The Lowdown is Ad Age's weekly look at news nuggets from across the world of marketing, including trends, campaign tidbits, executive comings and goings and more.
Effen Vodka is caught up in a controversy involving 50 Cent that this week led to some Cincinnati outlets boycotting the brand. As reported by the Cincinnati Enquirer, it started when the rapper "accused an airport janitor of being on drugs because he wouldn't respond to him in a video posted Sunday on Instagram." The video can still be found on YouTube, below. Here's the problem: The man targeted in the video has a social anxiety disorder and a hearing impairment, people who know him told the Enquirer.
The backlash resulted in a few Cincinnati retailers pulling Effen from their shelves. Also yanking it was a popular bar downtown called Holy Grail, the newspaper reported. On Tuesday, 50 Cent offered this apology, according to the Enquirer: "While the incident at the airport resulted from an unfortunate misunderstanding, I am truly sorry for offending the young man. It was certainly not my intent to insult him or the disability community, which is a source of great strength in America. I have apologized personally to him and his family."
Beam Suntory, which owns Effen, stated: "As a brand that considers social responsibility the highest of priorities, Effen Vodka does not condone the recent behavior of 50 Cent. We have expressed to him our profound disappointment for his actions, which are in no way representative of the brand's values."
Toyota is bringing back its popular Mas Que Un Auto ("More than a Car") campaign that lets drivers order personalized badges for their vehicles. Customers can order the 3-D engraved nameplates at www.masqueunauto.com. The program targets Hispanic consumers, playing off the insight that many Hispanics like to give their cars superpersonal monikers. "Latinos have shown time and again their loyalty for the Toyota brand, and we want to help them immortalize their vehicles and thank them for welcoming us into their families," said Jack Hollis, group VP of marketing at Toyota Motor Sales, U.S.A., Inc. The agency is Conill.
Toyota ran the same program last year from late January through July. It "resulted in the most user-generated content in the history of the brand, exceeding all goals and established benchmarks," a Toyota spokesman said. The site drew 300,000 visits and Toyota earned 98 million impressions across all media, including 18 million social impressions of which 15 million were earned. Some 100,000 badges were ordered over six months, four times the amount Toyota set as a goal. Toyota's U.S. team has discussed the program with teams in U.K., Brazil and Puerto Rico and "they all have expressed their interest in adapting it to their markets but nothing concrete has yet materialized," the Toyota spokesman said.
Duracell is bringing out some heavy hitters to promote its batteries for National Hearing Month in May, enlisting "Mad Men" star John Slattery for a voiceover and a director of Academy Award-winning Best Picture "Spotlight" for a video to support its giveaway of 50,000 free hearing tests. The "Stay Connected" video from Anomaly, directed by Vincent Hancock, tells the story of a grandpa who's losing out on some key things in life -- like hearing the grandchild he's babysitting crying in the distance -- because of hearing loss. The condition affects 48 million Americans, but 80% of those over 65 who are affected don't seek treatment, according to Duracell, recently sold to Berkshire Hathaway from Procter & Gamble Co. The free tests can be done via touch-tone phone, administered by the non-profit group National Hearing Test.
How often do you think about your underarms? If you're a man, chances are daily – at least according to a survey by Unilever's Dove Men+Care, which found 66% of men do. Dove also found almost half of men feel underarm irritation or other discomfort, and 81% of those so afflicted feel it affects their overall confidence or performance. In short, Dove may have discovered one more factor behind the "angry white male" phenomenon. But there's a solution, at least to this problem, as Dove Men+Care sees it. The brand offered the survey to point out that it both offers strong odor control and is gentle on skin. Edelman is the PR agency on the project.
In a sign either of how much men have changed, or of how much Axe has changed, the latest ad for the Unilever brand's men's hair care looks to prove that its target user is not just another pretty head of hair. The ad from Interpublic's Ponce, Buenos Aires, features attractive millennial men who can fry eggs, level tables, cut onions and fold fitted sheets, yet also have skills to hold down some kind of job outside the home.
Ponce's Luigi Ghidotti and Hernan Ponce created the ad, directed by Megaforce with music by Salmon Osad. We at Lowdown are somehow reminded of this classic 1980 ad for the fragrance Enjoli featuring a similarly well-rounded woman.
McDonald's fries are getting a new taste -- in a high-profile test market, at least. The Golden Arches is testing "Gilroy Garlic Fries" in some San Francisco Bay Area restaurants. It's the latest sign that the chain is willing to play around with its iconic items.
The fries feature a purée made with garlic from Gilroy, Calif., a spot about 80 miles from S.F. known as the garlic capital of the world. McDonald's said the fries are made to order, with workers tossing French fries in stainless steel bowls with a purée mix that includes chopped garlic and olive oil, parmesan cheese, parsley and salt. Christopher Ranch in Gilroy grows the garlic used in the fries, McDonald's said. If customers like them, the special fries should be available at nearly 250 McDonald's restaurants in the area this August.
Lifeway Foods is betting on bugs and the Olympics to boost sales of its kefir products. This week, Lifeway began airing its second national TV commercial. Rather than a broad brand approach, this one's the first mass market advertising for its ProBugs product for kids, which launched in 2007. "We go a little deeper of telling the story of ProBugs and the benefits that kids get from the product," CEO Julie Smolyansky said of the spot, which features animated "friendly bugs" and is being placed with addressable media. The push comes after Lifeway added much more production capacity for the pouch product, which is now on shelves at hundreds of Walmart stores in addition to chains such as Whole Foods Market where it has been selling for a while. This summer, Lifeway plans to feature soccer player Carli Lloyd as a brand ambassador. It is also preparing to introduce a ProBugs chewable supplement for kids in the next three months, Ms. Smolyansky said. Distillery Project in Chicago worked on the spot, with Starcom on media, Lifeway said. In all, Lifeway's TV spending should total at least $3 million this year, tripling its spending in 2015, which included a Golden Globes spot.
Can lumbersexuals boost sales of Dinty Moore stew as the temperature climbs? The Hormel Foods brand introduced four "lumbersexual" guys -- sporting red and black flannel shirts, big beards, and less lumberjack skill than real lumberjacks -- to compete at the Stihl Timbersports Series U.S. and Pro Collegiate Championships on July 15. Online videos are set to run through the end of July, through programmatic buys and at a dedicated web site. They're being trained by Adrian Flygt, a competitive lumberjack who apparently has been thinking about the lumberjack vs. lumbersexual debate for a while. BBDO Minneapolis is the advertising agency and Drive Thru is the production company.
Fresh off its Southern Comfort acquisition, Sazerac has its eyes on picking up another brand. The booze marketer, whose brands include Fireball cinnamon whisky, is in negotiations with Pernod Ricard about acquiring Paddy Irish Whiskey, which is the fourth-largest largest Irish whiskey brand in the world, according to Pernod. "In the global market, Irish whiskey experienced the fastest volume growth in the last five years, outpacing all other spirits categories," Mark Brown, president and CEO of Sazerac, said in a statement. Consumers worldwide are seeing it as an alternative to other whiskies. If this deal goes through, we are confident that we will be able to take Paddy to the next level, building on its strong history and roots."
We end on some hiring news:
Coty has hired former Walgreens beauty VP Shannon Curtin as senior VP of its new Consumer Beauty division, starting May 23. She'll report to Esi Eggleston Bracey, the Procter & Gamble Co. executive who will become president of Coty Consumer Beauty when the spinoff of such P&G beauty brands as CoverGirl, Clairol and Wella is complete, which is expected by this summer. Before she left last year and began a consulting practice, Ms. Curtin spent six years at Walgreens, where she created the drug chain's Beauty University that helped train 26,000 in-store advisors, and before that spent nine years in merchandising roles at Walmart.
Smashburger named co-founder Tom Ryan as the company's first chief brand officer. In a statement, Mr. Ryan described his new position as "a more active, day-to-day role" at the fast casual chain. Mr. Ryan had been serving as chief concept officer, overseeing product development and quality standards, since founding the company with Rick Schaden in 2007. Mr. Ryan's prior work included developing and introducing products such as the McGriddle at McDonald's and Pizza Hut's Stuffed Crust pizza. Smashburger is not hiring a new chief concept officer at this time.
Contributing: E.J. Schultz, Jack Neff, Jessica Wohl
CORRECTION: An earlier version said Tom McCarthy, also a director of "Spotlight," co-directed the new Duracell ad. He didn't, though he did direct a previous Duracell ad, "Teddy Bear."