An ad in Berlin for the all-new 2012 Audi A7 Sportback looks fairly normal—except it was created with spray paint and takes up 10,800 square feet. Translated to English, the billboard reads, "Nothing is more inspiring than a blank sheet of paper. It is the opportunity to create something unique." The A7 Sportback is the German automaker's answer to the Porsche Panamera. Of course, that seemed like a good idea at Audi before its parent company, Volkswagen AG, actually decided to buy Porsche AG this year.
Once upon a time, A-list American actors like George Clooney and Brad Pitt starred in ads that were intended to be seen only overseas, a practice that lined their pockets but didn't ding their personal brands at home. Over time, we all figured out how it worked. Conan O'Brien had some fun with the concept in a meta Super Bowl spot for Bud Light, and before that, Bill Murray gave us the Lost in Translation spin. Nowadays, anytime a celeb shills for a product, we're all likely to see video evidence of it immediately, even if we're not the target. Case in point: Julia Roberts plays a mute and radiant Venus in a new Italian commercial for A Modo Mio coffee. Since I don't speak Italian, I'm guessing from the context that she likes the brew enough to smile, laugh and wink in response to a taste test. For a reported $1.5 million payday, she's pretty convincing. It's no Alec Baldwin and mom strolling through Wegman's, but it'll do.
If Intel's "Sponsors of Tomorrow" commercials haven't convinced you that the company is composed of some wild and crazy guys (and gals), this video might help. Here, Intel engineers in Romania attempt to one-up those Finnish engineers from the popular "Cannonbells" viral of 2009 by jumping off the side of a five-story building and on to mats that chime various notes upon impact. The Romanians hit the right sequence and recreate Intel's famous aural branding trademark. This is all well and good, and it's nice to know Intel employs fearless risk-takers, but personally I couldn't care less. I'd rather they spend their time coming up with cool new devices. I doubt the Apple engineers are jumping off rooftops, though some may be thrown off by Steve Jobs.
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.
Pizza Hut's Irish stores have generated a lot of international media for a World Cup promotion on Facebook intended to give away a free pizza to Gaelic consumers every time a goal was scored against France. The chain sought to satisfy fans' appetite for retribution after French player Thierry Henry's unpunished handball in a World Cup qualifier last year denied Ireland entry to soccer's biggest tournament. France, of course, had a disastrous turn in the South African games, culminating in a 2-1 defeat today to the host country (following a goalless draw with Uruguay and a 2-0 defeat to Mexico). But while Irish football fans should be enjoying a dish called revenge with extra cheese and pepperoni, they're turning their wrath towards Pizza Hut instead. It's not clear if the 350-pie limit has been reached or if the site is malfunctioning, but free pizzas appear not to be available to the hungry fans demanding them.
Paint marketers have it rough, as BrandFreak pointed out recently, because it's difficult to show people just how vibrant or rich or textured their products are from within the confines of a TV commercial (even with the help of animated paint-chip animals). That's where YouTube can be mighty handy. Dulux, for a European campaign, shot in-progress footage of its "Let's Colour" project and posted it on the video site. There's much more to come, like a documentary and other entertainment-based content. It helps, too, that this work, shown in time-lapse photography in the two-minute clip here, changed entire neighborhoods from dirty, drab and graffiti-pocked to bright, clean and tag-free. The community painting events happened over the last four months in the U.K., France, India and Brazil, with 500 volunteers using about 1,800 gallons of Dulux decorative paint. Ad agency Euro RSCG London handled the campaign, which includes a making-of film, Web site, Twitter, Facebook and Orkut. The company also gets points for the gritty 'hood makeovers and for resisting the temptation to go with some sappy soundtrack like "Color My World" or "True Colors."
Latching onto the 2004 movie Downfall to indulge in a melodramatic Hitler meme is one thing. (It's not even really Hitler. It's actor Bruno Ganz having an epic meltdown that's been co-opted zillions of times now.) But using a photo of the real Hitler as a sales tool? For shame. New Form, a fashion boutique in Sicily, has papered the city with 18-foot-high posters of Hitler in a pink uniform—with a heart on his sleeve instead of a swastika—under the tagline, "Change style. Don't follow your leader." Even if it made sense, it would still be offensive. Local politicians and the citizenry are outraged, naturally. The ad agency, according to HuffPo, says the campaign doesn't cozy up to the infamous Nazi but instead makes fun of him. And hopefully makes a buck off him, to boot. It's just all so distasteful and wrong. And maybe the start of a trend? HuffPo says Chinese communist leader Mao Tse Tung is New Form's next poster boy. Let's hope that's a (horrible) joke.
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.
If you saw Service International Union and MoveOn's "Enemy of America" Glenn Beck viral video, you're aware that we've entered an age where stuff like "Elf Yourself" looks laughably primitive. If you haven't seen the "Enemy" video—imagine that someone created a video with Glenn Beck ranting about you and intimate details of your life (which you had providing by agreeing to share your Facebook information). Now, Sweden's TV licensing body, Radiotjänst, and Draftfcb Stockholm are experimenting with the technology, too. Behold this ad, and you will see a dramatic announcement about the "hero" who is making life better for the average Swede—who is making sure they can trust what they see on TV and hear on the radio, and that the voices of the weak are heard. Yes, we're talking about ... me. I got a cheap ego boost watching hordes of Swedes cheering my image on billboards and being referred to as a Swedish hero. Why not try it out as well, at least until every advertiser under the sun runs a similar viral this summer.
It's rare to see a news story rip a brand to bits quite like this New York Times piece on Buckfast Tonic Wine. Despite being made by Benedictine monks in England, Buckfast is apparently the trigger for all manner of sinful behavior in Scotland—the root cause, it seems, of almost all of that country's problems. Consider the data: In one survey, 43 percent of Scottish prisoners who'd committed a crime while drunk said they'd drunk Buckfast. In a study of litter at a housing project, 35 percent of the items turned out to be Buckfast bottles. And in a single Scottish police district, Buckfast was mentioned in 5,638 crime reports from 2006 to 2009, with the bottle used as a weapon in 114 of them. Critics say the drink, which offers a potent mixture of alcohol and caffeine that makes you both tipsy and bouncy, is a recipe for violence. "It'll blow your head off," says one man, not meaning that as a compliment. Plus, the stuff doesn't even taste good, evidently. "Have you ever tried Benalyn cough syrup?" says one person. Adds another, who drinks a lot of the stuff: "You get used to it." The best thing the reporter can say about the brand is that it "comes in an attractive bottle illustrated with a friendly-looking bunch of grapes." (Imagine if they had an animal on there.) The story's otherwise unfriendly stance would seem to be a problem for Buckfast, until you realize that a certain notoriety won't hurt sales one bit. In fact, after reading the piece, you find yourself thinking: Do they sell this stuff on this side of the pond?