Freak Week: Leap of Faith

Last week, as a Rutgers student’s bridge suicide was making headlines in the U.S., we covered a Serbian campaign from McCann Erickson aimed at tackling the problem in Belgrade. Facing truly horrific yearly suicide numbers, the city’s suicide-prevention office, working with McCann, projected a simple phrase, “You are not alone,” and a hotline number onto the water below Belgrade’s most notorious suicide spot, Branko’s bridge. Simple, direct and perfectly targeted to its audience, the effort drew praise from across the Internet, and even sparked discussion about whether something similar could work beneath the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco. Branko’s bridge is a particularly resonant spot for such a campaign. Previously called the Brotherhood and Unity Bridge, it became widely known as Branko’s bridge after a writer, Branko åopiç, committed suicide by jumping off it in 1984.

Moving on to less-respected McCann campaigns, we’ve also been covering’s search in recent weeks for the Worst Ad in America 2010. Last week, that site’s readers picked the big winner (i.e., loser): McCann’s grating Staples spot with the “Wow! That’s a low price!” guy. It’s a solid choice, though our readers seemed more aggravated by WongDoody’s imbecilic singing-kittens campaign for Quiznos (which was Consumerist’s runner-up). Of course, the truth is that some clients don’t mind putting out annoying ads, as long as they’re memorable. Staples famously loved the “Wow!” guy, quickly ordering McCann to create sequels. And this latest recognition, dubious though it may, could mean, sadly, even more “Wow!” spots coming out way.

Last week was also a week of Photoshop disasters. One of the most noteworthy was a creepy ad for Suave Mango Mandarin body wash showing a woman gripping her leg luxuriously. But something’s not quite right. If you stare at the ad for a little while, it gradually becomes clear that the woman would have to be 8 feet tall for her thigh to be positioned that way. Then, the next thought occurs: Perhaps the leg has been detached. Or perhaps it is not her leg, but someone else’s. Readers at Jezebel, where the ad was first posted, experienced all of these emotions, from denial to shock. “It looks to me as if she’s saying, ‘Oh, I LOVED that woman’s leg so much, I cut it off and kept it,’ ” wrote one reader. Added another: “I didn’t realize Escher’d been brought back from the dead to do body wash ads.”

Finally, the pseudo-controversy of the week involved Skyy vodka and its new ads showing a woman in sexy (“sexyy”?) red heels and tights wrapping her legs around a Skyy bottle. To some, this image was beyond suggestive. One critic, speaking to USA Today, labeled it “porn-a-hol” (apparently a new term). Another said: “It’s just jamming a bottle in a woman’s crotch. A great ad uses heart or mind. This one’s starting below the waist.” Skky defended itself, saying the ad was “about the content of our product. We’re an adult product consumed mostly in the evening and in flirtatious situations.”

Best of BrandFreak: Ben & Jerry’s not ‘all natural’

Is Ben & Jerry’s not as “all natural” as it’s been claiming? Well, it’s taking the “all natural” label off its cartons, anyway. As AdFreak’s sister blog reported last week, the Center for Science in the Public Interest told the company that “all-natural” food doesn’t contain alkalized cocoa, corn syrup, hydrogenated oil or similar ickies. How they came to that decision is uncertain, as the FDA hasn’t made any real effort to define “natural,” but Ben & Jerry’s agreed to remove the label anyway. (On the flip side, it probably is weird to claim you have all-natural flavors when there’s no real consensus on what those are.) Of course, most people probably don’t care what’s in Americone Dream as long as the taste doesn’t change, and they’re probably better off not knowing.