Freak Week: Secrets and Lies

Not a lot of good branding happens in bars. You’ll occasionally see a brand ambassador buy a round or two, but any goodwill there depends on whether you like the product. Andes beer in Mendoza, Argentina, though, found a humorous way to spread wholesale joy (for guys, at least) at local watering holes. Ad agency Del Campo Nazca Saatchi & Saatchi built soundproof booths for Andes, dubbed Teletransporters, and outfitted them with speakers inside and a sound-effects panel. Then, when guys see their girlfriends calling on the cell, they can hop inside the booth, play some ambient sounds-footsteps running, babies crying, machines beeping-and explain that no, honey, I’m not at the bar, I’m at the gym/my brother’s house/the hospital, why do you ask? Andes shows the machine in action in a three-minute video posted on AdFreak. The ladies don’t love it, but the other half sure does.

Speaking of ingenious technology, Swedish agency Farfar had some fun recently with a grand Nokia installation in London. To show off the client’s navigation capabilities, the shop built a giant digital arrow, hung it from a crane and invited the public to send in (via text or Web) a location anywhere in the world. Upon receiving the data, the arrow would slowly rotate and point in the direction of the location, and give the distance as well. Passersby were all smiles as they got the arrow to point to New York City or their own small town, and the project skillfully made Nokia seem both powerful and personable.

Every few months, we get a new curve in the long and winding road of bizarre Skittles ads. The latest spot arrived last week from TBWA\Chiat\Day, and shows a young man with a Skittles tree growing out of his stomach. He’s dirty and tired and wants to have the thing removed so he can go to school and have a normal life. But his mother is counting on his bountiful Skittles harvest, and is essentially keeping him captive in the yard. Creepy. Wrote one AdFreak reader: “The acting’s so good that this ad seems more sad than funny.”

Finally, we saw a truly amazing political ad last week, courtesy of Carly Fiorina. The former Hewlett-Packard CEO, who is running for the U.S. Senate from California, fully embraces the animal metaphors, showing a bunch of sheep milling around, representing politics as usual. But her opponent, Tom Campbell, isn’t a sheep. He’s a wolf in sheep’s clothing! Played by a human in a shabby sheep costume! With glowing red eyes! The ultimate in bad judgment, the spot just might just sink her whole campaign.

Best of BrandFreak: British liquor brand gets hammered

Our sister blog, BrandFreak, last week wrote about one of the most epic brand takedowns of all time. It happened in the pages of The New York Times, and concerned a brand of liquor in the U.K. called Buckfast Tonic Wine. The stuff is made by Benedictine monks in England, but to hear the Times tell it, Buckfast has single-handedly destroyed the country of Scotland. This is due to its potent mixture of alcohol and caffeine, which makes you both tipsy and bouncy, and is evidently a recipe for violence. Just look at the data: In one survey, 43 percent of Scottish prisoners who’d committed a crime while drunk said they’d drunk Buckfast. In a study of litter at a housing project, 35 percent of the items turned out to be Buckfast bottles. And in a single Scottish police district, Buckfast was mentioned in 5,638 crime reports between 2006 and 2009, with the  bottle used as a weapon in 114 of them. Plus, by all accounts, the stuff tastes absolutely revolting! For a brand left licking its wounds, there was an upside. The reporter did say Buckfast “comes in an attractive bottle illustrated with a friendly looking bunch of grapes.”