Freak Week

Betcha can’t click just once. This Pringles banner ad, which won a gold Lion in Cyber at Cannes, got lots of play after we posted it to AdFreak last week. The ad, created by Bridge Worldwide in Cincinnati, doesn’t take you off the site — instead, with each click, it talks back at you, and a story develops that’s compelling enough for you to keep clicking (even though the chatter really couldn’t be more inane). Some questioned the ad’s effectiveness, but it got people talking about why most banners are so bad. “Maybe the problem here isn’t that banner ads suck, per se,” wrote one reader, “but that the quality of the ideas going into them sucks.” At one point, the ad asks, “Do you do this with all the banner ads, or do we have something special?” Definitely something special.

Also compelling, though in a less pleasant way, was another shocking road-safety ad from New Zealand that we posted last week. The billboard, created by Colenso BBDO, shows a large picture of a child’s face, and is equipped with sensors that “bleed” red liquid when it rains. The message: “Rain changes everything. Please drive to the conditions.” A pretty nifty use of technology — until a driver gawks at it a moment too long and drifts into oncoming traffic.

Speaking of pointless shock value, we also ran across a Dutch PSA last week from an animal-rights group that’s clearly made a few too many visits to the PETA Web site. The nonprofit, called Animals Awake, got a Playboy model named Ancilla Tilia to shed her clothes for a new protest video. In mid-striptease, though, Ancilla gets whacked over the head by a fisherman and is then ruthlessly gutted and fileted with a roomful of people watching. The point, it turns out, is to discourage the practice of gutting and fileting fish while they’re still alive. It’s a memorable spot, but it falls into the trap that snares much animal-rights messaging: It asks the viewer to agree that killing a person and killing a fish are basically the same thing.

A Canadian PSA about Parkinson’s disease fared much better. The problem with medical-related PSAs is that they rarely convey on a visceral level what it is actually like to live with the afflictions they portray. That isn’t a problem for Taxi Toronto’s “Struggle” spot for Parkinson Society Canada. It shows a man literally battling his own body as he tries to accomplish simple daily tasks-answering the phone, boiling a kettle. The campaign, one of the best PSA efforts going, also features some remarkable print ads.

Finally, we enjoyed yet another odd McDonald’s ad last week from the loopy folks at DDB Stockholm. This is the agency that urged you to shake off your wrenching nightmares with McDonald’s coffee and risk falling from a cliff in exchange for a few McDonald’s fries. In the latest spot, a couple of evil kids with supernatural powers terrify their parents on a road trip by getting all their toys (and the dog) to repeat “Are we there yet?” over and over. For the parents, who aren’t lovin’ it, the drive-thru can’t come too soon.

Best of BrandFreak: Hit the water with wave-vertising

AdFreak sister site BrandFreak last week lit upon a potential new advertising medium: wave-vertising. It turns out that scientists at Akishima Laboratories outside Tokyo have developed a technology that allows programmers to literally “write” messages on the surface of water. The device, which appeared at the Museum of Modern Art in New York last year, is called AMOEBA (Advanced Multiple Organized Experimental Basin). It’s a cylindrical tub about 12 inches deep and just over five feet in diameter. Fitted along the pool’s rim are 50 trigger-type units equipped with plungers that agitate the water’s surface. Programmed in unison, they can create almost any configuration of ocean wave. An enterprising student at the lab discovered that when the correct wave frequencies intersect, the water will support messages. Not only is AMOEBA capable of producing the entire Roman alphabet on the water’s surface, it can conjure a number of symbols, too. Marketers are already looking into the technology for use in amusement parks and hotels to enhance existing decorative fountains. Just one more step toward covering the entire world in ads.