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September 2009

Let's agree to stop making up stupid new words that end in 'ista'

Posted on Wed Sep 30 2009

There comes a time when a phrase or expression officially becomes intolerable. The list is long and ranges from people who think "out of the box" and see "paradigm shifts" as a "win-win." You get my point. Well, I'm officially adding anything that that ends in "-ista" to that list. "Fashionista" was irritating enough, though mostly harmless. Merriam-Webster added it to the dictionary in 1993, defined as a designer, promoter or follower of the latest fashions. But now, there are also "frugalistas." A frugalista, according to Target's new ads, is a person who's all about affordable chic. Target.com even now offers a section called "Frugalista Finds," including the Merona Collection Printed Cardigan in Zebra and the Women's Mossimo Kalyssa Ankle Boots in cognac, each for just 29.99! But there is more. Today, Velveeta announced that its "kitchenistas" can help you create affordable meals for less at VelveetaKitchenistas.com. As the dictionary points out, the word "fashionista" (as well as all of the annoying copycat names) is derived from the term Sandinista. Which is really bizarre if you think about it, as a Sandinista is a Nicaraguan revolutionary. I wonder what the Sandinistas, whose beliefs were rooted in Marxism, would have thought about their name being co-opted by big-box retailers and brands of processed cheese. UPDATE: An etymologically minded reader points out in comments that the Sandinistas didn't start this whole thing. Hmm. Perhaps they can help end it, though.

—Posted by Kenneth Hein

Honda aims to boldly go where Segway pathetically went before

Posted on Wed Sep 30 2009

The Segway may have turned out to be something of a punch line, especially when Paul Blart rides one. But that hasn't stopped imitators from coming out with their own self-balancing electric vehicles. In fact, one of the hottest online videos right now is this soundless demonstration of Honda's entry to the market, the U3-X. The U3-X looks like a motorized unicycle, though the wheel is actually made up of several small wheels that rotate independently, allowing for side-to-side and backward motion. It's unclear at this point when the U3-X might be ready for the market, or what the applications could be. For the lazy? The morbidly obese? Oh yeah, there's a huge market for it here in the U.S.

—Posted by Todd Wasserman

A few standout commercials from Friday's 'Night of the AdEaters'

Posted on Tue Sep 29 2009

A long and packed Advertising Week came to an end on Friday with "Night of the AdEaters," an all-night finale screening party. The commercials shown were all apparently hand-picked by AdEaters founder Jean Marie Boursicot, and spanned the globe, going back as far as the 1950s. What follows are my picks for five fairly recent ads from various countries that left an impression—some funny, some clever and some dealing with serious subjects bound to make a few viewers uncomfortable.  

—Posted by Elena Malykhina

Budweiser/60Frames: "Whassup"/ "Whassup 8 Years Later" (U.S.)

Created by 60Frames, a firm that develops original Internet programming, the ad features Budweiser's original "Whassup" guys eight years later, and shows their present—and worrisome—lives in a recession. The politically loaded ad ran around the elections and encouraged Americans to vote. The spot concludes with an image of Barack Obama on TV, as one of the characters proclaims: "Change. That's whassup." 

Chevrolet Aveo: "Dancing Robot" (Netherlands)

This ad tries to convey what happens when you have a car that just doesn't want to cooperate, despite all the bells and whistles. In this case, the vehicle is a Transformer-like robot that starts to dance when the owner approaches. Meanwhile, a different car owner gets into his Chevrolet Aveo with no problem and drives off. The moral of the story? An Aveo just works—kinda like Apple's MacBook ads. 

SciFi Channel: "Adopt Sci-Fi" (France)

If you haven't watched the movie ET in a while, this ad will make you miss the cute little creature. It shows a young alien being brought to a human orphanage, where he gets picked on and bullied by the kids. The ad really pulls at your heartstrings, as the outcast with large teary eyes is shown struggling on planet Earth. You think you're watching a short film, until the tagline at the end asks you to "Adopt SciFi." 

Quercus: "Animals" (Poland)

Quercus, a Portuguese environmental organization, didn't want to sugarcoat the impact of global warming on our planet and its animals. With a dramatic piano solo playing the background, McCann Erickson Portugal used animation to show depressed animals in their changing environments. At the end of the spot, the animals commit suicide: A monkey hangs itself in a tree, a polar bear falls off an iceberg, and a kangaroo jumps in front of a train. Some might call the ad disturbing, but it sure got the message across in a powerful way. 

Ministry of Social Affairs: "Animals" (Lebanon)

Abused children are always a touchy subject when it comes to PSAs and goodwill advertising. That's why I found this ad by the Ministry of Social Affairs so tasteful and effective. The spot shows different animals cuddling with their young and a little girl with a black-and-blue eye hugging her teddy bear. Then the text follows: "Some kids wish their parents were animals." The images and the message at the end are enough to make an impact on anyone who's watching. 

'Smart Choices' food items might not be terribly smart after all

Posted on Tue Sep 29 2009


In what universe are Froot Loops, Cocoa Krispies, Lucky Charms, Ritz Bits Peanut Butter Chocolatey Blast crackers and Kid Cuisine Magical Cheese Stuffed Crust Cheese Pizza deemed good-for-you choices? Willy Wonka's? Cheech and Chong's? No, it's the one we live in, where behemoths like Kraft, ConAgra, Kellogg, PepsiCo and a handful of other companies have banded together and slapped "Smart Choices" labels on some 2,000 food products. The program, which puts a green check mark on packaging, is expected to double its product count in the next few months. So, what does that label really mean? In the case of Froot Loops, it means that even 41 percent sugar by weight doesn't keep it off this "scientific" list. The rationale of the food marketers and their board president, who's dean of the Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy at Tufts University? At least it's not a doughnut. Or, you know, heroin. The FDA and the Department of Agriculture are getting an earful from nutritionists and other critics, and Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-Conn.) has asked for an investigation into whether these Smart Choices items have been misbranded. In the meantime, feel good about your junk-food addiction, and marvel at the supermarket offerings that didn't make the cut. Wonder what's in those? 

—Posted by T.L. Stanley

The perfect drink for those who need to nourish their sex glands

Posted on Tue Sep 29 2009


Here is a different sort of "adult" beverage. This new drink called Adult doesn't have any alcohol in it, nor does it have any sugar, caffeine, preservatives or carbs. What it does have is all of the ingredients needed to enhance your sex drive, according to Ted Chao, president of the U.S. People Foods & Beverages Co. and maker of the Dr. Chao Herbal Drink Line. According to the company, this "potion nourishes the sex glands." The secret ingredients are horny goat weed (Herba epimedii), Wolfberry fruit (Fructus lycii) and other ingredients taken from the recipes of a 19th-century Chinese herbalist. Not satisfied with just helping out in the bedroom, Dr. Chao has also created a drink called "Lady." This elixir allegedly helps reduce PMS symptoms with the combination of saffron, aloe and something called motherwort herb. Chocolate was not listed anywhere in the ingredients.

—Posted by Kenneth Hein

KFC closing some restaurants in unusual hunger-relief campaign

Posted on Tue Sep 29 2009

KFC customers in Louisville, Ky., experienced an odd occurrence at lunchtime today. When they went to get their fried-chicken fix, they found that KFC was closed. Did it have to do with a health-code violation or something equally ominous? Actually, quite the opposite. To support World Hunger Relief, KFC is closing several restaurants through the month of October and converting them into "World Hunger Relief Kitchens." Employees from these locations will be serving free Kentucky Grilled Chicken at local food pantries. "The store closings are aimed not only to feed the hungry today but also to raise awareness for an ongoing World Hunger Relief fundraising initiative for the remainder of the month," said the company in a statement. It will also be collecting donations throughout the month, and Christina Aguilera is helping out with the 60-second PSA posted above.

—Posted by Kenneth Hein

Apple doesn't need a consumer love video, but gets one anyway

Posted on Tue Sep 29 2009

Fresh on the heels of Das Racist's "Combination Pizza Hut and Taco Bell" comes another ode to retail by a guy who claims to have fallen in love at the Apple Store. Not with a woman, but with all that great hardware. Ray William Johnson of Fatty Spins takes credit for this song, which is said to be delivered at the Apple Store on Fifth Avenue in New York. Like "Ikea Heights," this seems to have been done without the blessing of the store owner, but how could Apple balk at lyrics like "I like your interface, it ain't a big deal/You got my heart spinning around just like a click wheel"?  Uh, word up.

—Posted by Todd Wasserman

Australian border patrol only let Toyotas into their 'hard' country

Posted on Mon Sep 28 2009

Take a look at a map of Australia. The first thing you'll notice is that it's an island—a really big one—and it's got no borders to speak of. So, that's your first clue that this Toyota ad featuring Australia's Border Patrol is a bit off. The second is the cheeky slogan: "Nothing soft gets in." By "soft," these Ozzies mean things like tofu, little poofy dogs and sweaters that are tied around the neck. And don't even think of coming into the country if you shave your chest. These border cops are pretty good at what they do, though. They can even spot someone who puts a Toyota grill on his truck to appear less soft. Says one cop: "This is a hard country, and we want to keep it that way." As Jacko would say: "Oy!"

—Posted by Todd Wasserman

'SNL' makes respectable fake-commercial return with Bladdivan

Posted on Mon Sep 28 2009

There's nothing like a fake commercial on Saturday Night Live to draw attention to a special kind of stage fright and Big Pharma's cheery, side-effect-filled solution to it. In the dead-on parody style the show has mastered over 35 seasons, this weekend's premiere gave us an ad for the fictional Bladdivan, a diuretic/anti-anxiety drug that combats "chronic shy bladder syndrome." A character played by Fred Armisen just can't belly up to a crowded urinal and let go with the other guys. With this medication, he can pee anytime, anywhere (which could be embarrassing, but that's where the sedative part of the chill pill comes in). Armchair critics have pointed to the skit as one of the highlights of an otherwise uneven and lackluster season premiere on Saturday. Hey, don't blame host Megan Fox. She even broke out an exaggerated version of her native Tennessee twang and managed not to drop the F-bomb during a biker-chick skit. That should be worth something. Bladdivan is no Colon Blow, but it's a decent debut for the new season.

—Posted by T.L. Stanley

Transform your drab life with special Sony Ericsson headphones

Posted on Mon Sep 28 2009

When a creepy, talkative person sits next to you on public transit, a pair of headphones can make all the difference. This is especially true in the new spot above for Sony Ericsson motion-activated headphones. A dopey-looking cartoon man walks barefoot onto a bus (I guess he's never heard of tetanus). He is the only splash of color in a gray world. He puts in his headphones, which make a terrible slurping sound like he hasn't cleaned his ears in years. Trippy music plays, and the bus is transformed into a wildly colored universe, where the back door is a giant mouth with a tongue hanging out like a red carpet. The best part: The chatty lumberjack/possible serial killer sitting next to the guy becomes a dancing bunny. Maybe whoever filmed this should stop dropping acid. Then again, maybe not.

—Posted by Elana Glowatz



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