Freak Week

Furniture ads aren’t generally prone to making grand statements about race. But hey, it happens. We looked at a bizarre spot from a North Carolina retailer called Red House last week that went to great pains to point out that its furniture is for everyone-black people, white people, Hispanic people … all people! The ad, lighthearted in its vision of a post-racial utopia, caught people so off guard that some thought it was racist — when clearly it was the opposite. It turns out the ad was the brainchild of musical-comedy duo Rhett & Link, who’ve done offbeat projects for various brands.

You know the job market is bad when out-of-work copywriters resort to paying homage to classic 1970s nude photographs of Burt Reynolds in an effort to get noticed. Such are the hirsute lengths to which Lawson Clarke, formerly of Boston agency Arnold, has gone on his portfolio site, Clarke was best known previously for having been the very first straight guy on Bravo’s Queer Eye for the Straight Guy, back in 2004. “Somehow I think Carson would approve of the site,” he told us last week.

When is a dandruff-shampoo ad not just a dandruff-shampoo ad? When it’s an epic and poetic battle to the death between shadowy warrior-hairs wielding ice arrows and a gaggle of freaky white exploding dandruff fairies. Give credit to Lowe Bangkok for not underdramatizing the effects of the Clear line of hair-care products. “Rage, rage against her breath of fear!” the voiceover cries, evidently referring to the writhing dandruff queen herself. “Now frozen silence marks the danse macabre.” Wow, do they sell this stuff at Rite-Aid?

Last week’s campaign featuring the least likely career change was probably the Ideocracy spec work for Vitaminwater, in which Curb Your Enthusiasm actress Cheryl Hines decides to “go back to her first love: facilitating focus groups.” And she proves to be an adroit steerer of the consumer-research ship, drawing wonderful, hidden brand truths out of her subjects by asking the simple questions, like: “You know that song ‘SexyBack’? If they ever did ‘SexyBack 2,’ would you want to be in the video?”

Finally, late in the week, we ran across the first truly blasphemous ads we’ve seen in a while: a U.K. ice-cream campaign from Antonio Federici Gelato Italiano showing a priest and nun failing to resist temptation-and not just in terms of the ice cream. The Advertising Standards Authority was investigating the work, and considering its rules against ads that “link sex or sexualized images with religion” or “portray nuns in a sexual manner,” it didn’t seem likely that the campaign would be around for long.

BEST OF TWEETFREAK: Alex Bogusky Returns to Twitter

Twitter is an odd combination of the individual and the collective. On the one hand, it’s about the democratization of communication, where everyone has equal footing. And yet it does tend to obsess over individuals — particularly celebrities. Which may be why there’s been so much talk about Alex Bogusky’s Twitter habits. He’s as close to an advertising celebrity as there is, and so his decision in March to quit Twitter felt, to some, just a bit painful. Last week, though, he abruptly started again. On TweetFreak, we asked him why he quit, and why he came back. “The thing that made it very difficult for me was that I’m a communicator at heart but Twitter opened up too much surface area for me to communicate on,” he wrote in an e-mail. “I couldn’t keep up, and it pulled time from other pursuits. So, it just made me feel bad.” After leaving, though, his number of followers only grew. When it got to 3,000, he reconsidered. “I spent some time trying to come up with a way that would be more manageable this time,” he wrote. “I used my bio to lay out the fact that I couldn’t check replies and such. Basically, I’m going to try to approach it as more of an online journal. … I think at times I still hope to use it to ask questions, and in those cases a back and forth will be key. So, hopefully people allow me to break my own rules.”