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August 2010

'Are you injured enough for some football?' ask ads for the UFL

By Todd Wasserman on Tue Aug 31 2010

How cool is the United Football League? So cool that the two guys in this TV spot will beat each other silly just so they can have the privilege of watching the full season from hospital beds. At least, that's the premise behind new work for the UFL from BBDO. For the uninitiated, the UFL launched last year and is looking to establish a name in cities "underserved" by the NFL, including Las Vegas and the San Francisco Bay Area. In the ad, two idiotic men hit each other with a crowbar and a baseball bat, and the action, which opens with a signature from-the-car-trunk Tarantino shot, is surprisingly hard edged. (Also surprising: No warnings not to "try this at home.") The ultraviolence will no doubt get some attention for the league, at least from bloodthirsty types.

Dior's copy-and-paste Chinese ad campaign being labeled racist

By David Kiefaber on Tue Aug 31 2010


Dior's "Shanghai Dreamers" ad campaign, featuring row after row of copied-and-pasted Chinese men and women flanking a tall Western model, has struck a chord with people, and not a pleasant one. For one thing, the image of a Westerner standing out among identical Chinese people appears to some observers (like the Guardian's Jenny Zhang and Artinfo's Madeleine O'Dea) as racist Orientalism, and the Cultural Revolution-era clothing was taken as an indelicate callback to a sensitive time in Chinese history. Quentin Shih, the artist behind the campaign, explained that he wanted to "express a dialogue between Chinese fashion ... and Western fashion," and that he intended the Dior model "only to represent the clothes, not herself and not a Western people." Actual Shanghai resident Elaine Chow more or less agreed with this, noting that "China's own fetishistic use of white models in advertising" produces a similar effect. I wouldn't go so far as to call the ad racist, but it is provocative. But I don't think it will hurt Dior much either way—this is small beer in a business where black models are whitened in Photoshop pretty regularly.

Joss Stone and Nine West bring you some more retail-tainment

By T.L. Stanley on Mon Aug 30 2010


We're living in the era of retail-tainment, where we've come to expect live music at the Apple Store, mountaineering discussions at REI and product demos at Bed Bath & Beyond. Not surprisingly, well-known talent is stepping into this area because it's a welcoming and unique environment in which to plug one's latest project. Marketers, who benefit greatly from the star power, are only too willing to make this all happen. (Sarah McLachlan recently played a live show in a JetBlue terminal; no word on how many fans watched the concert instead of catching their flights.) Now, soul singer Joss Stone is hitting the Nine West flagship store in midtown Manhattan on Sept. 10 for a live performance. She'll also be at the Macy's on 34th Street in Herald Square that day to chat with fans and sign copies of her new CD. It's part of Fashion's Night Out, an annual charity event in New York, and Stone's promotion of a co-branded line she designed for Nine West. (She even wrote a song about it!) Stone's Vintage America collection includes shoes, clothing, jewelry and other accessories. Everyone involved hopes that grooving while you shop will boost the bottom line. You have to admit, it's catchy.

Infiniti is the latest advertiser to waste the talents of Ken Jeong

By T.L. Stanley on Mon Aug 30 2010

Note to Ken Jeong, perhaps one of the funniest dudes around: Next time you're offered a gig in a piece of branded entertainment, turn it down. I repeat: Turn it down. So far, you're 0-for-2. The vignettes for Infiniti that aired during last night's Emmy Awards started out well enough, with Jeong's castmates from the underrated NBC sitcom Community heading to the award show in a luxury minivan. (References to homemade treats they brought with them, like How I Met Your Muffins and The New Adventures of Old Krispies, were cute.) Then, much as the Emmy telecast itself, the ad series waned as it unfolded, with little for Jeong to do but act surly and sleepy. He and another co-star, Jim Rash, who plays the hapless dean of Greendale Community College, filmed some branded vignettes with TurboTax in the spring, with a similar outcome. Just not that funny. Maybe there's still time for Jeong to graduate to comedy in this milieu, but so far I'd have to give him an incomplete.

Getting kids hooked no longer as easy for credit-card marketers

By T.L. Stanley on Mon Aug 30 2010


The college experience is hardly complete without the Freshman 15 (pounds, that is) and the beginnings of staggering credit-card debt. (Hey, I got a free T-shirt just for signing up for this plastic!) For decades, financial-services companies have been marketing heavily on college campuses, realizing that students who need textbooks and clothes (OK, and beer—lots of beer) can become lifelong customers, if not necessarily brand-loyal ones. It has mostly meant a mountain of debt for young adults who mistook the cards for free money and overused them accordingly. But new legislation aimed at halting the practice has taken effect this year. Among the restrictions: no more freebies for applying for credit cards, and no one under 21 gets one without an adult co-signer or a proven income. There's reason to put the kibosh on this kind of marketing, with the Washington Post citing figures that say the average student graduates with more than $4,100 in credit-card debt (up from $2,900 a few years ago) and just 15 percent of freshmen had a zero balance on their cards, down dramatically from 69 percent in 2004. Bank of America, Chase and others say they're paws off these days, but the Post story details ways that marketers are still showing some school spirit. Careful, kids, unless of course you have an open account with the Bank of Mom and Dad. In which case, go crazy!

'Mad Men' might just have cured the common hackneyed tagline

By Todd Wasserman on Mon Aug 30 2010


Viewers of last night's episode of Mad Men no doubt cringed when an aspiring young copywriter failed to bowl over Don Draper and Peggy Olson with a portfolio filled with variations on the tagline, "Cure for the common [fill in the blank]." Come to think of it, the slogan does sound pretty familiar. Who else has gone this hackneyed route? Nissan, for one. In 2001, the carmaker rolled out a campaign themed "The cure for the common car." Before that, in 1995, Chrysler hyped its 1995 Sebring as "The cure for the common coupe." The auto industry wasn't the only segment to fall prey. In 1986, Taco Bell dubbed itself "The cure for the common meal." In 2000, the NY Waterway system was "The cure for the common commute." USA Networks also advertised itself as the "Cure for the common show" back in 1997. Though it seems this strain of lazy thinking is endemic to the profession, take heart. After this exposure in Mad Men, we may finally have found a cure for the common "Cure for the common…" ads.

Stride gum wants you to change your entire life around right now

By Elaine Wong on Fri Aug 27 2010


Leave it to the folks at Stride gum to come up with an idea like this. The Kraft Foods brand today launched a Facebook application that lets consumers "Change your flavor, change your life." It promotes its new flavor-changing Stride Shift gum by showing what life would be like if you actually had a piece. (Who woulda thunk flavor-changing gum was possible?) Facebook users can select from one of four characters—an ostrich jockey, a fortune teller, an adventure traveler and a rodeo clown—and insert themselves in said situation. The site explains: "Our powerful life-changing software will update your Facebook photos with a gallery full of pictures and stories that'll dupe your friends into thinking you've transformed into an entirely new you overnight." We can sort of pass for a fortune teller, are horrendous as a clown, high as an adventure traveler and a-OK as an ostrich jockey. All of them are quite an evolution from marketing blogger. We'll have to see if our friends are fooled. JWT New York created the app.

McDonald's gets inspirational with its beefy 'Angus Axioms' site

By Todd Wasserman on Fri Aug 27 2010


McDonald's wants you not only to enjoy its Angus Snack Raps, but to be inspired by them. That, at least, seems to be the thinking behind "Angus Axioms," a promotion the brand rolled out this week on Facebook. Mad Libs-style, the site asks you to enter your name, an interest and a "random adjective." The result, in my case, is above. I've never actually had an Angus Snack Rap, so I don't feel comfortable using this as a status update, but I do agree that life flavored with Swiss cheese is awesome.

American Apparel collapse told through 10 of its advertisements

By David Kiefaber on Thu Aug 26 2010


Flavorwire's exploration of American Apparel's decline, as shown through the clothing company's slapdash advertising, is like watching a clown die: sad, sobering, but still funny. That its owner is a sexist mongrel is well-known, but Dov Charney's transgressions have been far from the only problem at a company that never settled on what image it wanted. Its models were either blankly parading their scanties with gonzo-porn production values (the "Pyramide Humaine" ad is especially gross) or trying to look casual in boyishly ugly, unflattering designs. Sometimes there weren't any AA products in the ads at all. Now, a certain amount of cheeky camp has always been part of AA's brand, often literally. Which is fine, but they had trouble deciding how seriously to take themselves, and now the company is in danger of being removed from the NYSE. Part of that is bad leadership coupled with blowback from Charney's unseemly behavior, but the brand wasn't strong enough to counter hardship. Coupled with scandals and the sort of stuff Gawker has uncovered, it's embarrassing to be associated with AA. And in case anyone from the company is reading this, assuming the office computers haven't been repossessed, pleated pants in 2010 aren't helping.

Old Spice guy forced to wear shirt in accepting Emmy for best ad

By T.L. Stanley on Wed Aug 25 2010


Is Isaiah Mustafa even more beloved than Betty White? He was this past weekend at the Creative Arts Emmy Awards, beating out the octogenarian for the award for best TV commercial. White was nominated for the Snickers ad that launched during the Super Bowl, but Mustafa and ad agency Wieden + Kennedy took the Emmy for "The Man Your Man Could Smell Like" for Old Spice Body Wash. It's the latest in a growing line of formal praise for a campaign that hit TV like a ton of bricks and became an ongoing viral sensation. (It moved a ton of product, too.) Mustafa, a former NFL player whose six pack is perhaps as well known now as his face, had to keep his shirt on for the event in Los Angeles—"due to the dress code," agency folks told our brother pub, The Hollywood Reporter. Sorry, ladies! Old Spice beat out Absolut vodka's "Anthem" (TBWA\Chiat\Day), Audi's "Green Car" (Venables, Bell & Partners), Snicker's "Game" (BBDO) and Nike's "Human Chain" and Coca-Cola's "Finals" (both also from Wieden).



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