Freak Week

Headshot of Tim Nudd

It’s not often that someone known exclusively for advertising work gets the Smoking Gun treatment. But it happened last week to Vince Shlomi, cheese-tastic pitchman of the ShamWow and the Slap Chop, whose mug shot was suddenly slap-chopped all over the Internet following his arrest in February after getting into a brawl with a prostitute in Miami. The charges were dropped, but Shlomi faces a tough task in trying to mop up what’s left of his reputation.
We saw plenty of April Fool’s Day gags from marketers last week, but our favorite was probably the Hotelicopter campaign put together by Yotel, a premium lodging chain located inside European airports. The teaser ads promoted a funky new flying hotel that frankly looks like the coolest thing ever made. It was, of course, too good to be true, and Yotel’s actual accommodations are almost certainly pathetically inadequate by comparison. Still, it made us smile.
The most monstrous ad of the week arrived courtesy of Microsoft, promoting its Visual Studio Team System. The product is some kind of software-development tool kit. All we know is, it comes in extremely handy when you find yourself up against a pack of terrifying, tentacled sea creatures in a game of basketball. The headline reads: “Good teams score. Fast teams score early and deploy often.” You have to be careful, though, because those squids can really shoot from downtown.
The best new PSA we caught last week was a domestic-violence awareness ad starring actress Keira Knightley, who is seen suffering a brutal assault at the hands of her boyfriend in a two-minute TV and cinema ad now airing in the U.K. As Knightley is hit in the face, she looks at the camera and apologizes. “This wasn’t in the script,” she says. The camera eventually pans out to reveal an empty film set, and the boyfriend continues to kick Knightley, who has now fallen to the floor. “Isn’t it time someone called cut?” says the on-screen copy. The ad, sponsored by a group called Women’s Aid, was directed by Joe Wright, who worked with Knightley on the movie Atonement. Both the actress and the director worked for free on the project.
The craziest billboard of the week popped up in Los Angeles, and shows a soccer referee brandishing a red card and covered in what look like spatters of blood. Naturally, it’s an ad for Cheetos — of the Red Salsa variety, to be precise. The ad is aimed at Latinos, and the headline translates to: “Stain yourself with the flavor of the new Red Salsa Cheetos.” Non-Spanish speakers came up with their own translations, with one blogger wondering if the line read, “New Cheetos, for people that like to bathe in human blood.”
Giant Cheetos balls make us happy
BrandFreak was also somewhat obsessed with Cheetos last week, as Frito-Lay introduced a golf-ball-size version of the popular Cheetos cheeseball. Rather than being some random oddity, the big cheeseballs are apparently part of a larger trend toward more “fun” foods that we can enjoy during these bleak economic times. At least, this is according to USA Today, which posted a whole story on the phenomenon and cited, as other examples, Oreo Fun Stix (shaped like straws) and Denny’s Pancake Puppies. Whatever the enjoyment factor of the product itself, the launch ad for the big Cheetos balls was deliciously stupid, showing one Frito-Lay engineer firing one of the balls into the mouth of a goggle-eyed, salivating colleague. Yum.
The most unusual marketing effort of the week on BrandFreak involved a newspaper for dogs, created to promote dog-food company Cesar’s “canine cuisine,” made exclusively for small breeds. BBDO San Francisco created a whole broadsheet called the West Highland Herald, intended to give your faithful pooch something to read on Sunday mornings when you dig into your own paper (if you’re among the few dozen Americans who still read one). Street teams will distribute the Herald (including a possible second edition) until the end of April.

@nudd Tim Nudd is a former creative editor of Adweek.