The Year’s High Points (and High People)


People go on about the Super Bowl, but it’s not the only ad game in town in January. An example: the Trent Lotte, a great new-product intro that warmed chilly Washington, D.C., last winter. Had you stepped into Kramerbooks & Afterwords Cafe and ordered one, you would have gotten your espresso and steamed milk “segregated” in two cups—a reference to Trent Lott’s praise of Strom Thurmond’s segregationist 1948 presidential campaign. The drink generated great word-of-mouth but no response from Lott himself. “I doubt he’ll be coming in,” a Kramer joe-pourer told Shoptalk. “I’m sure he’s a little mad at us right now.”


If Saddam Hussein is No. 1, then No. 2 on the list of celebrities humiliated by appalling temporary living quarters in 2003 is Ben Curtis. The Dell dude’s arrest for marijuana possession doomed his ad contract, but more important, it landed him in a gnarly New York City jail cell for 16 hours. “We were given really stale bread and a piece of cheese,” he whined to the New York Sun. “We couldn’t even eat because I was killing cockroaches every five minutes with my shoe.”


“My kingdom for a shelf!” That was the cry of millions (well, at least dozens) of nerdy, unstable office drones who created Shelfball leagues at work after Wieden + Kennedy, New York, invented the game for a set of ESPN ads. The rules were simple: 1) Throw ball. 2) Score points if ball lands (and stays) on shelf. Guys took to it immediately. Aside from a report of a Shelfball injury at one New York consulting firm (we’re not making that up), the game was good, clean fun. To top it all off, Wieden won a gold Lion at Cannes for the ads.


As spring arrived, the outbreak of SARS (a main symptom of which is shortness of breath) doomed the year’s most unfortunate tagline: the Hong Kong Tourism Board’s “Hong Kong will take your breath away.”


Who hears a Horton? Sean and Deanna Chesleigh, that’s who. On May 16, they named their newborn son Horton—dooming him to innumerable wedgies but also winning Ruffles’ “Would you name your baby Horton?” contest (heralding the return of the brand’s Baby Horton ad icon). The prize: a $50,000 fund for college, should he make it that far.


As the Do Not Call Registry drew closer, nerves frayed. After being hung up on one too many times, a caller from Teleperformance USA called back to clarify his position: “I’m coming in your [expletive] house, you [expletive]. What the [expletive] you gonna do? I’ll [expletive] kill you.” He was fired.


Nothing is quite so irritating as being taunted by a blimp. Thus the audacity of Pepsi’s buzzing Coca-Cola HQ in its Aquafina dirigible. The blimp was floating around Atlanta on July 10 during the Aquafina Pure Luck summer promotion when the pilots got inspired to do a flyby. Coke staffers fumed, well aware of the interloper overhead. No one would have begrudged them had they hurled epithets and/or bottles of Dasani. But cooler heads prevailed. “We saw it, and we had a good laugh,” said a Coke rep.


It’s a big man who helps out a little one in his hour of need, particularly if the little one is Mini-Me. And so it was, one lazy August afternoon, that Dave Arnold, art director at Euro RSCG MVBMS Partners, found himself fishing for Mini-Me’s fiancée’s engagement ring in a hotel pool in L.A. Mini-Me (aka Verne Troyer) or his love interest, Genevieve Gallen, had dropped it; neither could swim. So Arnold, who estimated his height as “three Mini-Mes, give or take a Mini-Me,” came to the rescue, earning hero status. “There was talk of a ménage à deux and a third,” he said.


Happiness comes so easily to Midwesterners. They sneak up behind co-workers, execute bad disco moves without their knowledge, videotape the episode and just laugh like hell. Such is the joy of Stealth Disco, the office prank/ viral sensation from Cramer-Krasselt in Chicago. C-K posted the videos on, which bloggers loved (though it’s now on hiatus). You may say the goofy game is a waste of time, but the agency knows better. “For every stealth disco, there’s someone actually working,” says one staffer.


Memo of the year: Foote Cone & Belding CEO Brendan Ryan’s musings on toilet paper and other minutiae following a move to new Manhattan offices. “It’s always the little itty bitty things that bite you in the ass,” he wrote, singling out the lobby lighting (“a bit reminiscent of a disco in Malaysia”) and cheap bog roll (“the decision to buy toilet paper costing about $2 per 1,000 rolls has been revoked”). But he did give a shout-out to exterminator Rentokil, which was “knocking off on average eight mice per day.”


Remember Steve Bartman? That absolute bonehead … ahem, unfortunate Chicago Cubs fan who bumped the foul ball out of a Cubs outfielder’s grasp, possibly costing the team its first World Series appearance since 1945? In the weeks following the playoffs, he was deluged by marketers—many of them from Florida, whose Marlins capitalized on his gaffe—offering free products, trips, counseling, etc. Bartman redeemed himself somewhat by turning these attempts at publicity into something more: He donated all gifts—from businesses and individuals—to the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation, which in turn auctioned them off at a fund-raiser.


For the quirkiest Christmas experience, check out Mother’s holiday greetings at The site features a four-minute video of a ragtag couple, Josef and Mari, moping around London, trying to find a room for the night. They don’t have much luck. It’s bleak. It’s depressing. Happy holidays! See you back here next year.