YEAR IN REVIEW: 1996 AD FOLLIES

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SPACE JAM ON AD PLANET

Atlanta crammed 1 million people onto 14 shuttle buses during the Olympics; Bill Clinton crammed Bob Dole into retirement; and advertisers found new places to cram advertising, including the Russian Mir space satellite, the sides of cows and on the outside of airplanes ("Halos repaired, cheap!"). Herewith, a banner crammed with 1996 ad foibles and follies that helps explain why they call it Mad Ave.

THE WETTER IDEA

An ad for Cardura, a prescription drug for sufferers of enlarged prostate bothered by frequent nighttime trips to the bathroom, featured the headline "Sleep like this" over a picture of an infant in peaceful slumber. As one reader pointed out, infants do indeed have similar nighttime problems, but their solution might not be what Cardura had in mind.

CANS IN SPACE

Pepsi-Cola last May filmed what it claims is the world's first commercial in space as part of its new partnership with the Russian Mir space station.

Two cosmonauts on a spacewalk 200 miles above the earth filmed on May 20 the deployment of a large replica of Pepsi's new blue can.

THE LAST STRAW

A candy ad incurred the wrath of Venezuela's Catholics with its "humorous" portrayal of the Last Supper. In a TV commercial for Alpina, a Colombian candy company, a sweet-toothed Jesus and the Disciples squabble over who betrayed them by eating an entire tub of Arequipe fudge.

A giant outdoor board in Auckland portraying the captain of New Zealand's world champion rugby football team as Jesus Christ was pulled down after complaints from church groups. The state-owned Totalizator Agency Board, which sponsors the team, had the All Blacks players posed as in Leonardo da Vinci's "The Last Supper," with captain Sean Fitzpatrick as Christ.

BIRD IN THE HAND

In May, the Michigan Liquor Control Commission ruled that Bad Frog beer can keep its label, but it can't display its posters and other promotional material outside on-premise outlets such as bars and restaurants. At issue was whether the Bad Frog label and advertising, which shows a frog with one of his four toes extended upward, is obscene or indecent. The label states "He's mean, green and obscene." Says company President Jim Wauldron: "What we've done is trademark the middle finger thus changing its meaning from something bad, `Screw you,' to something funny!"

TWO HOURS LATER, YOU'RE STILL HUNGRY FOR NEWS

Microsoft and NBC stuck with MSNBC as the name of its new cable network despite a complaint from NBC News President Andy Lack that it "sounds like something you get from bad Chinese food."

HAD HIS FINGERS CROSSED?

"Ketchum is absolutely not about to be sold." Craig Mathiesen, vice-chairman of Ketch-um Communications, in Ad Age, Jan. 8, 1996

NEW YORK, Jan. 10-Omnicom Group announced today that it has agreed to acquire Ketchum Communications Holdings, a privately held Pittsburgh-based marketing communications group.

NOT SO LUCKY

Connecticut state lottery ad promoting tickets for the Powerball game: "You could get even luckier than you did on prom night." The newspaper ad was pulled after one day. The embarrassed state lottery boss said he failed to read the ad before approving it for publication.

BEN & JERRY & ELSIE

Ben & Jerry's used a new outdoor medium in its first U.K. campaign: cows. It paid an English farmer the equivalent of $75 per week to put plastic and cloth coats advertising its ice cream on two of his cows as they graze in a field beside the M42 expressway. The farmer had been unable to sell his cows because of the mad cow disease scare.

HOW MANY DAYS IN A CYBERWEEK?

[Westport, Conn.], May 31-Alan M. Meckler, chairman-CEO of Mecklermedia Corp . . . today announced that Web Week . . . has increased its frequency from monthly to biweekly.

[Garden City, N.Y.], Sept. 3-Interactive Enterprises. . .today announced that it is increasing the frequency of

Interactive Week to weekly this fall. The business newspaper for the Internet. . . has been published on a biweekly basis since the beginning of 1995.

WAAAAY OFF BROADWAY

An ad for Visa in The New Yorker,

titled "Bring Visa to Broadway," featured photos of a magnificent five-tiered theater-which one reader recognized as the interior of Teatro Colon in Buenos Aires.

DOWN UNDER-WAY UNDER

A Merck Sharp & Dohme TV commercial in New Zealand for Ivormec cattle drench satirized President John F. Kennedy's assassination. Derek Lockwood, creative director of The Campaign Palace in Auckland, said the commercial was intended to be a "humorous parody" of the Oliver Stone movie, "JFK." The ad showed a "grassy knoll" with a masked figure seen loading a gun in a barn marked "Hay Bale Depository." A calf labeled "JFK" was then drenched with "a magic bullet." New Zealand's self-regulatory Television Commercials Approval Bureau reportedly OKd the spot but, after a flood of complaints, MSD's U.S. head office ordered the spot pulled.

PLAY IT AGAIN, SAMPSON

On May 26, a thunderstorm hit Florence, S.C., knocking out a scheduled pay-per-view telecast of wrestling matches. The arena went to auxiliary power, but the telecast was scrubbed. To rectify things with viewers who asked for the $19.95 back, TitanSports restaged the blacked out matches two days later for PPV viewers. And, remarkably, the results were pretty much the same! Wow! What are the chances of that happening?

EXCLUSIVE: EDITOR SCOOPS EDITOR!

George's JFK Jr., who interviewed National Enquirer's Iain Calder, sent an advance copy to Mr. Calder. "Thanks, John," he wrote back, "but since we're the National Enquirer, we've had a copy for two weeks."

THE PENALTY OF LEADERSHIP

Nizan Guanaes, director partner of Sao Paulo ad agency DM9, wrote Ad Age to say DM9 won't participate in any national or international ad contests this year. "In the last four years DM9 has been the most awarded Brazilian agency both in Brazil and abroad," Mr. Guanaes explained. "Therefore we feel we deserve a sabbatical year in 1996."

NOTHING SINISTER HERE

A Young & Rubicam print ad for Miller Brewing's Southpaw beer featured a foamy mug of brew being hoisted aloft-by someone's right hand.

SPRINGTIME FOR HITLER, PART II

Indian phone company Punjab Wireless got some static for a newspaper ad, headlined "Reincarnation," comparing Adolf Hitler to its pagers. "The Fuehrer of the Third Reich, he was all of 5-foot3," the ad said, while its Vortec pager, "the most powerful pager, is also the smallest." It was foreigners, rather than Indians, who were riled by the ad. "None of us expected any controversy," said the director of New Delhi's Capital Advertising.

GREAT MOMENTS IN JOB TITLES

Disneyland promoted marketing exec Scott Tanner to the new job of director of synergy. Mr. Tanner also becomes Walt Disney Co.'s "synergy spokesperson."

FCB/Leber Katz Partners in NYC promoted Ted Klauber to senior VP-director of mind and mood. Mind & Mood"is a simple, straightforward discipline designed to bring our best talent in direct contact with the consumer marketplace on a continuing basis," it was explained.

INITIAL SHOCK

"Suddenly Susan's" Brooke Shields, accepting Cosmopolitan's first "Fun, Fearless, Female" award from Helen Gurley Brown, noted, "It gives a whole new meaning to the `F' word."

PMS BARBIE

Barbie appeared in a commercial for tampon marketer Cottons Australia that showed the doll while a voice-over pitched a tampon for women "who are sick of being treated like a Barbie doll" in competitors' ads. "It was a Ruffle Fun Barbie and was damaging and disparaging to the brand," declared Kate Kavanagh, Barbie's local marketing manager for Mattel. Mattingly & Partners subbed a generic doll.

SEE YOU IN THE COMICS

Dilbert, March 14: "Ratbert, we'd like you to be the director of marketing." "OK! What do I do?" "Be as annoying and illogical as you can."

Brenda Starr, March 19: "Brenda, how did Bigbucks convince the public that an inferior, bitter brew was the champagne of coffees?" "Marketing." "You mean lies?"

Doonesbury, March 20: "You know, Kim, I'm so glad it's you who's Daddy's friend. When he told me he was seeing someone at work, I was afraid that . . . that . . ." "That what, Alex?" "I was

afraid she might be from marketing." "You poor kid! Why didn't you just ask?"

A SHOE-IN FOR HONESTY AWARD

When asked to expand on the significance of its first network TV prime-time ad buy, the advertising VP of Fila USA replied, "It means we're broke."

PUT IN FOR HAZARDOUS DUTY PAY

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, more people died last year on the job in advertising (16) than died in petroleum refining (13), electrical repair shops (15) or car factories (6). Ad industry deaths involved 8 transportation fatalities but no homicides.

UNSUITABLE COMMENT

Simon Doonan, senior VP of Barney's New York, noting that shoppers were out despite a record blizzard that closed most businesses last Jan. 8, thought he was being complimentary when he said: "New Yorkers are like the cockroaches of the human race." Shortly thereafter, Barney's started bankruptcy proceedings.

THE IN PEOPLE

People announced People in Espagnol, a special issue that will be a "preliminary test" of a Spanish-language edition, then sent out a

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