AdFreak’s Freakiest Talk Topics of ’07

NEW YORK Adweek‘s blog, AdFreak, gets lots of reader comments. Some are naughty, others nice. Here’s a sampling of the freakiest talk-back of 2007.

People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals continued to opt for the naked treatment of humans in 2007, but some ads were easier on the eyes than others. Holly Madison, the Playboy model and star of The Girls Next Door on E!, had more to offer, for example, than Jackass’s Steve-O, who was shown from the rear in mid-naked leap. Presumably neither Madison nor -O needed much convincing to remove their clothes. READER COMMENT: “It also might be a more effective campaign if they picked people who [are] respected for their opinions rather than their [assets].”

After reeking quietly in the shadows for years, smell-vertising took some steps forward (or backward) this year. In April, NBC aired a “scratch-and-sniff” episode of My Name Is Earl; at various points during the May 3 show, viewers were encouraged to scratch and sniff a special card, available in TV Guide, which gave off plot-relevant scents, including those of a new car, “obnoxious cologne” and Oreo cookies. Ad-related olfaction got even stronger this fall, when Fox placed print ads for Mr. Magorium’s Wonder Emporium that smelled like cake; Bloomingdale’s in New York promoted a new Donna Karan perfume by a mass dispersal of the scent around 59th Street and Lexington Avenue; and a Tokyo beer hall experimented with signs at its entrance that smelled like oranges and lemons. In general, consumers turned their noses up at the efforts. READER COMMENT: “[AdFreak’s] posts stink pretty much every time.”

In theory, rehab centers are meant to treat celebrities’ addictions rather than exploit them. But the Canterbury Institute in New Jersey and Florida decided it would be more fun this year to sensationalize its mission with newspaper ads that blared, “Don’t die Lindsay!” and “Don’t die Britney!” The ads were done by the aptly named New York agency Jugular, which had created the Chris Farley “It wasn’t all his fault” billboards in 2006 for Prometa Centers, another set of substance-dependence facilities. (It seems Jugular is addicted to addiction.) Some observers felt the basic premise of trying to keep Lohan and Spears alive was misguided, but, the ads seemed to work, as neither was dead at press time. READER COMMENT: “God, I hate stupid people with money.”

There have been many parodies of Leonardo da Vinci’s The Last Supper over the years. This was the first to feature leather-clad men and women, S&M gear and a red rubber fist. Created to advertise the Folsom Street Fair, a gay event in San Francisco in September, it earned howls of derision, a few impassioned defenders and lots of general bickering online. Miller Brewing yanked its logo off the ad, apparently not hip to the idea of portraying Christ and his disciples as half-naked sado-masochists. READER COMMENTS: “It’s definitely not the type of image that will foster understanding.” “The people who mock God may laugh now and think it’s all fun and giggles. But later will come the weeping and gnashing of teeth.”

Juan Isidro Casilla perpetrated the ad hoax of the year, mocking up a fake Gucci ad starring himself and sending it to a Swiss newspaper, which printed it in a flashy full-color Sunday section—and promptly billed Gucci for $50,000. The red-faced Swiss publisher embarrassed himself further by saying his paper fell for the scam because the submission arrived too late for the advertising department to check whether it was genuine. Casilla enjoyed his 15 minutes of fame. He also explained that he didn’t get enough love as a child, and that MTV made him want to become famous. This was not Casilla’s first run-in with the law. Previously, he had tried to book concert venues by passing himself off as the Puerto Rican singer Chayanne. READER COMMENTS: “Damn. I’d try this myself, but the only print ad I’d look believable on would be the ‘before’ in a diet ad.” “Ugly guy! But they’ll love him in prison.” “At least Boston’s finest won’t drop a million responding to this one.”

From guerrilla marketing to gorilla marketing. The simian drummer in this Cadbury commercial from Fallon London is cosmically inspired by the Phil Collins song “In the Air Tonight”—particularly the majestic moment when the drums kick in. The actor in the gorilla suit was ambivalent about his achievement (“When I got into acting, lets just say this wasn’t the path I had planned out,” he said), but viewers went ga-ga. Wonderbra followed with a less hairy spoof. READER COMMENTS: “It must be nice to work with clients who let you do whatever you want. And encourage you to use crystal meth along the way.” “That was awesome. Anyone who thinks otherwise needs to untangle their shorts.”

In an age of war and terrorism, the city of Dallas fought the good fight at home—against those damn kids who just won’t pull up their pants. “Don’t be lame. Elevate your game,” read one in a series of billboards placed around the city by Along with the horrid attempts at urban slang, the campaign was capped off by an atrociously punctuated tagline: “Pullem’ Up!” In the end it just brought everybody down. READER COMMENTS: “I can think of no better way to waste ad dollars.” “The ways in which the government handles our streetz vernaculars not only makes me feel like they understandz me, but they sympathize with my stugglez. Go Dallaseses!” “Yeah. And cut your hair. And wipe that smirk off your face.”

The city of Boston and Turner Broadcasting both ended up looking silly after a guerrilla campaign by Cartoon Network bombed (so to speak) in January. The effort featured flashing LED characters placed around nine towns and cities to promote the Adult Swim shows. Eight cities realized they were ads; Boston thought they were explosives and brought in the bomb squad. Bostonians claimed the overreaction was an isolated incident and they were guerrilla-friendly. That proved to be true. A month later, a mob showed up at a colonial-era cemetery (the final resting place of John Hancock, Paul Revere and Samuel Adams) armed with shovels, ready to desecrate graves looking for a coin that Dr Pepper had supposedly hidden there. That campaign was also scotched. READER COMMENTS: “This just in: People in Boston are kinda dumb.” “Jeez, this just in: Any police force that doesn’t react to boxes (placed under bridges and other infrastructure) with wires and tubes protruding from them are idiots.”

Orville Redenbacher terrified viewers early in the year by digitally rising from the flinty ground to once again pitch his eponymous gourmet popcorn—with some help from Crispin Porter + Bogusky. In the commercial, after chatting away inexplicably about his new iPod, he got down to business, delivering his usual happy-go-lucky “or my name isn’t Orville Redenbacher” spiel. If only his eyes had offered even a flicker of life, rather than the cold, dead stare of a murderer. Stephen King could write the next ad in the series. READER COMMENTS: “Orville Redenbacher. Apply directly to the forehead.” “I can’t think of a blog that hasn’t mentioned it. That’s some pretty good buzz, even if it is akin to the sound of flies around a butter-scented corpse.” “Everybody talked about the Hindenburg, too.”

This berries-and-cream-loving Englishman lost his mind at a bus station when he encountered a pair of guys enjoying said-flavored Starbursts in a commercial from TBWA\Chiat\Day. Known as the Little Lad, the irritating dandy launched into a maniacal song and dance, punctuating it with a screeching falsetto and a heel-clicking leap. Many millions of YouTube views later, he was a star. He also appeared on his very own Web site, teaching acolytes the proper dance steps. READER COMMENTS: “Was rolling on floor after he began dancing and the two guys just looked on [at him] like the moron he was.” “Oh my heck, that’s hilarious! I’ve never seen a greater freak-out over a piece of candy!” “It seems like the people at the creative shop for MasterFoods have been doing a few too many drugs lately.”