Delphi last week broke the first ads in a major repositioning campaign, designed to take the fifth-largest online service from a techie's haven to a mass-market consumer venue.
The ads are from Woolward & Partners, the upstart San Francisco agency perhaps best known for its "peeing baby" ad for computer mouse marketer Logitech.
But Woolward's trademark startling visuals are proving troublesome. An ad scheduled to appear in The Wall Street Journal on May 25 was rejected, apparently due to its content.
The ad, showing scientists sniffing underarms, is headlined "Because there's some research you just don't want to duplicate." It ran in The New York Times on May 24 and the Los Angeles Times on May 25.
The declined comment. Mr. Williams said other ads in the campaign are expected to run in the Journal.
But if the newspaper's first action is any indication, other ads may prove troublesome as well.
One shows soccer players covering their crotches with their hands. The headline: "Is soccer just a sport for men afraid of football?"
Another ad shows a partially nude Howard Stern, with the headline "Should this man be the next governor of New York?"
"I don't think we were pushing any envelope with the advertising," said Russell Williams, Delphi VP-general manager. "I guess it comes down to The being a bit more conservative than we had gauged."
The goal of the ads, Mr. Williams said, is to get people talking. "That's the whole point. Online people talk; they discuss controversial issues, they discuss humorous issues as well," he said.
Woolward succeeds Duval Woglom Brueckner & Partners, Boston, on the estimated $6 million-plus account. Delphi named Duval Woglom its first agency of record last summer, before News Corp. acquired the online service.
Delphi's claim to fame has been its Internet access. That may soon give way to chat lines with stars of Fox TV series and previews of Twentieth Century Fox movies and HarperCollins books, particularly as Internet access becomes more common across online services.
The goal is to make 13-year-old Delphi, which claims 100,000-plus subscribers, "more fun, make it more accessible, make it more human," Mr. Williams said. "We're charting out a full transition from Delphi being focused on a technical audience to Delphi being positioned as a true consumer online service."
Ads will also appear in consumer and trade magazines like Wired and News Corp.'s TV Guide.
"We tend to come at advertising [for computer-related products] from a human interest angle," said agency principal Iain Woolward. "It so happens that the online experience is about human interaction."