Freak Week: Unholy Smokes

From Europe to America, last week’s ads put everyone on edge. The strongest indignation was reserved for a provocative French anti-smoking campaign from BDDP & FILS that likens cigarette addiction to forced oral sex. “To smoke is to be a slave to tobacco,” say the ads, which show older men pushing down on the heads of young people, who are in a compromised position at belt level, cigarette in mouth. The agency defended its work, saying the goal wasn’t to shock but to get teens to think of smoking not as a “transgressive act,” but an “act of naiveté and submission.” Many critics found the analogy misguided. Some blasted the campaign for trivializing sexual abuse and even implying guilt on the part of the abused. Florence Montreynaud of La Meute des Chiennes de Garde (the Pack of Female Watchdogs) called the ads “unbearable” and added: “It is terrible to represent in the public space this kind of image restricted to pornography. I’m appalled. It’s a poverty of imagination.”

Though it might pale in comparison, Colorado Springs was rocked by its own little ad scandal last week-one involving Muppet cleavage. At issue: bus-stop ads for the touring production of Avenue Q, which were rejected by outdoor advertising firm Lamar Advertising for apparently showing too much of Lucy the Slut’s furry pink boobs. A Muppet in a bikini might seem harmless to some, but Lamar account executive Jeff Moore said he would not approve any ad “if I have to explain it to my 4-year-old or my grandmother.” Presumably neither Moore nor anyone in his extended family will be attending the show itself, either.

Our final controversy of the week came from Schaerding, Austria, where some intrepid (and/ or insensitive) undertakers advertised their business by parking a hearse next to a notorious accident spot with a sign in the window that read, “We’re always ready for you.” One town official called the stunt “macabre and pitiless,” and likely won’t enjoy the undertakers’ next project, either: a calendar with scantily clad women standing next to coffins. (The company promises a “high-value, aesthetic presentation,” but don’t hold your breath.)

Finally, we were alerted to some shocking news last week about Scott W. Rothstein, the Florida lawyer whose goofy, so-bad-they’re-good ads for Rothstein Rosenfeld Adler (“The law firm that rocks!”) first amused us back in 2008. It turns out we won’t be seeing anymore RRA ads because Rothstein’s been convicted of running a $1.2 billion Ponzi scheme, the biggest financial fraud in South Florida’s history, and faces up to 100 years in prison. Sad for Rothstein, even sadder for advertising.

Best of BrandFreak: Toyota bashing is all the rage

AdFreak’s sister blog, BrandFreak, looked at some of the advertising schadenfreude that’s emerged in the weeks since Toyota began to struggle. Dansk Port Teknik, a garage-door manufacturer in Denmark, released an ad from JWT Copenhagen that shows a garage door with a car-size hole in the middle of it. Copy reads: “20% off all garage doors,” with an asterisk leading to a subhead, which adds: “Toyota owners only.” This followed an online video titled “Toyota Lawnmower Recall,” which shows a man attempting to cut the grass but instead getting a belly-down ride into the street when the gas handle sticks. Interestingly, the URL at the end of the video sent viewers to, which is AUDI’s official Web site for E-TRON, its electric concept car. An Audi rep admitted to BrandFreak that the company did indeed create the video, but claimed it was made long before Toyota’s recent troubles-and that someone had uploaded an unauthorized version with the “Toyota Lawnmower Recall” title. (The original video, the rep said, was simply designed to show the advantages of electronic engines over gas-powered ones.)