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November 2009

Kids won't just laugh off the latest anti-drug PSAs. Or will they?

Posted on Mon Nov 30 2009

The problem with ads aimed at getting kids to avoid drugs is that they can be so easy to ridicule. Think "This is your brain on drugs," or "I learned it by watching you!" Both of those became punch lines with Gen Xers. (And didn't that dad set himself up by asking, "Who taught you how to do this?" Duh.) This latest work from Ground Zero on behalf of the Partnership for a Drug Free America shows how much advertising has evolved since then. Instead of dramatized situations, this is cinéma vérité type stuff. Maybe it helps that the Web has created a new kind of real-time vérité (as exploited by the hit film Paranormal Activity), but ads like "Party at Troy's," shown here, with teens passing out and puking in the bathroom, look pretty real to me (though admittedly, it's been a while since I've attended a party like this). It would seem hard for teens to create an ironic distance between themselves and this sort of PSA. But maybe I'm wrong and this is hilarious stuff to a 15-year-old. I didn't get Napoleon Dynamite, either.

—Posted by Todd Wasserman

Honda drivers making merry with free gas in Southern California

Posted on Mon Nov 30 2009


'Tis the season for giving, and the Southern California Honda Dealers Association is doing its part with free gasoline. The dealers have been sending out Honda Helpful teams to assist people in various ways—handing out umbrellas when it's raining, distributing reusable grocery bags at local markets, holding doors for people at coffee shops, feeding the homeless and so on. And now, if you own a Honda and catch them at the right place and time, they'll fill up your tank at no charge, through the end of December. Hey, every little bit helps.

—Posted by Elaine Wong

Butterball's Turkey Talk-Line again set to save panicked cooks

Posted on Wed Nov 25 2009


We were watching CNBC's Squawk Box at the gym today when co-anchor Joe Kernen started talking about turkey-making tips all of a sudden. Granted, it's Thanksgiving tomorrow, but what's the co-anchor of a major morning business-news show doing talking about turkey? Butterball, it turns out, will operate its Turkey Talk-Line at 1-800-BUTTERBALL for the 29th straight year to educate panicked home cooks on turkey do's and don'ts going into the festivities tomorrow. Some tips: The suggested serving size is one pound and a half pounds per person (allowing for leftovers). Unstuffed turkeys should be cooked at 325 degrees Fahrenheit for three to four hours, and four to six hours for stuffed birds. Butterball is also answering consumers' call for help via its Facebook page. We're on a last-minute cooking streak ourselves, so this will come in handy!

—Posted by Elaine Wong

PETA wishes you an uncomfortable, guilt-ridden Thanksgiving

Posted on Wed Nov 25 2009

Leave to PETA to be a buzzkill during Thanksgiving. When most Americans are looking forward to some downtime, a bit of football and, of course, turkey, PETA has released a "banned by NBC" ad showing a little girl saying grace before the Thanksgiving feast. According to PETA, she "tells it like it is," which translates thusly: "Dear God, thank you for the turkey we're about to eat, and for the turkey farms, where they pack them into tiny dark little sheds for their whole lives. Thank you for when they burn their feathers off when they're still alive or when the turkey gets killed by people who think it's fun to stomp on their little turkey heads. And special thanks for all the chemicals and dirt and poop that's in the turkey we're about to eat." Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!

—Posted by Todd Wasserman

The Michelin Man's a serious badass, whatever he's trying to say

Posted on Tue Nov 24 2009


Michelin wants to make a hero out of Bibendum, aka the Michelin Man. However, I have to say, I was a little thrown trying to figure out what was going on with this giant billboard from TBWA\Chiat\Day, running in Los Angeles through Dec. 20. It appears the Michelin Man (who is starting to remind me of the Stay Puft Marshmallow Man) is tossing tires at a gas pump like they're ninja throwing stars. He's pulling the tires from his body like ribs. (Is this a biblical reference?) The press release clears it up. The idea behind this ad, as well as one in New York, is that Michelin tires can provide superior fuel efficiency as well as other benefits. I'm not sure I'd get that from this billboard (though it is pretty cool looking). Either way, it is an upgrade over the scary French mummy from some of the brand's early ads.

—Posted by Kenneth Hein

British cereal reveals just who's doing all those Google searches

Posted on Tue Nov 24 2009


Years ago, then-Alaska Sen. Ted Stevens explained that the Internet is really just "a series of tubes." We can all have a good laugh about that now, but according to a viral campaign from British cereal maker Weetabix, tubes are much more high-tech than what really drives the Web. Yes, Google is actually powered by a librarian who has had her Weetabix and thus is ready to field your questions. (The campaign, by WCRS in London, seems to take a similar tack as the ads for Holiday Inn Express, which make similar IQ-enhancing claims.) A Subservient Chicken she's not, but you can still have fun typing in rude words and getting a good finger-wagging, if you're into that sort of thing.

—Posted by Todd Wasserman

It's Apple's turn to strike back at that scoundrel Verizon Wireless

Posted on Tue Nov 24 2009

It seems Verizon Wireless is getting to everyone. Last week, a federal judge said the carrier can continue to run its "There's a map for that" takeoff of Apple's "There's an app for that" spots, thus delivering a setback to AT&T, the iPhone's exclusive U.S. carrier. AT&T had sued Verizon over the campaign, which compares coverage maps and claims Verizon has five times more coverage than AT&T. Now, it's Apple's turn to take a jab at Verizon. In its new round of iPhone ads, Apple deftly illustrates various apps and then ends with: "Can your phone and your network do that?" But don't miss the fine print at the end of the commercial: "3G not available in all areas."

—Posted by Noreen O'Leary

Domino's brings back the Noid, and he no longer needs avoiding

Posted on Mon Nov 23 2009


The Noid, that villainous Domino's mascot from the 1980s, is back. But instead of stirring up trouble, the character will be helping with a charitable cause this time around. The pizza chain is getting in the holiday spirit of giving by introducing "Avoid the Noid" T-shirts to raise money for St. Jude Children's Research Hospital. The company will donate $14 from the sale of each T-shirt to St. Jude. Domino's says it has made 1,000 such limited-edition T-shirts, which retail for $19.99 at NoidTshirt.com. The effort is part of Domino's annual "Thanks and Giving" campaign, which has raised $5 million for the children's hospital since 2005. It's always encouraging to see a company supporting a good cause, and Domino's had the right idea with the Noid. Who wouldn't want to wear a vintage T-shirt featuring a loopy character with red bunny ears?

—Posted by Elena Malykhina

Barbie continues to celebrate her 50th birthday in very high style

Posted on Mon Nov 23 2009


Mattel's iconic Barbie doll turned 50 this year (not that you'd know it, with those legs and tummy still smooth as acrylonitrile butadiene styrene) and is celebrating with about as many branding gambits. We've already written about Hotel Chocolat's "Barbie Box," as well as Barbie's newfound interest in retail stores and feature films. But it turns out that's just the tip of the iceberg.
  • Assouline Publishing released Barbie, a limited-edition book of Barbie photographs and artwork that reprises the anglaise technique of hand-applied "color tipping." Shipped in a pink, cloth-bound slipcase, the 128-page book retails for $500.
  • French designer Christian Louboutin designed a special pair of not-so-sensible shoes modeled after Barbie's high-altitude pumps. Rendered in shocking Pantone No. 219 pink (you didn't expect them to match anything, did you?), the haute cobbler's creations debuted at a Mattel-sponsored runway show this past February, at which a who's who of high-end designers showed off their Barbie-inspired couture. (We couldn't find the retail price for the pink pumps, but Louboutin's average footwear goes for $800 a pair, so you get the idea.)
  • The Palms hotel in Las Vegas threw open the doors of the Barbie Suite this year—a 2,350 square-foot warren of rooms covered in pink chintz and stuffed with Barbie-like furnishings such as white-wire chairs and mirrored dressers. Too bad that few people heading to Vegas these days have the chips for the $4,000 a night it costs to bed down in this fantasy suite. At least the maids won't have to work too hard to keep the Jonathan Adler-designed rooms clean.
  What's most amazing about these brand extensions is that they stem from a doll that cost $3 when it debuted in 1959 and can still be picked up at Walmart for about $35—evidence of just how far a successful brand can go. Meanwhile, at 50, Barbie has learned to diversify. For Christmas this year, her label is also selling a Twilight Edward and Bella doll set. No word on the vampire suite in Vegas as yet.

—Posted by Robert Klara

Eat sugary foods from QT Kitchens. You're going to die anyway!

Posted on Mon Nov 23 2009


Here's a billboard that's bound to get a reaction, whether it be disgust or grudging admiration. Everyone knows oatmeal lowers cholesterol and has a lot of soluble fiber. But it can be hard to stomach, especially day after day. But a sticky bun, on the other hand, goes down easy but is more likely to hasten your exit from this world. So, without getting too philosophical, the QT Kitchens billboard is likely to raise some questions: Is life too short for oatmeal? If so, should we try to make life even shorter? Discuss.

—Posted by Todd Wasserman



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