Cardboard shelters get a lot fancier in homelessness installation

By Todd Wasserman on Wed Nov 10 2010


Those watching this year's Veteran's Day Parade in New York City will see a curious sight: a fully furnished apartment made of cardboard at the parade's end point on Fifth Avenue between 58th and 60th Streets. What gives? A program developed by JWT with Rubenstein Associates, a PR class from New York University and two teams of students from the Fashion Institute of Technology aims to draw donations to a New York non-profit called Services for the UnderServed (SUS). The idea is that potential donors can see items like microwaves, beds and lamps that help homeless people get back on their feet through the program. Direct donations to the organization can be made online through Anyone can make a $10 donation via mobile phone by texting "SUS" to 20222.

What not to feed your kids if you're worried about lead poisoning

Posted on Wed Apr 21 2010

Eek, don't drink the milk! (OK, sorry. We overreacted.) But you can't blame us after watching this spot, created pro bono by Merkley + Partners for the Ad Council and its partners (i.e., The Coalition to End Childhood Lead Poisoning, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development). The organizations this week launched an ad campaign to raise awareness of lead poisoning. One spot (yes, the one that had us all worked up) opens with what appears to yummy, delicious, refreshing cold milk pouring into a baby's bottle, as a soft, nursery/crib chime plays in the background. But the surprise comes when the camera zooms upward to reveal the real source. "Lead paint poisoning affects over 1 million children today," the voiceover says matter of factly. If your house was built before 1978, we urge you to get it checked out!

—Posted by Elaine Wong

Fight arthritis by acting strangely in public, says Y&R campaign

Posted on Tue Feb 9 2010

The people in this ad are not crazy. Nor have they been possessed by Michael Jackson. They're demonstrating that "moving is the best medicine," in a campaign created pro bono by Young & Rubicam, New York, for the Ad Council and the Arthritis Foundation. America, you see, needs to get itself off the couch and start groovin', lest osteoarthritis (yikes!) sets in. The effort includes TV, radio, print, outdoor and online media, including a dedicated Web site, In case that's not enough to get you moving, here are some stats: One in five U.S. adults, or 46 million people, have arthritis. An estimated 67 million will probably have it by 2030. And arthritis is the nation's No. 1 cause of disability. BrandFreak, for one, is grateful for those early-morning runs and cartwheel and backflip sessions. Let's do a split right now!

—Posted by Elaine Wong

Texas men turn into bubbly cheerleaders for drunk-driving PSA

Posted on Tue Feb 9 2010

The Texas Department of Transportation is redefining gender roles in this new ad, which aired in major Texas cities before the Super Bowl on Sunday. The ad shows a bunch of guys watching a game in a sports bar. There's a touchdown, and they jump up in celebration. That's when things get weird. The men break into a cheer that you would expect from a group of blonde cheerleaders in short skirts (sorry for the stereotype!). I'm not saying men can't, or shouldn't, cheer. But when one guy wiggles his behind and another gestures in a feminine manner, you know the makers of this ad weren't trying to make it manly. The message, however, is far from comical, and has to do with drinking and driving. The male cheerleaders tell sports fans to take a cab or ask a sober friend for a lift home. "It's not whether you win or lose, it's how you get home," says the voiceover. Drunk-driving ads tend to be grim and even disturbingly graphic at times, so it's refreshing to see the Texas DOT try something new. Whether viewers will take the message seriously is a different story.

—Posted by Elena Malykhina

Kids won't just laugh off the latest anti-drug PSAs. Or will they?

Posted on Mon Nov 30 2009

The problem with ads aimed at getting kids to avoid drugs is that they can be so easy to ridicule. Think "This is your brain on drugs," or "I learned it by watching you!" Both of those became punch lines with Gen Xers. (And didn't that dad set himself up by asking, "Who taught you how to do this?" Duh.) This latest work from Ground Zero on behalf of the Partnership for a Drug Free America shows how much advertising has evolved since then. Instead of dramatized situations, this is cinéma vérité type stuff. Maybe it helps that the Web has created a new kind of real-time vérité (as exploited by the hit film Paranormal Activity), but ads like "Party at Troy's," shown here, with teens passing out and puking in the bathroom, look pretty real to me (though admittedly, it's been a while since I've attended a party like this). It would seem hard for teens to create an ironic distance between themselves and this sort of PSA. But maybe I'm wrong and this is hilarious stuff to a 15-year-old. I didn't get Napoleon Dynamite, either.

—Posted by Todd Wasserman

KFC closing some restaurants in unusual hunger-relief campaign

Posted on Tue Sep 29 2009

KFC customers in Louisville, Ky., experienced an odd occurrence at lunchtime today. When they went to get their fried-chicken fix, they found that KFC was closed. Did it have to do with a health-code violation or something equally ominous? Actually, quite the opposite. To support World Hunger Relief, KFC is closing several restaurants through the month of October and converting them into "World Hunger Relief Kitchens." Employees from these locations will be serving free Kentucky Grilled Chicken at local food pantries. "The store closings are aimed not only to feed the hungry today but also to raise awareness for an ongoing World Hunger Relief fundraising initiative for the remainder of the month," said the company in a statement. It will also be collecting donations throughout the month, and Christina Aguilera is helping out with the 60-second PSA posted above.

—Posted by Kenneth Hein

HHS swine-flu PSA competition could really, really use your help

Posted on Mon Aug 17 2009

Say, aren't there a ton of unemployed copywriters and art directors out there? Maybe they didn't get the memo from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, or it could be that $2,500 in cash doesn't seem like much of a prize for coming up with a winning PSA about swine flu. But this contest sure could use the professional touch. The rules are simple enough: create a 15- or 30-second spot on how to prevent the spread of swine flu. (The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said recently that 20-40 percent of Americans could catch the H1N1 virus over the next two years.) According to the HHS YouTube channel, there are 157 entries so far. And wading through them was, going out of a limb here, more painful than the dreaded illness. My head hurts! Never have I seen a more motley assortment of videos, where everybody seems to have taken a page from the Cloverfield school of auteur-ism. Among the lowlights: some guys use the time to promote their band and, oh yeah, hand washing; one youngster mixes lines from an Abilify depression ad while striking poses fit for a Calvin Klein campaign; and countless parents obviously think this could be their kids' big break. But there's still time, budding filmmakers and anyone who can hold a camera straight. Deadline's midnight tonight. Judging begins tomorrow.

—Posted by T.L. Stanley

Swine-flu cottage industry adds new video game, care packages

Posted on Mon Aug 17 2009

Swine flu is the virus that keeps on giving, and is now the subject of a video game, PSAs and gift baskets. Dutch researchers have developed a free game, at, designed to give players an idea of how hard it is to control a pandemic. The game's description says it includes a running tally of the numbers of people infected and dead. "Newspaper stories about the deadly virus and the global response to it—like riots breaking out worldwide—pop up to help players monitor the outbreak." One person who may not find the game that entertaining is the actor from the U.K. Department of Health PSA for swine flu who actually contracted the virus. Those who are concerned about his well-being can send him the Get Well Soon Swine Flu Gourmet Hamper, courtesy of Real Food Direct in England. It includes potato chips, truffles and other snacks. I smell a line of Hallmark greeting cards on the horizon.

—Posted by Kenneth Hein

Beyonce wants to feed the hungry, preferably Hamburger Helper

Posted on Thu Jul 2 2009

Kudos to General Mills' Hamburger Helper for attracting Beyonce as its campaign helper-outter. (Since when did the former Destiny's Child lead singer eat the stuff?) This spot shows the R&B singer promoting boxes of the good stuff as part of General Mills' "Show Your Helping Hand" campaign, which donates food to hunger-fighting charity Feeding America. Consumers can also donate shelf-stable goods at her performances. But we have yet to catch her actually taking a bite.

—Posted by Elaine Wong

Smokey Bear, 65, can still kick your irresponsible, oblivious ass

Posted on Wed Jul 1 2009

Smokey Bear turns 65 this year, and to celebrate the beloved forest-fire-prevention mascot reaching retirement age, the Ad Council, the U.S. Forest Service and the National Association of State Foresters are running a slew of new PSAs on TV and online. Several spots by Draftfcb show a CGI Smokey teaching people better habits around forests. (They've posted some classic ads online, like this one with Smokey impersonating a sexy woman.) Since his introduction in 1944, Smokey has been credited with helping to reduce the number of acres burned annually by wildfires from 22 million to 7 million. Also, three out of four adults can instantly recall Smokey's favorite phrase, "Only you can prevent wildfires." Still, wildfires remain a problem, and this longtime trooper won't be retiring anytime soon.

—Posted by Elaine Wong



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