The Buzz

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Moustache Mania

Seattle's Hammerquist & Halverson copywriter Cal Mc Allister and art director Andy Nordfors were just goofing around when they donned fake mustaches to pose for their new publicity pictures. The 'stashe is an homage to H&H CD Fred Hammerquist, who, famously, sports a real one. Says McAllister, "Fred has this really dorky mustache and basically, this is an act of unity." Hammerquist loves it, he insists. "It's especially funny when you look in all the trade journals and everyone looks so serious and corporate, and then you see our people who look so Clark Gable-early- Hollywood." Almost all of H&H's recent hires have gone hairy-cary, barring a few fur-fearing females. The look is having an effect in the biz. Local music house Pure Audio took a whiskers-enhanced staff photo and sent it to the agency, along with a pitch letter. A week later, the two companies were happily mixing. Hairs to a great future.

The good old days of '97

A survey by California staffing service the Creative Group asked 200 advertising executives "How challenging is it to find full-time, qualified creative professionals now versus three years ago?" Freelancers rejoice.

Gettin' buggy with it

The first heart attack has yet to be reported, but panic attacks are not uncommon among viewers of the latest Orkin Pest Control spot. The commercial, a production from JWT/Atlanta entitled "Fake Out," opens as a fabric softener commercial. We see the usual yawn-inducing imagery: blue skies, fluffy white towels - and then, all of a sudden, a CGI roach scurrying across the screen. It looks so real, people have been throwing all manner of things at their sets, including shoes, motorcycle helmets, and bottles of merlot. How do we know? Because the victims of JWT's playful deceit have been vocal about demanding new sets.

Orkin maintains that consumer response has been largely positive. Yeah, but how about those people with busted TVs? "If someone did break one, I'd encourage them to enter our contest," says Orkin representative Martha May. She's referring to the "Orkin Got Me" contest that encourages people to describe how the commercial tricked them. The winner gets (yup) a new television. At press time, Orkin had received almost 3,000 entries.

Its PR firm, the appropriately titled Ketchum, sent a reel of the spot to unsuspecting journalists in a fabric softener package, which, when opened, revealed two fake roaches. This writer's screams were heard all the way down the hall.

From Bunny to Pussy

Blue Sky Studios, the winner of a 1998 Academy Award for the animated short Bunny, worked with a different animal for the season finale of HBO's The Sopranos. In a dream sequence, Tony Soprano has a conversation with a $4-per-pound fish that represents his friend and business associate, Pussy, who's turned informant. The job of creating this fish was almost as hush-hush as Pussy's dealings with the Feds. Says animation director Mark Baldo, "HBO could only send us script pages with things blacked out," he laughs "it was like reading top-secret UFO files." In addition to photos of the fish, Baldo also received the real thing - a 10-pound tile fish packed in ice. "It was very clear that David Chase (Sopranos executive producer) did not want the fish to be cartoony or funny," he says. To better channel Pussy's character, Baldo and crew used a Hi-8 camera to flim actor Vincent Pastore speaking the lines. "We focused on his mouth and face, in order to capture the way he speaks - his lisp, the way his jaw moved with different words. We wanted to mimic that with the fish." In addition to accurately representing Pussy the man, the fish foretells Pussy's future - the mobster ends up "sleeping with the fishes."

Your Candy Ass is Mine

Not going anywhere for about 16 years? A jury in Tyler, Texas sentenced Kenneth Payne to that prison term for the theft of a Snickers bar. Quipped Smith County assistant district attorney Jodi Brown, "It was a king-size. And it was a Snickers bar. If it was a Milky Way, we probably wouldn't have even tried him on it." That, and the sticky-fingered Payne has a history of stealing (including a bag of Oreos). The cost to house an inmate in Texas is $14,000 a year; according to Robert Dawson, a University of Texas law professor, at 16 years "that probably comes out to about $800 a peanut." We were dying to know if the Snickers team at BBDO would wish to do a testimonial with the Snickers-crazed felon, but the best an agency spokesperson could come up with was, "No comment, and you can't quote me on that." Sweet.

Crying Over Spilt Milk

There is nothing odd about a commercial showing a cat drinking milk. But what's up with the flurry of felines drinking breast milk?

Cliff Freeman & Partners' spots for the Fox Sports trivia show "Sports Geniuses" show guys getting caught in embarrassing situations; but surprisingly, the people catching them don't chew them out. Instead, they only ask sports-related trivia questions. In "Milk," a young guy is lying on his couch drinking milk from the carton, spilling some on his chest. The cat jumps up and starts to furiously lick the milk off his nipple as he watches, stupefied and fascinated. Enter his girlfriend: "Jeff?" she asks. "Which U.S. hockey team has won the most Stanley Cups?"

Then, Goodby Silverstein & Partners' recent spot for Epinion.com, a site where consumers can share their thoughts on various products and services, features Jen, an average-looking woman using and discussing her Medela breast pump. There's not the slightest hint of flesh - all we see is the milk dripping into the bottle - and, oh yeah, her cat licking the excess from the outside. "That part was a joke," says Goodby copywriter Sharon Tao. Some folks didn't find it funny. The spot touched off a wave of controversy and was yanked by stations in New York and San Francisco.

Binge & Purge

In a bizarre digestive move, Unilever announced the purchase of both Ben & Jerry's ice cream, known for high-fat flavors such as Chunky Monkey, and Slim-Fast Foods Co. What's next? Nair Hair Remover and Rogaine?

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