Freak Week: Heroes and Villains

You don’t see many overweight superheroes on TV, particularly since the live-action version of The Tick went off the air after eight episodes in 2002. But the Serra Honda car dealership in Birmingham, Ala., is filling the void with a wonderfully corpulent superhero pitchman — Serra Honda Man — in new ads from Force Marketing. Perhaps the year’s best new ad character, the “heavyweight of savings” sports a snazzy blue costume with yellow cape and black mask and flies around Birmingham talking up Serra Honda and helping people navigate SerraHonda.com in exchange for doughnuts. Says the bio on his Web site: “Born of little significance, those who knew him would never imagine the stature of impact he would one day reach.” If he puts his mind to it, a fat guy in tights can do anything.

Another force for good emerged last week in New York: state senator Eric Adams, who put up billboards in Brooklyn demanding that those awful young people pull up their trousers instead of letting them hang halfway down their butts. The campaign’s theme is: “Stop the sag.” Yes, some people did complain that New York faces more important issues — like, you know, the fiscal crisis. And true, nothing makes a person seem old and out of touch quite like complaining about kids’ pants. But Adams is on a mission. “This whole sagging pants culture seems to have swept the city and the country,” he told the Daily News. “Children will be children. But as adults, we need to be on record and tell them they’re doing something wrong. … When we sag like that, we look like clowns.” But Adams is not just a head-in-the-clouds idealist dreaming of a hiked-up-pants utopia. “On a practical level, how do they even walk?” he adds.

The state of Victoria, Australia, got points last week for introducing the year’s most straightforward tagline, “Don’t be a dickhead,” in a new safe-driving campaign. A whole slew of comical videos warn young people of the unforeseen dangers of driving like a dickhead. The most notable hazard among them: that you could crash and be impaled by a pole that doctors might not be able to remove, leaving you with serious mobility issues, particularly in china shops. Coincidentally, just as the campaign launched, Formula One driver Lewis Hamilton was pulled over by Melbourne police for “overexuberant” driving after performing a smoky “burnout” in his Mercedes following a practice session for the Australian Grand Prix. Victoria roads minister Tim Pallas wasted little time exploiting the incident for his campaign’s benefit. “OK, I’ll say it — he’s a dickhead,” Pallas told a radio station.

Finally, we ran across the world’s longest e-mail marketing message last week. It’s for an insane-looking waterslide in Brazil called, appropriately enough, Insano. It’s hard to describe the e-mail, but let’s just say it employs an enormous JPG and the browser’s scroll bar to give you the feeling of flying down the horrifying contraption.

Best of BrandFreak: iPad gets free media, as if it needs it

All of geekdom was salivating over the launch of the iPad on Saturday, and AdFreak’s sister blog reported on how ABC got caught up in the hoopla last week. Without accepting a penny from Apple, the network turned over practically an entire episode of its hit sitcom Modern Family to a celebration of the company’s latest product. One of the episode’s main plots revolved around the nerdy character Phil’s wacky pursuit of an iPad after his wife oversleeps and misses the initial batch, which sold like hot cakes in the wee hours. That’s some pretty valuable product placement for a device that doesn’t even need it. Modern Family co-creator Christopher Lloyd told The Hollywood Reporter: “There were no stipulations as with normal product placement, i.e., we give you X dollars and you have to feature our product such-and-such a way and say such-and-such nice things about it. We are not angels — we have made those agreements with other companies. But that was not the deal with Apple. It was all story-driven.”