Freak Week: Blowing Smoke

The Food and Drug Administration last week unveiled 36 designs for new warning labels on cigarette packs, and they were swiftly panned both by designers and anti-smoking advocates. The problem? The graphic ones just aren’t very graphic, and the rest range from forgettable to flat-out goofy. Wrote one AdFreak reader: “Take a quick look at cigarette warning labels from Canada to Malaysia, and you’ll see actual pictures of cancer-ridden mouths, throats, lungs and more. Here we have a woman blowing bubbles. … This blew me away.” Wrote another: “Is this a joke?? It looks like they gave this assignment to a class of middle schoolers.” The FDA wants to begin using nine of the labels next year, but at this rate, it will have trouble selecting any that the public doesn’t hate.

Holiday advertising in France is off to a rocky start, with parents livid about a new spot from Crédit Mutuel in which a father tells his (grown) son that Santa Claus (or rather, Père Noël) doesn’t exist. It’s a segue into a discussion about harsh financial realities, but viewers saw it as a Grinch-like atrocity — and were particularly furious that it aired during a broadcast of Pixar’s Ratatouille.

The advertiser has since edited out the offending portion, leaving psychologists to speculate on the mental health of those exposed. “The children will recover,” said one optimist. “Frankly, on TV, they face far worse.”

Holiday music is generally loathed, but Coca-Cola’s lavish new global Christmas spot from McCann Erickson in Madrid is making an early bid for most-hated ad soundtrack of the season.

The song, called “Shake Up Christmas,” written exclusively for Coke by the band Train, is being excoriated as an absolute piece of crap — and a real shame, since the spot itself is gorgeous looking and could be quite poignant with the right music. “Wow. It really was that bad,” wrote  one AdFreak reader. Yes. Yes, it was.

How you do convince the public you’re serious about selling cars? How about promising to refrain from sex until you vanquish all competitors? That’s what New Jersey Hyundai dealer (and ex-New York Giants lineman) Brad Benson did in radio ads last fall, when he was the No. 2 seller.

Benson, 54, finally secured the top spot last month, allowing him and his incredibly patient wife to begin having relations again. Benson is known for this kind of stuff, having aired spots this year advertising his “40-foot erection” — a reference to old Giants Stadium goalposts he acquired and installed at his store.

Best of BrandFreak: Got Christmas Tree?

Pooled-resource industry ad campaigns have worked pretty well for beef, cotton and milk marketers, to name just a few. Could it do the same for Christmas trees? As AdFreak’s sister blog reported last week, Christmas-tree growers are planning a “Got milk?”-style ad blitz in an effort to better compete with artificial-tree manufacturers. It’s too late for this year — the program would probably begin next year, with funding coming from a 15-cent markup on every fresh-cut tree. The campaign will be administered by a board overseen by the Department of Agriculture. The threat from artificial trees is obvious, with people choosing convenience over tradition more than ever. (Real trees, of course, shed needles and occasionally catch fire and burn your house down.) Creative concepts for a campaign are unclear at present, but if this leads to celebrities showing off pine-needle mustaches, it could be a big hit.