The man behind it is Matt O'Connor, co-founder of the fathers' rights group Fathers 4 Justice, whose own marketing stunts have included a protester dressed as Batman scaling Buckingham Palace.

Finally, we wrote about a very odd ad story from Sweden, where a commercial for Apoliva personal-care products has been scaring people silly. The ad shows Swedish model Adina Fohlin singing along to a haunting piano tune. Since the ad broke, more than 100,000 people have joined a Facebook group called "I am scared of the girl in the Apoliva commercial." The brand might be happy with the extra attention, but assured viewers, "It was never our intention to scare people."

Best of BrandFreak: Weirdos, criminals like NBC's Web sites

AdFreak's sister blog, BrandFreak, last week covered a bizarre new promo effort for the set of Web sites. The three ads focus on three people who really get a lot out of NBC Liz, a faded model turned serious agoraphobe; Ron, a former CFO who's now doing grunt work in a restaurant kitchen after embezzling from his company; and Ted, a real-estate broker who's bored silly under house arrest in his fabulous bachelor pad. The commercials, by Mother in New York, are weirdly foreboding in tone and almost mean-spirited in their treatment of the alienated, down-on-their-luck characters -- a bit of an unlikely strategy, given that these folks are presented as the prototypical users. Some viewers will appreciate the cynicism here -- after all, having a laugh at how the mighty have fallen is pretty zeitgeist-y at the moment. And the message of these spots -- that helps weirdos and criminals keep up with the city during periods of dismal exile -- is just crazy enough to stand out in the sea of mind-numbing network promos.