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April 2010

Painter looks at American fast food in the Middle East landscape

Posted on Fri Apr 30 2010


It's been 48 years since Andy Warhol demonstrated that an ordinary American food brand could be worth thinking about other than when you're hungry. Now, Eric Robert Parnes is up to much the same thing, albeit with work that's a bit more provocative than a can of Campbell's Condensed Tomato Soup.
  In his paintings, Parnes, a 31-year-old Iranian American artist, portrays brands like McDonald's, KFC and Starbucks open for business in Middle Eastern countries. Each of his canvases features a group of women in chadors, their backs turned, regarding the fast-food outlets with thoughts that are anyone's guess. Parnes—whose far-ranging work also includes gold-leafed artillery helmets and nudes equipped with gas masks—says his intent was not to be critical of American fast food's presence in Muslim countries but to "explore … the dynamics involving Western and Eastern cultures." And for better or worse, Western "culture" these days usually means fast food.
  "Aside from the American flag, people identify the United States via our products' visual logos," Parnes tells BrandFreak. "These brands have become visual representations that elicit an immediate response of recognition. It really doesn't even matter that Domino's or Starbucks is spelled out in another language. All we need is a logo to recognize the company."
  So, good news for all you fast-food marketers out there: Your logo works just as well in Riyadh as it does in Rochester.

—Posted by Robert Klara


AriZona iced tea might wish it had a different name these days

Posted on Thu Apr 29 2010

Arizona Iced-tea maker AriZona is experiencing some collateral damage in the immigration debate over a new law in the state of Arizona. Since the law passed, making it a crime for illegal immigrants to be in the state and requires police to check citizens for evidence of legal status, opponents have called for a boycott of the state. On Tuesday, a comic writer named Travis Nichols suggested—jokingly, we think—that consumers should also boycott AriZona iced tea because it's "the drink of fascists." For whatever reason, others took Nichols up on the idea, even though the brand, now owned by Ferolito, Vultaggio & Sons, is based in New York. Responding to the bone-headed criticism, Don Vultaggio, founder and chairman of AriZona Beverages, set the record straight on the company's Web site: "We are very proud to be an American company with roots in New York," he wrote. No word yet if JCPenney brand Arizona Jeans is caught up in the debate as well. The company wisely changed the name to AZ Jeans a while back.

—Posted by Todd Wasserman

It's official: Santa Clara County bans toys from fatty kids' meals

Posted on Thu Apr 29 2010


Happy Meals are officially sad in California's Santa Clara County. After debating the issue, the board of supervisors in that Silicon Valley area has voted 3-2 to ban toys and other promotions from high-fat, sodium-loaded kids meals. The new ordinance won't take effect for 90 days, giving fast-food restaurants a chance to bring their kids' offerings up to a better nutritional standard. (Hint: If it hasn't happened by now, I doubt three months will make much difference.) The ban doesn't cover a large geographical area—just the unincorporated parts of the county—but the repercussions might be felt far and wide. It's a bit of a test case for other municipalities that might want to fight the child-obesity epidemic by attacking the trinkets that come with burgers and fries. The delay in enacting the ban means a number of summer movie tie-ins will still happen as planned. The rest of the year? Still to be determined.

—Posted by T.L. Stanley

Paramount Pictures working on a live-action Magic 8 Ball movie

Posted on Wed Apr 28 2010


All signs point to yes. That's the answer when the question is: Will Hollywood continue to raid the toy chest for ideas? The latest in a rash of toy-to-movie deals comes from Paramount, which has optioned Mattel's Magic 8 Ball for a live-action feature, according to Deadline.com. The studio has already had a money-gushing run with action-movie versions of Hasbro's Transformers (which has become a billion-dollar franchise) and G.I. Joe. Next up is a Paramount/Mattel collaboration on Max Steel, starring Twilight's shapeshifting hunk Taylor Lautner. Others in the plastic-to-celluloid pipeline include Mattel's View-Master (at DreamWorks, probably in 3D!), He-Man and the Masters of the Universe (at Warner Bros.) and the vintage action figure Major Matt Mason (at Universal). Hasbro's Oiuja board, Monopoly and Battleship games are set for big-screen treatment, too. What, no My Little Pony? Just give them time.

—Posted by T.L. Stanley

'Twilight' provokes love and hate in equal (lucrative) measure

Posted on Wed Apr 28 2010


In case anyone needed more proof of the power of the Twilight franchise (did you?), there's a survey out today from Fandango that found that Bryce Dallas Howard is the "most anticipated villain" of the summer blockbuster season. She is? Yes, says 31 percent of the vote. The actress (and Ron Howard offspring) plays the revenge-minded vampire Victoria in the upcoming Eclipse, the third movie in The Twilight Saga. What's most surprising is that Howard edged out Mickey Rourke, who plays the mayhem-minded Whiplash in Iron Man 2. (He has a Whopper named after him—doesn't that count for something? Just 29 percent, that's all. Geez, the guy's an Oscar nominee!) Other villains to look forward to, according to the poll, are Sam Rockwell (also Iron Man 2), Val Kilmer (MacGruber) and Eric Roberts (The Expendables). On the flip side, Robert Downey Jr. leads the pack of "most anticipated summer movie heroes" with 35 percent of the vote, followed by Angelina Jolie in the action thriller Salt, Russell Crowe in Robin Hood and Jaden Smith in The Karate Kid. The "summer" season at the box office launches May 7.

—Posted by T.L. Stanley

Jon Stewart looks at mascots gone bad after firing of Geico guy

Posted on Wed Apr 28 2010

Without Jon Stewart's brand of in-depth investigation, I never would've known that the Pillsbury Doughboy engaged in some questionable behavior with a strudel or that the helping hand from Hamburger Helper had a Nazi past. On Stewart's late-night Comedy Central series, The Daily Show, those and other secrets came out during a segment on the voice actor from Geico who lost his job recently after questioning the mental capacity of conservative FreedomWorks members. Stewart figured it was as good a time as any to look at spokescharacters (purportedly) going off the rails. There was that Tony the Tiger mauling incident, and the Michelin man's sex trafficking charges. (Great mug shot!) Check out the clip, really, it'll explain everything.

—Posted by T.L. Stanley

Cheez-It waits around forever for sophomoric cheese to grow up

Posted on Wed Apr 28 2010

Who knew cheese could be this obnoxious? In this spot from agency Leo Burnett for Kellogg's Cheez-It brand, an immature round of cheese pokes fun at his "cheese-searcher." "Knock knock." "Who's there?" the man asks. "Interrupting cheese." "Interrup…" "Cheese!!!" ("Should've seen that one coming," the cheese-searcher says patiently.) Point is, not all snack crackers are made with properly mature cheese. (Imagine what would have happened if this juvenile wheel got harvested early.) Luckily for the cheese-searcher, his pupil finally comes around and one day says, "Morning, sir. Beautiful day, isn't it?" Check mark. This cheese is ready. Yum yum.

—Posted by Elaine Wong

County in California looking to ban McDonald's Happy Meal toys

Posted on Tue Apr 27 2010


Leave it to the crunchy granola types in California to rain on the Happy Meal parade. County officials in Silicon Valley want to outlaw toys from the famous (or infamous, depending on your perspective) McDonald's kids meals. That way, children won't want them as much, and they won't be as fat. Or so the thinking goes. Santa Clara County is proposing a ban on toys in any restaurant meal with more than 485 calories, more than 600 milligrams of salt or high sugar or fat content, according to the Los Angeles Times. If the proposal passes, it won't affect much—there are only about a dozen fast-food restaurants within the county's jurisdiction. But its broader implications, and its first-of-a-kind status, have the California Restaurant Association and others in a tizzy about government interference in action-figure and mini-stuffed-animal distribution. For Hollywood studios, it would be disastrous if they couldn't link their Ice Ages, Shreks and Alvin and the Chipmunks with the caloric, pint-sized meals. Even though Disney got out of that business when it didn't renew its long-term McDonald's deal, other movie makers rushed to fill the void, keeping the McD's calendar packed with entertainment promotions. We'll keep an eye on the situation, so check back for the vote.

—Posted by T.L. Stanley

French car-rental company pokes fun at Sarkozy's height in ad

Posted on Tue Apr 27 2010


Just as Twitter-fueled extramarital rumors about France's first couple have died down comes a new assault on the country's height-challenged leader, Nicolas Sarkozy. Sixt, one of Europe's largest car-rental companies, is running an ad (shown here) urging consumers to rent a small Citroen C3 hatchback, with the tagline: "Be like Madame Bruni, take a small French model." The photogenic couple—former model Carla Bruni is 5 inches taller than her husband and prefers flats to his heels—have been featured before in ads and have sued over the unauthorized use of their images. Not that the French president hasn't drawn attention for his own fast-and-loose portrayal of truth in (political) advertising: He's known to use a foot stool behind speech podiums, and last year he was accused of positioning short people around him as he visited an auto-parts factory in Normandy.

—Posted by Noreen O'Leary

Light shows on landmarks promote History series about America

Posted on Tue Apr 27 2010


Most anybody can buy outdoor ads to hype an upcoming TV show, but History (formerly known as The History Channel) kicked it up a notch with iconic images from America: The Story of Us projected onto landmark buildings. (Having a banking behemoth sponsor the ambitious series probably wasn't a bad idea.) The promotions—technically, they're light shows from a company called Artlumiere—happened for seven straight days last week and bathed the Beverly Wilshire hotel in Los Angeles, Union Station in Washington, D.C., and Grand Central Terminal in New York in multistory images of the Statue of Liberty, the Old West, the Nina, the Pinta and that other ship. The birth-of-a-nation series, which launched Sunday night, has had considerable on- and off-air weight thrown behind it from History and sponsor Bank of America, which produced its own two-minute "story of us" mini-documentaries. Those will air throughout the 12-part series. Our brother blog, The Live Feed, has reported that the initial broadcast broke History ratings records with 5.7 million viewers, making it the network's most-watched special of all time.

—Posted by T.L. Stanley



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