Freak Week: Going for the Kill

Headshot of Tim Nudd

If they’ve been told once, they’ve been told a hundred times: Suicide is not a great theme for advertising. Yet marketers still go there. Last week, it was a jeweler called R.F. Moeller that ran a print ad in a Minneapolis paper showing a guy pointing a gun to his head because he dropped too much coin on diamonds at a competitor. Readers swiftly turned the gun on the advertiser, flooding its Facebook page with angry feedback. James F. Moeller soon apologized, saying the ad was “not funny and was in extremely poor taste.” But the more heartfelt mea culpa came from the creative, T.D. Mischke, who’s been doing Moeller’s ads for 20 years. “If there is any irony here at all,” he wrote, “it’s that the creator of the ad is a man who’s been hospitalized more than once with severe depression and has had family members attempt suicide on more than one occasion. I’m not sure why I’m made in such a way that ads like this can seem relatively harmless to me while being horribly offensive to others, but the fact is that’s the reality.”

Speaking of totally offensive, a British phone-management company last week took heat for its own ill — advised advertisement — likely the first b-to-b ad in history to feature a blatant reference to sodomy. In the ad, Re-Tell illustrates its ability to keep hackers out of business phone systems by showing a woman wrapped in chains with an “Access Denied” sign on her bottom. Classy! The company offered up a lukewarm defense of the ad, saying three of its female employees were OK with it, but the Advertising Standards Authority banned it on the grounds that it could cause “serious offense.”

Continuing the theme of ill-advised visuals, we move to Canada, where an environmental group rolled out an ad suggesting that people who leave their cars idling are essentially pissing on Mother Nature. So, of course, they actually show people urinating in public. On her personal blog, the producer said she was spurred to action by a neighbor who “drives me crazy as he runs his diesel-fueled GMC extended van every morning for 20 minutes no matter what the weather. We’ve had a few delightful confrontations, which usually end with him yelling: ‘You, woman, go in house. I do what I want!'” So, now she has her revenge, and makes everyone else suffer in the process.

Lastly, we did come across an ad last week whose violent tactics seemed justified: Blendtec’s latest “Will It Blend?” video, with the victim being none other than the Apple iPad. The “Will It Blend?” series has achieved cult status, as Blendtec’s founder (and chief tester) Tom Dickson tests his heavy-duty blenders on all sorts of non-food items. It was cathartic, after all the incessant iPad buzz, to see Dickson pulverize the trendy gadget. Now, who’s going to develop some cool apps for the Blendtec?

Best of BrandFreak: KFC’s new sandwich frightens millions

AdFreak’s sister blog last week took a close look (too close, probably) at KFC’s new Double Down chicken sandwich. It’s been a long time since a fast-food product rollout was met with such collective disgust. “The vilest food product created by man,” says Treehugger. “Angina on a plate,” adds the Fort Worth Weekly. “Starts killing people nationwide April 12,” announces Consumerist. What is it, exactly? It’s bacon and cheese sandwiched between two pieces of fried chicken. No bread, just impending doom. We can imagine what this thing does to your insides, but what does it do for KFC? Well, it’s complicated. On the one hand, the chain is getting roasted for creating something so unhealthy in an age when we’re supposed to be fighting obesity, or at least pretending to. On the other hand, the product’s sheer grossness earns it invaluable amounts of media coverage, not to mention a cult following. One blogger who got his hands on a Double Down early compared its greatness to “the birth of your first child.” Just don’t let that child near it.

@nudd Tim Nudd is a former creative editor of Adweek.
Publish date: April 11, 2010 © 2020 Adweek, LLC. - All Rights Reserved and NOT FOR REPRINT