2002: Folly-icious, if you have taste for absurd

Published on .

Butterflies infest Big Apple

New York won't let Microsoft Corp.'s butterfly flutter by. The software giant's stunt of pasting hundreds of butterfly decals on sidewalks and streets to tout its revamped Internet service was called illegal by city officials. City workers removed the decals, and officials threatened a lawsuit if more Microsoft decals appeared. Microsoft countered that it had a permit to apply the ad decals, which are part of a $300 million launch effort for MSN 8.

Banned by Boston

Boston Beer Co. over the summer got cut twice in its efforts to be edgy. Chairman John Koch apologized after an uproar over the brewer's 3-year-old "Sex for Sam" radio promotion, which rewarded people for having sex in public places. The Federal Communications Commission started an investigation, and shock jocks Opie and Anthony were fired after a couple was arrested for having sex in St. Patrick's Cathedral in New York as part of the promotion. Separately, the maker of Samuel Adams beer pulled a commercial that critics complained portrayed underage drinking. In the ad, young people hide their beer from police. Boston Beer handles promotions in-house, and Big Chair Creative Productions, New York, handles its advertising.

Southeast Asian battle

A philadelphia bar almost caused an international incident when it ran a newspaper ad featuring a doctored photo of Thai King Bhumibol Adulyadej with streaked hair and other hip features. An angry Thai Consulate threatened to cut off relations with the U.S. The prime minister of Thailand and U.S. State Department also got in the act. The bar, named Saint Jack's after a novel by Paul Theroux, decided to pull the ad.

Boxers tattooed

Online casino goldenpalace.com ran afoul of the Nevada Athletic Commission for hiring boxers to wear temporary tattoos as a form of advertising. The executive director of the gaming commission was quoted as calling the tattoos "demeaning to the sport." But a Las Vegas judge agreed with GoldenPalace's assertion that the boxers had a First Amendment right to wear the tattoos in the ring in its "celebrity body billboard" scheme. Among those who wore the tattoos, besides professional boxers, were Tonya Harding and others appearing on Fox's "Celebrity Boxing."

Sentenced to scrap heap

Cadbury Schweppes' Dr Pepper/Seven Up said it would stop airing a TV spot titled "Captive Audience," in which a 7UP representative hands out cans of the soft drink to prison inmates, then drops a can and implies that he'd be raped if he bent over to pick it up. Later, the character is shown in a cell on a bed with another man. Groups including one called Stop Prisoner Rape complained about the spot, created by WPP Group's Y&R Advertising, New York.

Tennis the menace

Has a product endorsement ruined the career of tennis star Martina Hingis? Ms. Hingis was reported to be suffering from potentially career-ending pain in her feet, knee and hip. Her mother, Melanie Molitor, said the joint damage may have been caused by tennis shoes Ms. Hingis had worn for several years during a sponsorship deal with Sergio Tacchini. Ms. Hingis filed a $40 million suit against the Italian sportswear marketer, claiming its shoes were defective.

It's a small, strange world

The dangers of agency work in foreign lands:

* Washington Olivetto, Brazil's most famous adman and founder/president of W/Brasil, Sao Paulo, spent 53 days locked away by kidnappers. The ordeal began last December when five individuals in police uniforms snatched Mr. Olivetto from his armor-plated car. He finally got a neighbor's attention by shouting and banging on the walls of the tiny room in which he was being imprisoned.

* It's tough-and possibly sometimes deadly-to be in outdoor advertising in Russia. Vladimir Kanevsky, head of outdoor company Ator, was shot dead in Moscow in February, despite the presence of bodyguards. Maxim Tkachev, head of NewsOutdoor, was seriously wounded in June by two gunmen as he was entering his Moscow office. Both Ator and NewsOutdoor are leaders in Russia's booming outdoor ad market.

* Mobs in India turned on an ad agency that created a billboard campaign calling for peace. The incident took place in an area that has been a center for Hindu-Muslim violence. Fifty or more people reportedly attacked the office of the ad agency that had created boards for the Citizens' Council of Ahmedabad and threatened the manager of the shop. The citizens council declined to release the name of the ad agency, citing "security reasons." The ad that upset the mob asked people "not to raze any place of worship to the ground as the same God resides in all."

on a less dangerous note:

* Back in Russia, NewsOutdoor refused to support the Moscow launch of L'Oreal's Body Expertise anti-cellulite cream, fearing that posters would be vandalized. Mr. Tkachev said the posters, featuring the buttocks of Brazilian model Fernando Tovares, might enrage the Russian public. "Consider it self-regulation," he said. "There are a lot of sick people in Moscow; we were afraid of their reaction."

* Aboriginal rights activists in Australia attacked Qantas Airways' longtime use of its "flying kangaroo" logo. An aboriginal elder filed a copyright claim contending that Qantas can't use the flying kangaroo as a mascot without permission of the marsupial's indigenous "owners."

* Egyptian food company Al Jawhara launched snack chips under the name Abu Ammar, a moniker used by Yasser Arafat. The bags feature a picture of the Palestinian leader. A portion of proceeds from the product, targeted to kids, will go to Palestinian aid.

* Jewish groups expressed outrage at U.K.-based Umbro for selling sport shoes that used the German word for cyclone-which was also the name of the gas that the Nazis used to kill millions in the Holocaust. Umbro said it was an "unfortunate coincidence" that its Zyklon shoe, on sale since 1999, bore the name of the poison gas Zyklon B. A spokesman said the shoe would be renamed but wouldn't say whether shoes already shipped would be removed from stores. The name appeared on the box but not on the shoes themselves. Soon after, German appliance company Bosch Siemens abandoned plans to register the trademark Zyklon in the U.S. for a range of home products.

* McDonald's Corp. scrapped plans to roll out in Norway a sandwich called the McAfrika. Humanitarian groups criticized the product after it was introduced in a promotion, saying McAfrika was poorly timed because millions of Africans are facing starvation. McDonald's advertised the sandwich, made of beef and vegetables wrapped in pita bread, as being based on African recipes. The McAfrika sandwich was part of a rotating exotic food series in Norway. Publicis' Leo Burnett Worldwide, Oslo, supplied ad support. McDonald's eased the criticism by agreeing to put in its restaurants collection boxes for African aid.

McDonald's oil crisis

McDonald's apologized and agreed to donate $10 million to groups including Hindu organizations to settle lawsuits saying it mislabeled french fries and hash browns as vegetarian when the vegetable oil it used contained beef flavoring. Vegetarians had filed suits in several states, following McDonald's announcement that it would no longer use beef fat to cook its fries and would use only pure vegetable oil. McDonald's countered that it never claimed its fries were vegetarian. Speaking of unvegetarian, some 80 McDonald's restaurants in Hawaii added low-sodium Spam to their menus as part of a breakfast dish accompanied by scrambled eggs and rice. Hawaiians are said to consume four times the national average of Hormel Foods' processed meat.

Rabbit punch

Animal rights groups were hopping mad over a Subaru of America commercial in which a mother and daughter release a domesticated rabbit into the woods. Activists squeaked that it represented inhumane treatment, and Subaru said it would modify the ad for the Forester SUV. Interpublic Group of Cos.' Temerlin McClain, Dallas, created the spot, which drew criticism from groups including one called the House Rabbit Society.

9/11 effect

Starbucks Corp. pulled a poster that featured side-by-side tea drinks and the headline "Collapse into cool." Someone complained that the image evoked New York's Twin Towers.

Ads' siren song

Cities in states ranging from Arizona to Florida are taking up Government Acquisitions LLC on its proposal to help pay for new police cars by putting ads on the vehicles. The Charlotte, N.C., company will place either local or national advertising on the squad cars.

Most Popular
In this article: