10 follies

Published on .

1 remains of the dog

The talking Chihuahua was gone from Taco Bell ads for three years, but in 2003 a federal judge ordered the Yum Brands' fast-feeder to pay nearly $12 million in interest to two men who say they came up with the idea. The money awarded to Joseph Shields and Thomas Rinks now totals $42 million. Taco Bell said it continues to believe its agency, TBWA/Chiat/Day, Playa del Rey, Calif., created the spokes-dog. But if appeal fails, Yum Brands intends to seek some reimbursement from the agency.

2 not that regular, thanks

The National Park Service spouted off against a Metamucil spot in which a park ranger pours the laxative down Old Faithful. The service is prickly about tourists tampering with geysers in Yellowstone National Park. Publicis Worldwide handles ads for the Procter & Gamble product, and the idea was obviously to emphasize how Metamucil promotes regularity. But really, who wants to ingest something that can induce 8,000 gallons of boiling water to shoot into the air every 90 minutes?

3 un-sexy teddy

The Snuggle bear, much like other 20-year-old males, is losing the giggle and showing a preference for beautiful women. The teddy embodiment of Unilever's Snuggle fabric softener turned 20 in 2003 and got a makeover. Instead of bouncing on piles of clean, soft linens, he's now being placed in romantic settings with a model in ads from Lowe, New York. Those who prefer a warmer, fuzzier spokes-creature can go to snuggle.com, where the bear still offers "e-hugs."

4 a mickey mouse affair

Carl Tooney's Cannes-do spirit didn't match reality with his Advertising Festival in September, which was set to be held at Disneyland Paris. WPP Group's Martin Sorrell had been touted as a keynote speaker, and exhibitors paid up to $5,000 to get on board. But only a few dozen of the expected 2,000 attendees showed. Sorrell apparently bailed after he learned of the festival's problems. Self-described "media entrepreneur" Mr. Tooney said he was "disappointed and embarrassed."

5 head games

Not since an actor slapped himself and complained, "I could have had a V8!" has the forehead been so integral a part of advertising. Agencies on both sides of the Atlantic are paying college students more than $20 to wear logos on their foreheads for three hours. Emap laddie magazine FHM tested out brows in Britain. In the U.S., Reebok International sent 500 college kids with forehead tattoos to last April's Boston Marathon, which had rival Adidas America as a corporate sponsor.

6 not that kind of ride, thanks

Vespa scooters hit the brakes on a planned spring-break promo with Trojan condoms in which Vespa helmets and the Church & Dwight condoms would be paired under the "Ride safely" theme. Piaggio had recently gotten a new CEO, and his predecessor said the new top man "doesn't like these kinds of associations." "These kinds of associations" apparently didn't extend from contraception to coffee, because a co-promo with Starbucks was proceeding.

7 bum rap

Lawrence Botts III sued former employer Y&R Advertising, New York; the United Negro College Fund; and The New York Times over a Y&R-created ad depicting a drunken derelict named "Larry Botts." The real Mr. Botts left Y&R on less-than-amicable terms a year before the ad ran in The Times, part of the "A mind is a terrible thing to waste" campaign. The ad "Botts" was black and the real-life Botts is white, but that didn't stop him from suing, claiming Y&R staffers used the Botts name as a "vengeful" act.

8 fcuk no

French Connection U.K. has used its initials as an attention-getting ploy for years, but it apparently went too far with the U.S. launch of FCUK Him and FCUK Her fragrances. Zirh International, which licenses the brand, revised the labels after complaints led stores to pull products. Zirh also ran into trouble with a print ad headlined "Scent to Bed" from TBWA Worldwide, London. Seventeen and Teen People said they'd stop running the ad. A Zirh spokeswoman called the placement a mistake.

9 Ditka Plugs Pills, takes a spill

Virility is the pitch for prescription impotence drugs. A TV spot WPP Group's Quantum Group created for Levitra has a buff-looking guy repeatedly hurling a football through a tire-get the metaphor? Bayer and GlaxoSmithKline drafted NFL Hall of Famer Mike Ditka, 64, to be their tough-guy spokesman. But only a couple months after Levitra hit the market, Ditka fell and broke his hip. Luckily, a quick recovery was expected after hip replacement surgery, the fourth such procedure Mr. Ditka has undergone.

10 suicide? not generally funny

Take note: Suicide is a taboo topic in advertising, even when the victim is a car. Honda Motor was criticized for an Australian commercial in which the owner of an old Honda Accord marvels over a new model. The older car revs its engine and drives off a cliff. "We thought the ad trivialized suicide," one critic said, while adding that Honda "behaved very quickly and responsively by pulling the ad." Foote, Cone & Belding, Melbourne, created the ad, and though Honda quickly withdrew it, the carmaker called the spot "pure fantasy" since the self-destructive car obviously has no driver.

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