Michael Bay tones down explosions in new Victoria's Secret spot

By T.L. Stanley on Fri Dec 3 2010

New Yorkers got to play dress-up as Victoria's Secret angels this week, but the marketer's real models didn't make out so well. In the latest ad from the brand's biggest cheerleader, filmmaker Michael Bay, they take to the streets in their lacy underthings to tempt us all to buy push-up bras and satin panties. It's more of what the leering Bay loves to do—slide the camera all over the ladies' gorgeous, scantily clad bodies, lingering on the hair tosses, the lascivious looks and the stilettos. Lots of slow-mo and wind machines—you get the picture. This time, there's architecture and cityscape as backdrops, but none of the explosions that inexplicably dotted last year's Christmas campaign and made it look like a Bay action flick. There's still the surreal touch thrown in for this commercial, though. Look, at the 1:00 mark—she's on a horse! It's been a banner week for Victoria's Secret, with its annual special on CBS drawing 9 million viewers, up 17 percent from the previous year's telecast. Looks like they're on to something.

Ah, what a lovely Coca-Cola holiday ad. Shame about the music

By T.L. Stanley on Thu Nov 11 2010

A few weeks ago, it was just a crappy song with no pictures. Now, Train's latest single—the one we told you about recently that was written for Coca-Cola's holiday campaign—is the soundtrack to a full-blown ad. With Santa! The spot, dubbed "Snow Globes," shown here, is everything you'd expect from a Christmas commercial, including a cute dog, a kissing couple and a family gathering. If it weren't for that inane ditty! Anyway, it's going global, and there's nothing anyone can do about it. The seasonal marketing effort came from Coke's international teams, Coca-Cola Germany and McCann, Madrid. And for Train fans out there, "Shake Up Happiness" is being released as a single, or you can get it as a "bonus" on the band's latest CD. I will plug my ears accordingly. Bah, humbug!

Christmas-tree growers look into a 'Got milk?' type ad campaign

By David Kiefaber on Wed Nov 10 2010


Christmas-tree growers are planning an industry advertising blitz, using the well-known beef, cotton and especially milk campaigns as inspiration, to better compete with artificial-tree manufacturers. If this leads to celebrities showing off pine-needle mustaches, I'm in. But let's not get ahead of ourselves. The loose assortment of tree growers doesn't even have a slogan yet. Or a clear source of funding, for that matter. That won't be decided on until next year, but so far the money for the proposed program would come from a 15-cent mark-up on every fresh-cut tree, with the funds to be administered by a board overseen by the Department of Agriculture. You'd think something as embedded in our culture as the natural Christmas tree would sell itself, but artificial-tree sales are on the rise because they're less of a hassle. Real trees that shed needles and occasionally catch fire have to brand themselves another way, and if they can avoid sparking a team-sports mentality between purchasers of fake and real trees, more power to them. And this had better not add more fuel for those War on Christmas idiots, either.

Name a star: the perfect holiday ripoff for that celestial someone

Posted on Fri Dec 18 2009


With the holiday shopping season moving into fifth gear, you may have heard those commercials offering you a chance to give "a gift that lasts a lifetime" (and in fact, a few billion years beyond that): the chance to name a star after someone.
  As a branding proposition, this idea has a lot going for it. Everybody knows what a star is, so there's no consumer education involved. A star is naturally luminescent, eco-friendly, requires no maintenance, and the inventory is excellent. Astronomers estimate there are 70 sextillion stars in the visible universe—that's 70 thousand million million million. So, just imagine: You or someone you love can have your very own 28-million-degree erupting ball of hydrogen! Just be ready to get the plastic out. The Name A Star Deluxe Package comes complete with a framed registration certificate and a celestial map that'll set you back $69.95 plus shipping (at least they let you choose what constellation you want). The "Ultimate" package from the International Star Registry arrives at your terrestrial home with a framed certificate, locator map, a letter of congratulations, and even a wallet card that identifies you as a star owner—all for only $154.95. (Wow, we'll take two!)
  But after years of listening to sentimental ads from several star-naming outfits, we had a question: Are all these star names, like, official in any way? Will "Becky the Star" show up on a NASA map at some point? We tried to contact NASA's media department, but they didn't respond. Then we tried Edward L. Wright, who teaches physics and astronomy at UCLA. Professor Wright had a very succinct answer about whether these star names you can buy are official. "No!!!" he said. Turns out the International Astronomical Union identifies stars by numbers like "BD 16d1591" or "HR 2491" When stars do go by names, they sound more like Alpha Canis Majoris, and not "Pete." Too bad, huh?
  But it's even worse for the operators of celestial observatories on public-access nights. According to Richard Rosenberg, president of the New York chapter of the Amateur Astronomers Association, "Sometimes people actually expect the person manning the scope to know where their star is located." Where? We'll tell you: It's located in the file cabinet of the marketer who cooked up this nutty star-naming idea to start with.

—Posted by Robert Klara

HBO and 'Big Love' wishing you a merry, polygamous Christmas

Posted on Mon Dec 14 2009

Caroling is common this time of year. But what you don't hear often are Christmas carols sung by the leader of a polygamous compound and his many wives. Roman Grant, the now-deceased "prophet" of Juniper Creek, a (fictional) fundamentalist Mormon compound in Utah, stars in this music video with his wives, who sing a traditional holiday tune with very untraditional lyrics. In the meantime, various images play in the background of women in 19th-century clothing standing on a rocky hill, next to a Hummer and around a Christmas tree. You also see children of the compound on swings, and very few men. The video ends with a plug to HBO's Big Love. The new season premiers on Jan. 10. If you're left wanting more, HBO, in partnership with marketing agency Digital Kitchen, has created an entire album that will leave you feeling like you've spent way too much time on the compound.

—Posted by Elena Malykhina

National crisis averted as toy hamsters are deemed safe after all

Posted on Tue Dec 8 2009


Whew, this was a close call. On Monday, consumer watchdog group GoodGuide almost dashed the hopes of many of child nationwide by claiming that Zhu Zhu toy hamsters were unsafe. The group said one hamster in particular, Mr. Squiggles, contains dangerous levels antimony, a chemical that's been linked to heart and lung problems and cancer. Soon, however, the Consumer Product Safety Commission swooped in and conducted its own testing, and said Mr. Squiggles is, in fact, safe, as well as cute and cuddly. (For its part, GoodGuide backtracked and posted this note on its site, admitting its testing methodology did not meet federal standards.) Still, the notion of not buying a Zhu Zhu hamster is a welcome idea. Why not get your kids the real thing? Having a flesh-and-blood-and-fur-and-poop pet teaches a child responsibility. And better yet, you don't have to worry about lead, antimony or all those other harmful things. Unless you let the poor thing loose in a lab or something like that.

—Posted by Elaine Wong

Herald Square subway stop filled with happy JCPenney shoppers

Posted on Fri Nov 13 2009


It's not often you see joyful people in New York's Herald Square subway station. That's why JCPenney's new ads caught my attention on the way to work this week. The ads are part of the retail giant's holiday "Joy of Giving" campaign and tout the JCPenney store on 33rd Street and 6th Avenue, which opened thsi summer. JCPenney clearly wanted to make the most impact in the corridors that connect the subway lines with a mix of bright red posters and life-size images of people wearing the retailer's clothes and lugging its shopping bags. Despite being pretty invasive (you really can't escape the holiday cheer), the happy JCPenney posters are at least more pleasant to look at than the usual drab walls and graffiti. As for promoting the new Herald Square location, I think the ads might do better with tourists than New Yorkers, who are usually too busy texting and shoving people out of the way to read the fine print.

—Posted by Elena Malykhina

OfficeMax's 'Elf Yourself' is back, and more souped up than ever

Posted on Wed Nov 11 2009


Tis the season to be jolly ... really jolly! That's because the OfficeMax elves are back, and they're more social-media savvy than ever, according to the retailer. ElfYourself.com, the famed site powered by JibJab Media that allows you to morph yourself and others into dancing elves, has been integrated with popular social networks like Facebook, Twitter and others for this holiday season. I tried using the new capabilities and was able to pull a picture directly from Facebook to paste it on my elf. Once I found the perfect dance—a groovy disco tune (there are two new options: Hip Hop Elves and Singing Elves)—I was presented with this groovy video. I was then given the choice of uploading the creation to my Facebook wall or sharing it via Twitter. I thought purchasing greeting cards and mugs with my elf on them would be a little much, but you can do that also. OfficeMax says it wants to spread a little joy in a recession. And why not? Download the video for $4.99 and burn a CD for Mom and Dad. It's a gift that keeps on giving.

—Posted by Elena Malykhina

Jones Soda's holiday drinks go from gross and fun to just boring

Posted on Tue Nov 10 2009


Tofurky and gravy soda for the holidays. This is the latest in Jones Soda's annual tradition of offering vile-sounding flavors for a limited time only. Past years have included not only Christmas ham soda but also Christmas tree soda. In honor of Channukah, it has offered latke soda, and for all of the holidays there was antacid soda. Still, it seems like Jones Soda is running out of ideas. Last year, they rehashed some of their greatest hits rather than come up with new flavors. And this year, they basically just riffed off of turkey and gravy soda, which they already did. Plus, rather than offer a set of different flavors, they went with just one (you get three bottles of tofurky and gravy soda, why?) and three regular flavors from its new Zilch sugar-free line. I suspect they miss the creativity of former CEO Peter van Stolk, who once proudly introduced, to a ballroom of beverage executives, his newest creation, "Dave." The hemp-laden soda has "a dime bag" in every bottle, he said proudly. Maybe the new regime at Jones Soda also needs to look to marijuana for some inspiration.

—Posted by Kenneth Hein

Walmart says it's the little things that matter, even at the holidays

Posted on Tue Nov 3 2009

Dave Muhlenfeld, the Martin Agency copywriter behind the FreeCreditReport songs and this catchy Coke/Walmart ad from last year, is at it again with an ad for Walmart celebrating the little things in life. What things? Like the way an e-mail can make you want to talk, or the way a little kid can make the world seem big. That kind of stuff. For Walmart, whose current tagline is "Save money, live better," the message is spot on, but then again, it is the holiday season, so maybe not. "They have a big inventory of spots, and most of them are holiday-centric," says Joe Alexander, svp and creative director at Martin, explaining why the spot is running only online right now. (Walmart put it on its Facebook page and on YouTube last week.) Too bad TV viewers won't see it, because the song is nice and hummable, the sentiment is very relevant this holiday season, and the photography is terrific. My only beef is the tactic of using several different actors to sing the song. Maybe it was that scene in the movie Magnolia, particularly the part with Jason Robards, that put me off that kind of thing, though I have to admit Flight of the Conchords put it to good use for their song "Hurt Feelings."

—Posted by Todd Wasserman



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