Monday, May 31, 2010

This might be the funniest thing PETA has ever done

No shock. No naked women. Just Cloris Leachman and a bunch of condoms:

The 84-year-old comedic actress struggles with condom packaging, swears at the camera, and generally has a great old time conveying the message that it's best to adopt spayed and neutered pets from the pound.

Interestingly (or, more likely, deliberately) that's actually the blooper real of the "official" (and much less funny) PSA produced and released simultaneously online.

Cheers, PETA. Please let this be the start of a new brand.

UPDATE: Commenters below have pointed out that the offhand blooper about adopting a dog on your way home is way off message for animal welfare as it seems to encourage impulsive adoptions. I have to agree. So I changed the headline.

Friday, May 28, 2010

A viral so stupid it just might work

From San Francisco SPCA:

I mean, seriously. What does it take to get a YouTube video off the ground these days? As earned media exposure, it either has to be timely, sexy, emotional, shocking, passionate... or just unflinchingly dumb. And it needs cats. Lots of cats. I'll leave the rest of the analysis up to you.

Let's just hope Lady Gaga is amused.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

"Mamma drinks, baby drinks"

That's what this Italian ad (via the Telegraph) says to le donne incinte of the northeast region of Veneto.

According to news site Cronica (article is in Italian), 1 in 100 babies in Europe are born with some sort of fetal alcohol effects. However, it also states that 60% — 65%, according to the Telegraph — of Italian women consume some alcohol during pregnancy!

The advertiser is "Unita' Locale Socio Sanitaria N. 9" (Local Health Unit #9) in Treviso. Their site has an ad with body copy:

It says: "Drinking alcohol during pregnancy and nursing can damage the physical and mental development of your baby" and it leads to a campaign site,

The Telegraph reports that critics complain the campaign — which appears on buses, billboards and in women’s restrooms — is in very poor taste. Even the governor of the Veneto region, Luca Zaia, said it ran the risk of giving a “distorted image of women and in particular expecting mothers.” Italian media in general are calling it a "shock campaign".

It reminds me of the smoking fetus ads of the '80s.

What do you think? Fetal Alcohol Syndrome is a tragedy for affected children. Many international health authorities, including Health Canada, recommend no alcohol intake whatsoever during pregnancy, because a safe minimum consumption has never been established.

Some authorities, such as the UK's Department of Health, are a little less extreme:

"As a general rule, pregnant women or women trying to conceive should avoid drinking alcohol. If they do choose to drink, to protect the baby they should not drink more than 1 to 2 units of alcohol once or twice a week and should not get drunk."

I would never recommend to anyone that they drink during pregnancy, because it is an additional risk factor (like eating sushi). However, I have to admit that my wife, and a few of our peers had the occasional glass of wine while pregnant. And this is why shock is a bad idea for this issue. I think this Italian campaign makes the mistake of trying to scare women into compliance with a "zero tolerance" message. Especially in a culture where moderate daily alcohol consumption is considered a quality of life issue.

Like shame-based ads that tell young people not to drink or do drugs, they overstate the case and risk having an opposite effect. After all, when 60-65% of their pregnant peers are drinking regularly and only 1% have babies with symptoms, will some tune out the ads and just assume their public health authority is full of merda?

All things considered, they might have been better off with a positive message of "the less you drink, the better."

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Child abuse ads too hardcore for soft rock

"I want to talk to you about a subject many people try to ignore - child sexual abuse.

Each year in Pennsylvania thousands of children are sexually abused and most cases are never reported.

Without help these children may have a lifetime of mental health issues.

But there is hope - you. If you believe a child is being sexually abused, please visit or call 1-887-874-HERO."

That's the text of a 30-second radio PSA produced by The Pennsylvania Coalition Against Rape (PCAR) that, according to their press release and blog, has been rejected by WBEB 101.1FM in Philadelphia.

To hear the radio spots for yourself, click here.

According to PCAR:

"WBEB's General Manager Blaise Howard offered PCAR space only if it altered the wording to remove the word "rape" from the organization's name and say "child abuse" instead of "child sexual abuse," citing that the station's listeners would be upset by the words that are currently used.

Howard stated to PCAR's executive director that WBEB doesn't take "explicit ads" because they are a "straight laced" company. However, the station does play sexually suggestive music by artists such as Prince, Madonna, Lady GaGa and George Michael."

PCAR Executive Director Delilah Rumburg added:

"Child sexual abuse is not about sexuality. It's about violence to our children. If the station doesn't believe its listeners could handle hearing words about abuse, imagine what child victims of sexual abuse are experiencing."

"We believe that our message is important to Pennsylvanians. All we are trying to do is get information out to the public that there is help and healing for survivors and their families. We don't feel that modifying the language is an acceptable compromise. The station is asking us to censor information that could actually help their listeners. Their decision is appalling and perpetuates the veil of silence that continues to hurt victims in need of help."

I can understand parents having concern about their young children hearing these messages (my 5-year-old son runs away and hides when ads about abuse or child poverty come on Discovery Channel) but this is an adult-oriented radio station. If any good can come from this epic fail on the part of the station, it will be to make even stronger PCAR's point about the need to overcome "polite" denial in the fight to stop child sexual abuse.

PCAR is urging Philadelphia residents to call the station and voice their displeasure with the soft rock radio station and to ask the station to make a substantial donation to their local rape crisis centers. For those of us outside the City of Brotherly Love, perhaps it's worth considering if we would complain to a station that bruised our delicate sensibilities by telling the hard truth about abuse.

There are also TV spots (non-embeddable) available for viewing at the HERO project web site.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Them #@*% kids

When I was at Queen's University, the big issues in student activism were stamping out sexism and racism on campus, environmental damage, sexual violence, raising money for third world causes, censorship, suicide, drug abuse and binge drinking.

If only I had gone to Onondaga Community College, just across the lake in Syracuse, N.Y. Because if spitting, smoking, swearing, littering and double parking are the worst problems the students in this online PSA face, their lives are charmed indeed.

Okay, I'm being a smartass. As reported in USA Today, this "Create Change" campaign was developed by Onondaga's administration as a way to encourage students to take pride in their college and create an atmosphere of positive peer pressure against "habits that suck".

Creatively, the video is too long (5:15) and relies on a very hackneyed editing gimmick. But it was produced by the student drama club, so at least it's authentic peer-to-peer PSA messaging.

To me, it seems like an application of Broken Window Theory. Or it could just be an attempt to instill some old-fashioned manners in the young. Either way, I give it an "A" for good intentions, but I wouldn't bet money on the outcome.

Friday, May 21, 2010

When social ads go bad: #35 in a series

Almost as good as "Online BS in Marketing".


You were warned.

Last November, I blogged about a tough new Canadian Cancer Society campaign that I summed up as "fuck you, cancer!"

Now, there's a fundraising site that conveys the message even more directly:, designed by Vancouver's pacwebco, invites visitors to buy "f— cancer" t-shirts, donate to their educational mission, share the site on social media, or post your own "fuck you" to cancer on their wall — as text, image or video.

Here's mine:

And Mom, I'm sorry for the language. But at least in this case it's well-justified. And it feels pretty good. You should try it.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Why do admen want to save the sharks?

Professional courtesy? No, I think that's the corollary to an old lawyer joke.

British marketing site The Drum reports that this ad ran in yesterday’s edition of The Times:

Created pro-bono by international aqency The Bank for the Save Our Seas foundation, the ad uses a fictional old-school kids' movie poster as a way in to the hearts of those who grew up with Flipper & co.

According to The bank's release, the issue of "finning" — killing sharks just to provide an ingredient for prestigious shark fin soup at traditional Chinese weddings — is an important one to the agency:

In The Times dated 19.05.2010 is an advertisment highlighting this barbaric act.

73 million sharks are killed every year.

In the last 200 years the Hammerhead population has fallen by 99.99%. Other species by 90% since the 1950s.

Many have died to meet the increasing demand for shark fin soup by China's growing middle classes. Their fins are often cut off while they are still alive, and then they are thrown back into the sea to die in agony.

Save Our Seas Foundation is leading over 150 initiatives, such as establishing shark sanctuaries where finning and fishing is illegal, to protect these threatened creatures.

My only concern about this (creatively excellent) campaign is that it doesn't really speak to the people creating a demand for the soup. It will engage outsider activists, but the representation of a blonde child, calling out China, and language like "barbaric" are hardly creating an environment welcoming of culturally-sensitive discussion on the issue.

As I blogged on Osocio earlier this week, Canada has its own movement against the tradition of shark fin soup, but this one is a grassroots action by the Vancouver Chinese community:

Shark Truth is currently running a contest — in Canada and around the world — to incite soon-to-be-married couples to forgo the soup and save our ocean ecosystems.

Here's more info on that from CBC:

Shark Truth on CBC TV from Shark Truth on Vimeo.

Mainstream Western outrage or intra-cultural grassroots, I hope these campaigns can at least have an impact. My son loves sharks.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

A Case of Blondes

These are all over Bank Street this week. I assume they're all over urban Ontario:

Here's a close-up.

Yeah, I get it. The Paris-esque socialite is the wrong blonde to bring to your May 2-4 cottage party. She'll be all "That's Hot!" when you and your buddies are all "Let's play drunken fireworks tag!" And she'll probably complain about the bugs and, by day two, your manly odour.

But this ad also made me wonder if the "blonde" beer jokes have worn out their welcome. For one, they're sexist. For another, they're cliché. And perhaps more alarmingly for a Copywriter, they're based on a pun — the lowest form of ad humour.

But, from my new buddy Hamish's Skinny Blonde in Australia to more subtle brands like Toronto's Natural Blonde, the international beer industry will never be at a loss for blonde jokes.

Let's have a look:

"What's the deal?" some women may ask. The fact is, the association of drinking and sex is pretty hard-wired in the average young man's brain. As Drew Curtis, founder of popular (and sometimes damn funny) news discussion site says in his bio, "Drew likes boobies and beer. That's pretty much it."

It's kind of embarrassing to be such a simple-minded folk,for us men. But despite being unoriginal and possibly offensive, I'll bet this latest blonde joke will be quite effective in driving sales. Among men.

BTW, I consider it no coincidence that my GIS for "blonde beer" turned up as many pictures of Paris Hilton (and soft-core blonde women) as it did of actual beer.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

My other bus is a streetcar

Toronto media planner fail:

For those of you outside of our fair country, Canada's largest city (and advertising epicentre) of Toronto has streetcars. They're rather cute.

However, when creating and placing a national campaign, you may wish to consider that none of the rest of Canada's five largest municipalities has streetcars. (Okay, Vancouver's getting surface light rail, but I'm not sure that counts.)

What's extra-specially sad about this placement, which I shot this morning, is that Ottawa is hosting the Canadian Urban Transit Association's 2010 national conference at the moment.

I wonder how many delegates now wonder why CMA can't tell a streetcar from a bus?

Somebody needs to tell their agency's creative and media teams to get out more.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Waiting on Death Row

Donate Wales and Kidney Wales have teamed up to produce a PSA that compares patients waiting for an organ transplant to death row inmates:

According to Wales Online, the campaign features actual people waiting for transplants, filmed in a real jail cell.

It quotes Chairman of Donate Wales and Kidney Wales Roy J Thomas as proclaiming “Real people have told us that they are on their own personal death row. Actors are for Hollywood movies. I challenge anyone to deny these real fantastic people a proper life.”

The UK has a massive waiting list for organ transplants, and one of the lowest percentage of donors in the developed world. The situation is so bad that the National Health Service considered a proposal to make organ donation "opt-in" rather than "opt-out" for potential lifesavers. But the plan was rejected last year by a panel of experts appointed by the government.

Will this campaign help? One can only hope. Because, in a country that abolished capital punishment in 1969, three people a day shouldn't dead men (and women, and children) walking.

Friday, May 14, 2010

Contextual advertising fail: Real life edition

It's not the most tasteless ad I've ever seen. Perhaps a little creatively lazy, and not exactly sensitive to the feelings of people who have experienced violence.

My issue is that this billboard is attached to the back of Cornerstone / Le Pilier Women's Emergency Shelter in downtown Ottawa.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

We're so vain...

You bet we think this ad is about us. But if I were a creative Big Man like Gerry Graf, David Droga, Tony Granger, Ian Reichenthal or Scott Vitrone, my ego would be well justified.

Copywriter Alec Brownstein pioneered new ground in flattering Creative Directors' egos by purchasing their names on Google Adwords for pennies per click. His pitch: ”Googling yourself is a lot of fun. Hiring me is fun too” with his contact link. Total cost: $6

And guess what? He nailed them performing the search engine version of self-love. Gerry Graf, David Droga, Ian Reichenthal and Scott Vitrone offered him interviews. The latter two hired him at Y&R New York.

The vanity campaign also won him a Clio.

Moral of the story: the most successful creatives have none :)

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Causing trouble south of the border

Here we are up here, trying to make a good impression on the world, and what happens?

These ads:

Oh, Jesus. (And I don't mean "hey-seus".)

I mean, I get the joke. The wrestler one is kind of cute. But up here in Canada, we are so removed from Mexico as anything but a tourist destination and source of tequila that it's easy to see parodies of Mexican culture as harmless fun.

But, down south of our border, where racism against Mexican-Americans is a constant issue, our neighbours in the industry found it a little less amusing.

"BBDO Toronto sez "Real Mexicans" are lazy and dirty, or wrestlers."

- Copyranter

"Canadians Think Real Mexicans Are Lazy and Dirty"

- Adrants

Ouch. One of my colleagues at Acart is from Mexico. So, on behalf of the Canadian ad industry, I'd like to say... sorry, eh?

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

1. Parade in underpants 2. ? 3. Fight cancer

Yesterday, I responded to a Facebook ad to strip down to my underwear for a good cause. (Who wouldn't?) It landed me at The Underwear Affair, a 5-city Canadian fundraising event "to fight cancers below the waist" (prostate, ovarian, and colorectal).

(More pics here)

The event takes place in Calgary, Edmonton, Ottawa, Toronto and Vancouver. Being an Ottawa guy, I clicked on my local link to find out more. It's going on here this year on September 11 (odd choice) and has two events, a 10K run or 5K walk, for participants of all ages. The recipient is the Ottawa Regional Cancer Foundation.

The idea of the event is to be as fun, sexy or silly as possible.

(This one's from the original American version, in L.A.)

The Ottawa launch event, held on Sparks Street, is on YouTube:

As is the (stealth? 17 views?) promo video:

They also have a national Facebook Group and Twitter feed. The main corporate sponsor is Mark's Work Wearhouse.

So, will you get yer gitch on and join the cause? There is certainly no shortage of opportunities to do silly things to fight cancer. This particular one seems to have a lot of support out west, although the Ottawa media uptake seems a little underwhelming so far.

But then again, one should never underestimate the powerful combination of partial nudity and an important cause.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Who's recycling who?

Back in February, I told you about a campaign for the Canadian Urban Transit Association that had been months in the making. If you live in a major Canadian urban area, you've probably seen it in bus shelters around your town:

But, just last week, a coworker sent me a link to this initiative on Ford's site:

Now, I have no idea which concept was conceived, approved, or published first. The fact is, this sort of thing happens all the time. We creatives are not that much different from each other, and when a nice, simple idea presents itself it's hard to ignore it. We try to imagine if we've seen it before. We Google the headlines. But when you come right down to it, coincidences happen.

What makes this one sort of weird is that it is essentially for the same cause — Retire Your Ride — but while one wants you to trade your old car in for a new one, the other (ours) suggests you get a bus pass.

I also think ours is a more elegant solution. But I'm biased.

Friday, May 7, 2010

Make your Mother proud!

Mother's Day is just two days away, and our campaign has been a viral success.

So far, the video has had 4200+ views in less than two weeks, and the French and English Cause groups have almost a thousand do-gooders each. One fan, Paula, has even set up a birthday wish page where she asks that her friends donate to the cause in lieu of birthday gifts.

The launch of the campaign, with Joannie Rochette telling the sad story of how she lost her mother during the Olympics, made international headlines. As a result of our international Blogger Relations, Joannie's campaign has been spotted in blogs in places as far away as Switzerland, Moldova and Korea, as well as in figure skating forums.

The campaign will keep going after Mother's Day, but in the final push of phase one I urge you to donate through the site. You can do it through the Cause page, or direct to the University of Ottawa Heart Institute.

The University of Ottawa Heart Institute is Canada’s largest and foremost cardiovascular health centre dedicated to understanding, treating and preventing heart disease. We deliver high-tech care with a personal touch, shape the way cardiovascular medicine is practiced, and revolutionize cardiac treatment and understanding. We build knowledge through research and translate discoveries into advanced care. We serve the local, national and international community, and are pioneering a new era in heart health.

Don't hesitate if you're outside of Ottawa, or even Canada. Your donations fund care, education and research that are working to reduce heart disease worldwide. Some of UOHI’s work includes

• Caring for more than 80,000 patients each year
• Providing cardiovascular training to more than 100 physicians annually
• Setting new cholesterol standards
• Causing the medical community worldwide to rethink how disease develops
• Launching a protocol that has cut deaths from heart attacks by 50 per cent
• Discovering a gene that increases the risk for cardiovascular disease by 40%!

Since the beginning of the campaign, we have added an option to send your mom an e-card letting her know you've donated on her behalf. And just for fun (because I love working every angle in social media for a good cause) I set up a Facebook Group called "I made a Mother's Day donation to support the heart health of all women" just to wring the very last drops of goodwill out of my online friends :)

Happy Mother's Day. And please donate! For Mom!

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Kim's appeal is right on target

While I've been focussing my energies on fight women's heart disease through Joannie Rochette's crusade at, I can't face Mother's Day without remembering that breast cancer continues to be a major priority for women. And I especially can't avoid a message from a woman from my past: Kim Cattrall

Many of you younger folk know this Canadian from her role on Sex and the City, but I remember her best for an earlier role in Porky's:

Let's just say she made a lasting impression on 12-year-old me. And she continues to be a star with a lot of appeal for both men and women.

Kim still gets her point across loud and clear in this message for Fashion Targets Breast Cancer, a fashion industry charity drive to raise funds for Rethink Breast Cancer.

Here in Canada, Supermarket clothing label Joe is the sponsor.

Back to our own celebrity campaign, thanks to the continued endorsement of Joannie Rochette, our iheartmom video is close to 4000 views, and the English and French Cause pages have almost 900 members each!

If you haven't checked out yet, do it now. We've added an option to donate to fight women's heart disease on your mom's behalf, and send a Mother's Day card letting her know. Can you imagine a better way to show your love?

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Raising a stink to support autism research

I wasn't planning to do a theme week on weird fast food corporate social responsibility, but I saw this link on MTLB:

"In honor of National Hamburger Month, White Castle is adding a new product to its Crave Store and select White Castle restaurants (on May 3): a Slyder-scented candle in a ceramic holder shaped like a Slyder cardboard sleeve."

Whoa. Or perhaps "ewwww!"

With no White Castle in my area, I've never actually had a Slyder. But I can't imagine a burger anywhere I'd want to scent my living room. At least not without the aroma heralding the eating of an actual burger. But late at night, with wine and Roxy Music? Not so romantic.

To make the candle, White Castle teamed up with Laura Slatkin (described as"queen of home fragrances"), the owner of Candela Group.

The candles are for a good cause, however, with all proceeds going to benefit Autism Speaks — the largest autism science and advocacy organization in the United States.

And as a quick visit to White Castle's "Crave Store" confirms, the "candles that smell like a greasy bag of burgers" fad has caught on.

I guess it's an American thing.

Speaking of fundraising, Joannie Rochette's iheartmom campaign to fight women's heart disease continues to spread its influence leading up to Mother's Day. If you haven't seen the viral video yet, check it out (and donate!) at

Monday, May 3, 2010

What's next? Anti-diabetes poutine?

KFC has provoked cries of hypocrisy over its latest corporate social responsibility campaign, Buckets for the Cure.

The basic deal is that 50¢ from every special pink bucket will go to support Susan G. Komen for the Cure, an important charity in the fight against breast cancer. With a minimum $1,000,000 donation, and over $2,800,000 raised so far, this represents the single largest donation Komen will ever have received.

That's the good news. The campaign Facebook page gives the lunchbag letdown that corporately, KFC operators have already made a 50¢ donation for every pink bucket they bought, and that your purchases of pink chicken buckets make no difference. (Even though you are encouraged to donate directly.)

More disturbing is the menu at the top of the page:

That's right. The Double Down. Perhaps the greasiest breakthrough in fast food innovation since gravy pizza. But I've already blogged about that. Just in case you're wondering about how it's being marketed:

This rant, though, is more about pinkwashing. Borrowed from the popular term "greenwashing", which describes a misleading environmental stewardship campaign, pinkwashing is the health version. Specifically for breast cancer.

How pinkwashed is this campaign?

From the Komen site:

Many studies have linked body weight to breast cancer risk. However, weight affects risk for pre and postmenopausal women differently. Before menopause, being overweight appears to decrease a woman's risk of getting breast cancer. After menopause, however, being overweight increases the risk by 30 to 60 percent. This relationship can be explained mainly by the fact that fat tissue contains an enzyme called aromatase. This enzyme converts hormones called androgens (made mostly in the adrenal glands) to estrogens, and this extra estrogen can increase breast cancer risk. Learn more about estrogen and breast cancer risk.

Yoiks! Perhaps that chicken should come with an age restriction.

But cynicism aside, I realize how important a big contribution like this is in the fight against cancer. It's just unfortunate that it's coming in parallel with a move towards serving less and less healthy food. It has actually led to some pretty harsh criticism and satire aimed at Komen.

And speaking of health causes, our campaign for women's heart health is now in week 2. Please join Joannie Rochette and the University of Ottawa Heart Institute to raise money and awareness to fight heart disease — the #1 killer of women in North America.