Freak Week: The Big Drink

Beer advertising was top of mind last week, largely due to St. Patrick’s Day, a liquid-friendly holiday if ever there was one. Guinness is usually the brand that benefits most from the Irish day of celebration, and over at AdFreak, we took a moment to revisit a 2007 campaign for the brewer by BBDO Toronto in which special cans with intentionally blurry Guinness logos were distributed at bars to remind people not to drink and drive. This year, though, Leo Burnett and McDonald’S crashed the party with their own signature Irish refreshment: the Shamrock Shake. Joining the city’s St. Patty’s Day celebration, the agency dumped a giant version of the green-tinted concoction next to the Chicago River, with its contents appearing to seep into the water, which is itself dyed green every March 17. Some complained the stunt condoned littering, although the streets and rivers of Chicago surely absorbed a lot worse than minty ice cream during those 24 hours.

In other booze news, Clemenger BBDO in Australia unveiled a bizarre campaign for Carlton Draught featuring a goofy, post-modern folk trio singing about how men’s various body parts crave beer. Individual spots are devoted to, among other areas, the elbow, the leg and the “weenis.” The campaign was supposed to launch on TV in February, but the brewer scrapped those plans at the last minute, worried it might offend people. “I believe our target market will go looking for Carlton Draught material online,” says a client rep. “And online, it’s unable to offend anyone.”

The other notable beverage campaign last week was non-alcoholic and came from U.K. juice and water brand Drench, which unveiled a bizarre, Skittles-like ad featuring a man with a Rubik’s Cube-like head. As he waits for his train in the subway station, the man tries to rearrange the pieces into the proper configuration, but keeps getting stuck. Finally, he takes a swig from a Drench juice bottle and is able to quickly solve his head puzzle. “Brains perform best when they’re hydrated,” says the oddly clinical-sounding tagline.

In non-beverage news, a transit company in Worcestershire, England, was criticized for running ads featuring a sexy nurse and the line “Oooh matron!” to promote its bus service to an area hospital. The controversy erupted just a week after a union of Dutch nurses launched their own ad campaign reminding people that they don’t offer sex as part of patient care. Seems this is a problem all over Europe. As one British nurse put it: “Using this kind of imagery to portray nurses is clichéd and, frankly, an insult to the intelligence of most people, and it’s clear that it demeans nurses and devalues the nursing profession.”

Best of BrandFreak: Get your face on a Whopper wrapper

Have you ever bought a Whopper, looked at the wrapper and thought, “I wonder how my face would look on this?” Probably not. But people in Brazil have been finding out anyway. BrandFreak pointed to a campaign from Ogilvy Brazil last week in which Burger King patrons were photographed (without their knowledge) while waiting in line, and the photos were then printed on their Whopper wrappers — a super-personalized touch that’s meant to reinforce the chain’s “Have it your way” positioning. Seen in hidden-camera footage, the people mostly laugh, but of course there’s an underlying creepiness here, and possibly a not-trivial privacy issue. Then again, Burger King has been messing with its customers for a while now, getting them to shed Facebook friends in exchange for food (“Whopper Sacrifice”) and telling them the Whopper has been discontinued when it hasn’t (“Whopper Freakout”). People should probably expect the unexpected by now when they walk in the door.