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Freak Week: Billboard With Buzz

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Live insects are tricky advertising talent to manage. But a British campaign did so with aplomb this month, recruiting a swarm of bees -- as many as 100,000, according to the BBC -- to call attention to honey-bee populations mysteriously dwindling worldwide. Banrock Station, the winery behind the pro-bono campaign, used queen-bee pheromones to attract bees from a nearby honey farm to spell out "SOS" on a billboard -- said to be the world's first ad with live bees. No bees were harmed, and no one was stung during the stunt. Clare Griffiths from Banrock Station told the BBC: "We thought there was no better way to raise awareness of the British bee decline than to get the bees to tell their story themselves." She also couldn't resist adding: "We hope the billboard has created a bit of a buzz in Devon and beyond."

On the less clever end of the spectrum, Saatchi & Saatchi France decided to use a moronic 9/11 metaphor to advertise the French newspaper Courrier, right before the anniversary of the attacks. The ad, which provoked widespread disgust, shows two planes flying above the Twin Towers, which appear to be about half their normal height. "Learn to anticipate" is the headline. To begin with, the ad is confusing. So, the builders should have anticipated 9/11? Or the towers should have anticipated the planes ... and ducked? Above all, it's just tasteless and stupid. As one AdFreak reader wrote: "Stupid beyond belief. There will never be a right time to reference 9/11 in advertising. Un-fricken-believable."

The dumbest college marketing of the week was turned in by Drank University, which settled on the theme "D+" for its new recruitment ad campaign. The D+ is meant to be shorthand for the magic that occurs when Drake plus a student get together. To many, though, it seemed to position Drake as a school whose standards barely exceed total failure. However, unwilling or unable to admit its boneheadedness, Drake defended the campaign as "intentionally edgy" and said it was just right for the target market. Following bales of laughter, the D+ emblem disappeared from Drake's Web site late last week.

Finally, we came across an interesting new interview with Justin Long in which he discusses TBWA's late, lamented "Get a Mac" campaign. The two big takeaways: 1) Long didn't really get the campaign. "The point of those commercials was a little lost on me. I'm actually jealous of things [John Hodgman] got to do. I preferred the role of the PC guy because he got to do all the fun underdog stuff. The big choice I had to make was when do I take my hands out of my pockets and how do I gesture or roll my eyes." 2) There are a load of unseen spots floating around out there. "There were tons we shot. I remember we shot one with Zach Galifianakis where he played a drunk Santa Claus. And we did one with Paul F. Tompkins that was similar. ... I hope they use outtakes. Because when you're standing in front of a white abyss like that for 12 hours at a time you start getting a little punchy."


Best of BrandFreak: Crispin cooks up Kraft product

The latest idea for Kraft's Macaroni & Cheese was literally cooked up by Crispin Porter + Bogusky. As our sister blog reported last week, Crispin came up with a new Mac & Cheese product -- a frozen version in an aluminum tray that you throw on the grill. "We wanted dads to use it," said Bill Wright, group creative director at Crispin, "and the only way was to be able to make it so you can throw it on the barbecue grill." Wright said the grill "lends a nice, smoky flavor" to the Mac & Cheese. Kraft is testing the product in a "very, very small release." Wright said the product intro shows how Crispin thinks beyond advertising. "I don't know if you usually get product ideas from your ad agency," he said. This isn't Crispin's first foray into product creation. The agency is credited, for, among other things, dreaming up Chicken Fries for Burger King.