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Breaking News in Advertising, Media and Technology

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    We've written here and there about prankvertising and the joy marketers seem to derive from scaring the crap out of people in public places. This video eclipses them all, though, for the sheer bluntness of its fear factor. Perhaps not surprisingly, the #PubLooShocker campaign is a drunk-driving PSA—which means all bets are off when it comes to any kind of restraint. Hope Leo Burnett had a plan for cardiac arrests.

    We've written about the advertiser, British road-safety campaign Think!, many times before. It's almost always horror-movie stuff. Have a look back at the notorious Damien spot, as well as this famous bartender ad, which actually features some stunning acting.

    Via Unruly Media.

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    The curmudgeonly mug of Tardar Sauce, the Internet sensation known informally as Grumpy Cat, has been spotted on an outdoor board promoting a dry prom in Elizabeth, Pa. A picture of the board greatly pleased Reddit, the original source of Tardar's fame. The ad is one of a kind and was paid for by Elizabeth Forward High School, which held a design competition for students and chose four winning boards. JT DeMarco, a junior, created the Grumpy Cat design with some great concepting and a poor grasp of copyright law. DeMarco told the local news,"I think it does work because it's something that's really popular that a lot of kids see, so they kind of can relate to it." Luckily, it doesn't seem like Tardar's owners have seen it. Or maybe they're just not grumpy enough to sue.

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    Forgetting that a lot of improv comedy stinks, ad agency 18 Feet & Rising is partnering with British improv troupe Mischief Theatre to produce a live ad that will air on U.K. Comedy Central on the evening of June 17. The idea is simple: With no advance preparation, the Mischief players will get three minutes to improvise an ad live on the air for a product selected without their knowledge beforehand. Three-minute-long ads are too much when the material is written out ahead of time, but I have to admire Mischief's willingness to take this project on. Pulling a legitimate commercial—even a bad one—out of thin air is no easy task, although it's probably more pleasant than soliciting topics from a typical improv comedy audience.

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    Let the games begin!

    Sony and Microsoft stormed Adweek and YouTube's Ads Leaderboard in May as both companies introduced their next-gen gaming consoles—the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One—in teaser videos. Both of those clips made the top five this month. But they were eclipsed by a teaser for an actual video game, which took the top spot.

    Elsewhere on this month's list, Old Spice nailed down two spots in the top 10 for the second straight month. And Kmart followed up April's enormously successful "Ship My Pants" ad with "Big Gas Savings," which reached less stratospheric but still respectable levels.

    Audi of America placed high on this month's list with its hilarious spot starring Leonard Nimoy and Zachary Quinto. And Cruzan Rum also snuck in with its amusing take on laid-back island life.

    The view counts, which fell back significantly from their record levels in April, are as of June 5. To be eligible for the YouTube Ads Leaderboard, videos must be marked as ads on YouTube (i.e., they get some paid views) but must also earn significant organic views. See all 10 spots at the link below.

    Video Gallery: YouTube's 10 Most-Watched Ads in May

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    A McDonald's campaign that's so playful and pleasing that you want to watch it again and again? This is not happening! This is not happening! I figured I'd be snug in my grave, providing a happy meal for worms, before I'd ever have to write a glowing review of this company's advertising. And yet here I am, impressed by the savvy approach New York shop Translation takes in its "Think with your mouth" videos for the Big Mac.

    These eight short clips employ different styles of music and animation to great effect. They riff on enough familiar pop-culture themes and memes to delight, or at least intrigue, viewers of all ages, yet seem fresh and innovative in their own right.

    In "Dreams," a Big Mac glides over canyons, perhaps through time and space, to hang out with chanting, disembodied heads high above planet Earth. "Mouthopia" finds the sandwich resting on a bucolic hill as birds chirp and coo and friendly dinosaur-creatures stop by for a visit. Mac's the guest of honor in "Mouth Soirée," as glitter flies, shiny balloons bounce and funky dance beats reverberate. "Instructions" is the simplest of all, advising us to put the Big Mac in our mouths as the camera lingers on the sandwich and a happy-happy bubble-gum-type chorus sings in the background. Those are my personal favorites, but all the clips are pretty satisfying.

    A key to their success is the lack of overt "yum-yum" moments or calls to action. None are needed. This is the Big Mac, itself iconic, and placing the meaty mainstay at the center of such sensory hijinks is all the sales pitch you need.

    Each spot can stand on its own—but they work best as a unit, viewed in no particular order. The overall impact is giddy, trippy, both retro and futuristic—as if the psychedelic journey in 2001: A Space Odyssey led not to the farthest reaches of the mysterious cosmos but to the local Mickey D's, where a tasty treat awaits. Damn you, McDonald's, I'm likin' it!

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    IBM's technology is helping cities get smarter in innumerable ways. Now, its outdoor advertising is doing the same—by making simple little improvements to the landscape. A triad of outdoor ads from Ogilvy France function as a bench, a shelter and a ramp over stairs. Sure, they're small gestures mostly intended to have a wow factor online. But they nicely embody the brand promise, and represent just a starting point—urging passersby and the online audience both to visit people4smartercities.com and submit their own, presumably larger ideas for civic upgrades. More ads, a video and credits below.

    Client: IBM
    Agency: Ogilvy & Mather France
    Chief Creative Officer: Chris Garbutt
    Executive Creative Director: Susan Westre
    Art Director: Daniel Diego Lincoln
    Copywriters: Lauren Elkins, Andrew Mellen
    Concept: Daniel Diego Lincoln, Stephane Santana
    Photographer: Bruno Bicalho Carvalhaes
    Agency Supervisors: Muriel Benitah, Mary McFarland

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    In an attempt to become relevant again, BlackBerry is jumping into the movie business—though shorter than feature length. Two days after wrapping Sin City 2, awe-inspiring film director Robert Rodriguez (also known for Spy Kids, Desperado and From Dusk Till Dawn) partnered with BlackBerry to direct the short film Two Scoops as a part of BlackBerry's "Keep Moving" project.

    Two Scoops was written, produced and shot by Rodriguez, but three scenes were left incomplete. Fans of Rodriguez (and presumably of BlackBerry) could then help complete the story by tweeting ideas, submitting SFX ideas and conceptualizing weapons/props to be incorporated into the final film.

    As it turns out, the completed film is just what one might expect from the eccentric Rodriguez—featuring a strange, futuristic, monster-filled world with massive toy-like weapons and scantily clad twins in search for their missing father. Oh, and a splash of that slightly awkward Spanish comedy. Like all Rodriguez films, things are not as they seem.

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    No one feels sorry for Jeff Lewis, and most everybody wants to see Padma Lakshmi in a soaking-wet cocktail dress. These and other truisms come through in Bravo's just-launched summer 2013 commercial, with the backdrop styled to look like a deserted tropical island. It's actually green screen, shot in winter in New York, so there were no real waves or sharks and, with lots of Real Housewives on hand, few real body parts. But lo and behold, James Lipton gets his second-in-a-row cameo, cementing his unlikely Bravolebrity status amid all the gold diggers and social climbers.

    And speaking of prostitution, the ever-droll Lewis says in the behind-the-scenes footage that he feels "no better than a common street whore" for having participated in the spot. Chin up, Jeff. Many of your cable cohorts have done plenty worse than take a bucket of water in the face in the name of self-promotion.

    The campaign, with new videos expected in the coming months, is the fourth consecutive summer-pegged Bravo work from L.A.-based Stun Creative. It hypes Top Chef Masters, Princesses: Long Island, Don't Be Tardy, Watch What Happens Live and other series in the cable channel's trashy universe. Will.i.am and Miley Cyrus, already gunning for "song of the summer" status with "Fall Down," provide the danceable soundtrack. And there's a Giggy appearance, so that's always good.

    Second spot after the jump, with James Lipton playing cards with a monkey!

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    It was probably just a matter of time before Whit Hiler and Michael Dubin worked together. Hiler—the ass-kicking Kentucky adman, flier-making crazy person and mastermind of Beardvertising—has lured Dubin's Dollar Shave Club right into his sneaky trap. Yes, Dollar Shave Club, known for its own wacky marketing, has signed up for a Beardvertising program, in which 25 hairy dudes across the country will soon have tiny Dollar Shave Club billboards clipped to their beards. "We're excited to be building our business of beardlessness with these badass, bushy Beardboards," Dubin says in a statement. Hiler tells AdFreak: "For brands interested in joining A&W Restaurants and Dollar Shave Club in some hot and hairy 'Beardvertising' action, we've got over 1,400 eager guys ready and willing to place little advertisements in their epic beards." More photos below.

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    Everyone is raving about NeverWet, a spray-on waterproof coating that Rust-Oleum is manufacturing and distributing in North America in return for royalty payments. I didn't get what all the fuss was about, but then I saw the product demonstration video below. And, uh, holy crap. If any of this is legit, then NeverWet isn't so much hydrophobic as it is an ancient voodoo curse against liquids. Now if only they could rename it something that people could ask for in stores without blushing.

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    Australian yuppie hipsters … crikey, who better to pitch cars in Kia commercials? The answer appears to be anyone, judging by the pervasive negative reactions to the automaker's "Man of Now"/"Woman of Now" spots from ad agency Innocean. The spots popped up Down Under in January and were panned by pundits at the time, but they're just now gaining global traction (and fresh abuse) following recent airings during Wimbledon coverage on Australia's Channel 7. The Guardian, among others, asks if these might be the most irritating ads ever made, and warns viewers, "Once you've seen the spots, you can't unsee them, so be careful what you click for."

    Each ad follows its subject through bustling city streets as the Man and Woman hurry to reach their Kias, extolling their own "virtues" in rapid-fire, brand-building beat poetry from hell. The "Man of Now" informs us: "I push the envelope, push a button, push a pram … push 'em real good. I wear the pants, I wear aftershave, I wear the blame … and I wear it well." Wow, I wonder how many roommates he goes through in a year. The "Woman of Now" confides: "I'm texting, typing, LOL-ing, OMG-ing, I'm digitally in touch, but not retouched. I'm a storytelling, canteen-helping, fundraising, muffin-making, party-going yoga lover." Hey, aren't we all these days?

    This stuff's easy to criticize as smug nonsense. Yet, I'm not in the hater camp. Though it's largely unintentional (I think), the commercials actually do a fine job of both reflecting and skewering cultural modernism and revealing the shallow stereotypes that some self-styled "men and of women of now" have become. Viewed thusly, these ads are a hoot—irritating, yes, but also strangely compelling as warped signposts of the times we live in. (There's an ironic bit in both spots where the Man and Woman briefly bump into each other, but they're too self-absorbed to break their stride, too focused on their personal manifestos to really see the world around them.)

    Kia has been a good sport, with a rep explaining that the campaign mirrors "the modern lifestyle—it's a metaphor," and adding, "Some people don't get it. You can't please everybody." The automaker even embraced a parody from Priceless Productions, which features a beefy rugby hooligan type who brags, "I spent $20 on my mum for Christmas. My haircut cost $80. I'm international, I'm interconnected, I'm interrupting people all the time because everything I say is f---ing hilarious." Good on ya! Now, go drop-kick a giant hamster, mate! ("We think it's great," Kia said of the spoof.)

    In fact, the real spots play like parodies, and while that presumably isn't what Kia intended, they're generating commentary and heightened awareness without being offensive—and they're poised to go viral. That surely beats driving into instant obscurity, which is the road most car commercials take, after all.

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    Those still annoyed by Roxy's sexualized portrayal of a woman athlete will enjoy this more kick-ass 30-second spot for espnW. The first brand promo for the ESPN property, it broke Tuesday night during the premiere of the film Pat XO, part of the network's Nine for IX series. The spot, from creative agency 77 Ventures, was directed by filmmaker Raama Mosley and edited by Therapy Studio's Kristin McCasey. The original soundtrack was written and performed by Greta Gaines exclusively for espnW. Among the athletes featured are Serena Williams, Brittney Griner, Abby Wambach, Alex Morgan, Heather O’Reilly, Shannon Boxx, Sara Errani and Elena Delle Donne.

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    Witness the cautionary prankvertising in this viral spot for a Belgian bank warning you not to give out financial information online. Recounting more than just a simple case of credit-card fraud, the video shows how one truly creepy guy befriends an ordinary Belgian dude on Facebook—who was stupid enough to give out his deets in response to a phishing email—and tries to steal his life. Not content to post hilarious or insulting messages on the poor guy's hacked Facebook page, creepy bank rep has facial prosthetics made so he looks exactly like his victim, and starts posting pictures that the guy's wife probably won't find too funny. Then the doppelgänger orders an antique harp, has it delivered and signs for it, eventually appearing face to face with our our woebegotten protagonist to serious freak the crap out of him. Duval Guillaume Modem, the same agency that was behind "A Dramatic Surprise on a Quiet Square," brings the whole thing to life in a chilling way. Those who heed the warning can check out tips at safeinternetbanking.be to make sure they don't become the subject of the next freakishly disturbing identity theft.

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    Undeniably stupid, but worth banning? That was the tough call facing Britain's ad watchdog as it dealt with 176 complaints over the spot below, for soft drink Irn-Bru. The plot, such as it is, involves a mom proudly showing off her push-up bra to her son's friends—much to the acute embarrassment of the son, and the slack-jawed awe of the friends. The soft drink is positioned, also stupidly, as an antidote to the embarrassment. Each time the kid takes a swig, he becomes blissfully mellow again despite his dire circumstances.

    The Ad Standard Authority's ruling? It cleared the spot on all grounds, saying the interaction between the mom and the friends did not constitute irresponsible behavior. "We considered that the action relied on the mum being confident and attractive, but not consciously or overtly behaving in a sexualized or flirtatious way," the ASA said. "We also considered that the focus of the ads was the son's embarrassment at the effect his mum's appearance was having on his friends. Therefore, and particularly in the context of ads intended to portray a surreal and lighthearted comedic approach, we did not consider that the action or depiction of the female protagonist was sexist or demeaning and concluded that the ads were not in breach of the code."

    For its part, Irn-Bru maker AG Barr said it simply wanted the ad, created by The Leith Agency in Edinburgh, to "stay true to the traditionally cheeky and irreverent sense of humor" of its previous ads.

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    The stats suggest you've probably watched this already, but here it is again—the official gameplay video for Rockstar's Grand Theft Auto V, coming Sept. 17. Gaming spots often blow up quickly online, but the engagement with this one since its release on Tuesday is staggering—7 million views already, and more than 230,000 shares, according to Unruly Media. It's an interesting spot, too, with a woman's voice narrating as we get a comprehensive look at the fully revamped game, which includes three lead characters, a more fully realized Southern California landscape, and a dual-environment structure that lets you toggle between heists and open-world exploration. The trailer is the perfect mix of informative and exciting. And the game quite simply looks badass.

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    When I left Uganda, it was in the middle of the night," says Denis, the newly minted Pennsylvanian in "The Impossible Family Portrait," perhaps the most effective spot in Pereira & O'Dell's series of three new ads for Skype, which is tapping directly into what makes the brand so important to so many people.

    It's interesting—advertisers tend to eschew the first-generation immigrant experience because it can be controversial both politically and among people who inevitably feel misrepresented. But Skype is wise enough to recognize and embrace its role as the lifeblood of intercontinental families (full disclosure: including mine), and so the immigrant experience becomes hugely important. Kudos to these guys for having the guts to go with that.

    "The Animal Family Portrait" is loads of fun in a totally different way. Here, it's about adorable quadrupeds rather than emotional bipeds. So, it's a more upbeat take ("This is what happens when Americans raise 'roos!"), but the point is essentially the same: Skype allows for a connection deeper than wires and lenses. It's dangerous to tell people that your product has a spiritual dimension, but the agency and the directors, Gregory Mitnick and Nat Livingston Johnson, make the point delicately and well.

    The final spot in the trio is "The Growing Up Family Portrait," and it's the least effective, possibly because the stakes seem a lot lower (and possibly because people in Los Angeles are intrinsically unsympathetic. It's true—leave the TMZ and you're suddenly a person again), but it's still cute.

    Client: Skype

    Agency: Pereira & O'Dell, San Francisco
    Chief Creative Officer: P.J. Pereira
    Executive Creative Director: Jaime Robinson
    Creative Director: Jonathan Woytek
    Senior Art Directors: Tim Delger, Brett Beaty
    Senior Copywriter: Katie Brinkworth
    Art Director: Arnau Bosch
    Copywriter: Chris Ryan
    Designer: Leila Moussaoui
    Vice President, Client Services: Gary Theut
    Account Director: Ivy Truong
    Account Supervisor: Ali Forgeron
    Assistant Account Executive: Kelsey Towbis
    Project Manager: Katie Shesgreen
    Vice President, Strategy: Nick Chapman
    Vice President, Media Strategy: Joshua Brandau
    Strategy Director: Justin Cox
    Associate Strategy Director: Jasmine Summerset
    Media Strategist: Liz Wood
    Vice President, Production: Jeff Ferro
    Senior Integrated Producers: Erin Davis, Victoria Whitlow
    Senior Broadcast Producer: Elisa Moore
    Interactive Producer: Kathy Zembera
    Print Producer: James Sablan
    Producer: Bill Spangler
    Business Affairs Manager: Xandra Ess

    Production Company: Station Film
    Directors (Peking): Gregory Mitnick, Nat Livingston Johnson
    Executive Producer: Caroline Gibney
    Producer: Sarah McMurray
    Artist: John Clang
    Crew: Eric Axene, Shadi Best, James Burger, Anne Curran Conrad, Travis Drennen, Tonya Martin, Sean Moser, Ryan Moriaty, Mario Sanchez, Elin Tew

    Editorial Company: Umlaut Films
    Editor: Jessica Congdon
    Assistant Editors: Peter Geiger, Michael Pavoni
    Colorist: Ivan Miller
    Executive Producer: Gina Locurio
    Producer: Kelly Gibbs

    "The Impossible Portrait": Original Composition: Human
    "The Animal Family Portrait," "The Growing Up Family Portrait": Original Composition: Future Perfect

    Sound Mixing: One Union Recording
    Sound Mixer: Matt Zipkin
    Executive Producer: Lauren Mask

    Digital Production Company: Uncorked Studios

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    Colle+McVoy has its fishcake and eats it too in a new Times Square ad campaign urging people to get the hell out of New York already … and go fishing. The Minneapolis agency is kicking off the summer season for the Recreational Boating & Fishing Foundation (RBFF) with a digital billboard urging passersby to "Get away from all of this"—as arrows point to the urban hell all around the sign. (It is indeed a tempting suggestion.) The next screen promotes TakeMeFishing.org, the RBFF's boating and fishing resource. The campaign will not heed its own advice, however—it will remain in Times Square all summer long.

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    It's an image that was nearly too hot for Los Angeles, a town that regularly sees bare bums and lithe bodies in various states of undress along its famous streets and highways. But after some wrangling with ad sellers, and the threat of a ban, Lifetime will be able to launch its risqué billboard in L.A. after all to promote the 12th season of Project Runway.

    The ad, from agency Ignition Print in Santa Monica, Calif., shows Heidi Klum and Tim Gunn lording over a bunch of nude models. The same image, by the way, got a swift and unconditional OK in New York, where it's debuting Wednesday on hundreds of bus shelters, kiosks, newsstands and other high-visibility spots. Guess the Nanny State of Bloomberg doesn't extend to public displays of flesh. The cable network, which wouldn't comment on the flap but said privately that it didn't want to scrap the campaign, had planned to make adjustments via Photoshop for L.A. But now, the image, sans added clothing, will appear in a single spot in L.A.—above the storied Sunset Strip, where no one impressionable ever goes.

    If the models had had Glocks in their hands like all the one-sheets for Hollywood action flicks, this would've been a non-issue to start with. The series, which has used suggestive advertising with the smokin' hot Klum many times in the past, returns July 18.

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    Who Partners and executive creative directors Ian Cohen (l.), Cal McAllister
    What Ad agency
    Where Seattle offices

    Wexley’s crazy name, perhaps the oddest in the business, is a point of pride for this 10-year-old agency—evidence, it says, of an ability to start a conversation at every turn. Neither a school nor exclusively female, Wexley thinks of itself as a “fan factory” that creates passionate fan bases around brands, much as sports teams do. No surprise, then, that a major client is the Seattle Sounders soccer team. Other clients include Copper Mountain, Rainier Beer, Ford, Sephora and Microsoft, for which Wexley built the world’s largest cellphone in New York’s Herald Square last year. With a name like Wexley, the work has to be good—and much of it is. 

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    Re-enter the dragon? Johnnie Walker and BBH resurrect Bruce Lee via CGI technology (and footage of lookalike actor Danny Chan) for this boring Chinese commercial. The spot, approved by Lee's daughter Shannon, has proven predictably polarizing. Some critics trot out the old objection that showing dead stars in ads is in poor taste, while others claim the memory of Lee—a paragon of physical fitness and athleticism before his death 40 years ago this month, at age 32—is somehow tarnished by his doppelgänger pitching whisky.

    The bigger problem is that the ad is dull, something its inspiration never was. Fake Lee walks around a Hong Kong balcony, runs a hand through some water in a pool and mouths lines like, "Dragons never die, because dragons draw power from water. Water. It's like instincts … You cannot grasp hold of it. But let it flow and it has the power to change the world." Dude, drop-kick the faux-losophy … you're supposed to be Bruce Freakin' Lee! The guy was a human CGI machine who routinely defied gravity with furiously elegant fighting moves he choreographed himself. How can you bring him back and not put him in motion—shirtless, freaky, fists-and-feet-flying motion!?

    Heck, they should have shown CGI Bruce battling barehanded against Undead Audrey Hepburn—or at least something more groovy than what's on display here. Far from being disrespectful, I believe a highly physical, even frenetic approach would have honored Lee and captured the essence of the man. Bruce Lee was a mischievous badass who reveled in his sensational stunts and brought a transcendent sense of subversive fun to his movies. His violent yet controlled release of kinetic energy forged his connection with audiences around the world. Flying through the air while screaming at the top of his lungs was his defining spiritual statement. Instead, the spirits brand pours us prattle about being a ... "game changer"?! Bruce would have demanded such jargon expunged from his film scripts and employed his unshod feet to smack the silly screenwriters upside their heads.

    Sadly, the ad fails because Lee is present in body—sort of—but not in spirit.


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