Beyoncé's Heat fragrance commercial proving too hot for some

By T.L. Stanley on Thu Nov 18 2010

What could be better than launching a celebrity perfume with a splashy ad campaign just before Christmas? Having that ad banned by the TV standards police. Pop singer/actress Beyoncé Knowles stars in a smokin' hot commercial for her already strong-selling new cologne called Heat. (The spot sizzles, literally, with plumes and everything.) It's set against her version of the sultry standard "Fever." The U.K.'s Ad Standards Authority, whose members have apparently never seen a music video, deemed it too racy for airing during the day, when kids might see it, but OK for after 7:30 p.m. The product is rolling out internationally, and the ads are just seeing the light of day (or not) in some territories. The perfume's marketer, Coty, said the ad is "sexy chic," like its inspiration, and isn't "overtly graphic or explicitly sexual." And she's not nekked, folks, so settle down, Coty said. The bottom line is that the controversy is great free publicity, and Knowles has never looked more gorgeous. Women may want to know how they can get cleavage like that as much as they wonder how the perfume smells, but either way, they're thinking about Heat.

Netflix caught hiring actors to pose as fans at events in Canada

By David Kiefaber on Fri Sep 24 2010


Netflix's arrival in Canada, already a mixed bag in terms of public perception, sank into further ignominy when the company admitted to hiring actors to pose as enthusiastic Netflix fans in front of the Toronto press. The actors were encouraged to play "types" corresponding to Netflix's core demographics, including "mothers, film buffs, tech geeks and couch potatoes," The New York Times reports. I could be insulted by their typecasting, but admittedly I'm half of those things, and I use Netflix. Of course, I use the American version. Canada's wonky copyright laws, which apparently restrict them from enjoying streaming sites like Hulu, mean a small selection of movies for the Great White North. That's gone over about as well as you'd expect. So, it looks even worse for Netflix that they drummed up all this publicity for a service that'll be subpar until they get rights worked out with the appropriate parties. On the other hand, while what they did was unethical and stupid, it wasn't illegal. They still have a long way to go before usurping Comcast's title as king of the shitheels.

U.K. considers requiring labels on airbrushed fashion advertising

By David Kiefaber on Tue Sep 21 2010


Concern about Photoshopped models in print ads has run rampant lately, especially after the Internet seized on a few supremely botched alterations. But now it's merited a stern review from the British government. Officials will be rapping the knuckles of advertisers and fashion editors next month in an effort to communicate just how negatively digital airbrushing affects the body-image confidence of girls and women. They might even require labels on ads in which photos have been airbrushed, too. The logic is simple: It was bad enough when models were picked for their junkie-thin bodies, but now they're being warped into something truly unattainable. The fashion industry is responding with the usual defense of "Let the market decide" and "We just give people what they want." But I've seen no evidence that the public really wants retouched fashion photos. I certainly don't recall any clamor for them. And digital alterations carry other stigmas (like "whitening" models of color) that reinforce already-regrettable social attitudes within the industry. Not to mention that fashion photography looks fake and dead enough without post-production draining what little character remains from every subject.

Is this upcoming Nickelodeon show just one long Skechers ad?

By T.L. Stanley on Wed Sep 15 2010


It was OK when ABC aired a show based on advertising icons, but when Nickelodeon tries to do the same, the Campaign for Commercial-Free Childhood goes ballistic. Well, actually, it wasn't OK when ABC did it, either. Cavemen, based on the mighty entertaining series of Geico ads, was criminal (and mercifully short lived). But back to Nick, which plans to launch Zevo-3 next month. The CCFC, which monitors the onslaught of marketing to kids, says the show is nothing more than a program-length infomercial for Skechers. Zevo-3's stars, children turned superheroes, were created to hawk the sneaker brand in ads, comic books and other marketing materials. The Children's Television Act and FCC rules would make them off-limits as kids' TV characters, according to entertainment industry blog The Wrap. The CCFC and its outspoken kids' advocate director, Susan Linn, are trying to stop the animated show, saying, "What's next? Programs like Clowning Around with Ronald McDonald? Have It Your Way with the Burger King? Tony the Tiger Toons?" Read more about the protest here, and see why Yo! It's the Chester Cheetah Show never made it off the ground.

Abstain from Sony's new movie, not its 'Still a virgin?' billboards

By T.L. Stanley on Thu Sep 2 2010


On a scale of 1 to offensive, where does this Sony Pictures advertisement rank? I'd say it's somewhere south of the Youth in Revolt stunt, where a producer of the Weinstein Co. flick paid a homeless guy to stand on his usual panhandling corner holding a one-sheet. And it's fairly even with the Universal campaign for Forgetting Sarah Marshall, which dropped the "fatty" bomb and other misogynistic gems. These new billboards, for Sony's The Virginity Hit, are undoubtedly anti-chastity, but they're so unsubtle that I can't believe anyone's confused that this is an ad campaign. Guerrilla, it's not. The R-rated movie is targeted squarely at the Dane Cook audience (God help us) and not at children. But youngsters are likely to see the ads anyway, and that's what has some folks peeved. The comedy opens Sept. 10 in some markets, with rollout depending on how well it does. I don't think we should worry. Both the billboards and this flick will probably be gone soon enough.

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.

Consumers loudly oppose deafening compostable SunChips bag

By David Kiefaber on Tue Aug 24 2010


Companies soliciting consumer feedback from social-networking sites should be advised that those consumers often act like petulant children. The latest example of this is SunChips' new biodegradable packaging, which is apparently too loud for 40,000 pairs of delicate ears, judging by the SORRY BUT I CAN'T HEAR YOU OVER THIS SUN CHIPS BAG group on Facebook, which is raging against the new bags. "The loudest, most annoying bag on the planet," reads one comment, while another laments that "1 week after the change I stopped buying SunChips. Used to eat 2-4 bags a week. No more! I want silence to sit and enjoy my snack, not an evil bag that makes horrible noise even sitting still!" This sounds like empty bleating, which it is, but this kind of thing works. Pepsi withdrew new designs for its Tropicana juice packaging after a couple of weeks because the response on Twitter was so overwhelmingly bitchy. Frito-Lay, which owns SunChips and is itself owned by Pepsi, is handling the criticism by resolving to come up with less annoying biodegradable bags. As ridiculous as this all seems, it's an unavoidable part of modern branding. If you're going to saturate the public with ads and milk them for content through contests and Web sites, eventually you'll have to entertain their opinions to keep them interested in your product.

Asterix's McDonald's billboard angers French comic-book geeks

By David Kiefaber on Mon Aug 23 2010


Given Asterix's recent appearance in a McDonald's ad in France, comic-book enthusiasts are asking themselves if the plucky little Gaul has sold out to American consumerism. He has, of course, but publishers Albert René are denying it just for fun. A spokesman claims that "Asterix remains a rebel," citing as proof the fact that the publishers turned down a Diet Coke spot because the product didn't "correspond to the values of the character." What elevates McDonald's in the minds of Albert René is unclear (perhaps it's the progressive, gay-friendly attitude already displayed in the French "Come as you are" campaign, of which the Asterix ad is part). But anyway, it's not worth worrying about. Asterix shilled for Mickey D's way back in 2001, so it's not like he's new to this. And France, despite its lip service to high cuisine, is a strong market for McDonald's now that the fast-food giant has regionalized its French menu (remember, they call it a Royale with cheese) and rebranded itself as less obviously American. Incorporating Asterix into the marketing is part of that process. I don't necessarily support it, but I understand it. As long as they don't do an "Asterix is gay" ad, they should be fine.

California cheesed off by overseas shoots for 'Happy Cows' milk

Posted on Thu Jul 1 2010


Happy cows are from California, but their commercials are from New Zealand. The California Milk Advisory Board took a fair amount of heat when state lawmakers found out that part of last year's "Happy Cows" campaign was shot in Auckland. California's been plagued with runaway production, and the state has offered tax credits to get movies and TV shows to stay in Hollywood. (The credits don't cover commercials, though.) Even so, there's a bill now winding its way through the state legislature that would require ads promoting state products and financed with public money to be filmed in California. The Los Angeles Times is calling it the "Happy Cow" bill. The milk board has argued that there were California cows in those ads, mixed with a few Kiwi bovine, and production costs were lower because of the change of venue. Lawmakers don't want to hear it—the bill has passed the State Assembly and is headed to the Senate in August. Chances of it passing are fairly high. Barstow, get ready for a stampede—and your close-up.

—Posted by T.L. Stanley

Wendy's pulls kids'-meal CD over offensive Donna Summer track

Posted on Mon Jun 14 2010


It's just not safe to feed your children junk food anymore! First, it was potentially toxic gunk on the Shrek drinking glasses from McDonald's. Now, it's racy lyrics on songs from CDs packaged with Wendy's kids meals. The latest flap erupted this weekend when some astute listener (or really bored Wendy's worker) realized that the Disco Fever CD tucked into kids meals contained the words "so horny" instead of the safe-for-everybody "so bad" in Donna Summer's classic "Last Dance." The chain quickly pulled the CD, but left in place three others containing some benign ditties and Kool & The Gang's "Celebration," which I consider more offensive than any '70s disco tune could ever be. The company issued this effusive mea culpa: "We made an honest mistake. We didn't intend for this to happen. ... We are very sorry it occurred, and we take responsibility." OK, then. Back to the fat-laden, sodium-filled business of the day!

—Posted by T.L. Stanley



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