Round-up of the week’s odd marketing stories

  • Anti-Religion ad banned: Last month the South African Advertising Standards Authority banned an ad from a church for claiming miracles, this month UK’s ASA banned posters from the British Humanist Association asking people to check the “No Religion” box on census forms. The reason? They had the “potential to cause widespread and serious offence.”
  • 575-pound spokesman for Heart Attack Grill dies: ‘Heart Attack Grill is an unabashedly unhealthy restaurant – the menu consists of huge burgers, milkshakes and fries cooked in lard – and having such a big man as a spokesman was part of its tongue in cheek “glorification of obesity.”’
  • LA Clippers celebrate Black History month after Black History month ends: Not surprising really. As AdFreak points out “given [team owner Donald] Sterling’s standing as a poster boy for racial intolerance and bigotry, I’m amazed he missed it by only two days. By all accounts, this meathead is about as racially progressive as Archie Bunker. This is a guy who paid $2.73 million in 2009 to settle a federal lawsuit that claimed he discriminated against blacks and Hispanics when renting apartments in L.A.”
  • Del Monte unveils individually plastic wrapped …bananas. In case that wasn’t silly enough, the company claims the biodegradable wrappers are part of a “green initiative.”
  • Aussie schools sell booze for fundraising:  “The Australian National Council on Drugs (ANCD) has written to every school principal in the country asking them to reconsider the sale, use and promotion of alcohol products when raising money. In the open letter, chairman Dr John Herron said there were concerns students were being used as "couriers" between school and home for advertising material, forms and payments for alcohol as part of fundraising activities.”
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    Russians use insane squirrel as mascot for anti-alcohol campaign

    Trying to get Russians to stop drinking is one of the few things more doomed to failure than trying to get The Cubs to win the The World Series. Still, in both cases, you have to try – right? The Russians have purposefully turned this job over to one of the least appealing mascots ever – an insane squirrel with a terrifying case of mange. This is not as bizarre as it sounds. According to The Telegraph:

    In Russian slang, delirium tremens, the moment of inebriation when people start to get the shakes and to hallucinate, is known as “belochka” or “a little squirrel.” The squirrel in the video, who is red-eyed and bedraggled, is therefore shown ranting, singing, and delivering a nonsensical monologue.

    That’s kind of how I imagine Glenn Beck is when he first gets out of bed.

    He talks about “chasing spiders up the walls” and finishes up by offering to kill his neighbour’s wife because she is “the devil.” “Are you a boozer?” the deranged squirrel asks in the finale. “Then I am coming around to your place.”

    Just replace “spiders” with “Nazis” and “his Neighbor’s wife” with “Democrats,” and it’s practically a transcript of Mr. Beck’s show.

    Demon squirrel wants you!

    To say Russia has a severe problem with alcoholism is to dangerously understate the case

    Alcohol is to Russians what coals are to Newcastle. Russians drink more than 32 pints of pure alcohol per capita per year, more than double the World Health Organisation’s recommended maximum. During the Cold War, the Soviet Army was constantly having to guard against its soldiers drinking the brake fluid from vehicles. In his great book Lenin’s Tomb: The Last Days of The Soviet Empire, David Remnick expressed his total amazement at a Soviet general being sacked for drunkenness this way: “I’m not sure it is possible to describe just how hard it is to acquire a reputation as a drunk in Russia.” At the start of World War I, Czar Nicholas threw a bone to the serfs and got rid of the government tax on vodka. This cut the government’s budget in half.

    This ad campaign follows a decision to reduce the amount of alcohol permissible in motorists’ blood to 0 and the introduction of a minimum price for a half-litre bottle of vodka of 89 roubles ($2.80). To put the price issue into context consider that a Russian airline pilot has a net average monthly salary of $864 and a bus driver nets $242.

    It also suggests the Russian economy is doing better. In November 2008 stockpiles of Russia’s national drink were six times higher at the start of the month than the same time a year ago because factories were producing vodka faster than they could sell it.

    I hope this is the most offensive ad you see today

    indian adFrom Managers at a St. Paul sports bar have apologized to American Indian groups and pulled a Thanksgiving-weekend marketing campaign after receiving complaints about a racy poster that invited patrons to "drink like an Indian."

    Since running the ad the bar has been – justifiably – on the receiving end of a lot of anger. What gets me about the ad is that in addition to being offensive it makes no sense. What does “Party like a Pilgrim” mean? The Pilgrims as a group were ostentatiously severe when it came to celebrations. Their idea of a big party was extra church services followed by a discussion of religious tolerance – which they were against.

    Tennessee legislature makes it legal to mix guns & bars

    The politicians in Tennessee must think the state suffers from overcrowding. How else to explain the recently passed bill allowing handguns in bars and restaurants.

    Democratic Sen. Doug Jackson, the main sponsor of the bill, said state Safety Department records show handgun permit holders in Tennessee are responsible.

    guns-booze-296x300 Sans booze many people are considered responsible. Perhaps the good senator thinks the bill addresses the issue because while you can bring a gun into a bar – it is still illegal to consumer alcohol while carrying one. So only the designated driver can pack heat? Who gets to enforce this one? Because the only way you’re going to know that part of the law has been violated is when you find out you have a drunk armed guy to deal with.

    Kind of redefines what it means to order a shot at the bar.

    Supporters no doubt point to the fact that  the new law still allows owners to ban weapons from their establishments. But I have to wonder how many bar and restaurant owners are going to think people are going to want to go to a joint that has to post a sign reading, “No guns allowed.” Either you’re a namby pamby who thinks the place has a problem with guns or you’re cowboy-wannabee who doesn’t want to go anywhere his pistol isn’t welcome.

    Hmmmn, how about “No shoes, no shirt, no Smith & Wesson, no service.”

    I would love to know A) What problem this was supposed to address?; and B) What kind of condition Tennessee is in that the legislature would make passing this bill a priority?

    OMG – here is a truly sobering fact: Tennessee is the 37th state to adopt such a law.

    Question: Is it legal to bring guns to AA meetings?

    I write this as someone who actually has no problems with people owning guns. While I do not own any myself, during a six-week summer vacation with the US Army I actually learned one the lesser acknowledged facts of life: Machine guns are fun. I can say with no false modesty that I have killed my fair share of skeets. My problem is not with guns it is with a basic fact of the human condition: People are stupid. If everyone were as diligent and responsible gun owners as either SFC Big Brother Collateral Damage or the population of Switzerland (there is literally a sub-machine gun in the home of nearly every adult male in the country) then I would have no problem with NRA’s guiding policy of “Guns for babies.” But until then …

    (PS, thanks the Tennessean for the graphic.)

    Alcohol-enforcement official faces career-ending irony

    A member of the city commission responsible for enforcing liquor laws was arrested early Thursday on suspicion of driving under the influence of alcohol. Danny Kim, 33, was arrested shortly after 2 a.m. Thursday at Kilauea and Makapu’u avenues near Kapi’olani Community College. Kim, one of five members of the Honolulu Liquor Commission, was booked and released on $500 bail about two hours after his arrest.

    Penguins Employee of the month

    End times alert: Russians buying less vodka



    As economic indicators go this is pretty much all four of the horsemen of the apocalypse and the opening of the Seventh Seal all in one:

    The global financial crisis has grown so bad that Russians are cutting back on vodka. Stockpiles of Russia’s national drink were six times higher at the start of the month than the same time a year ago because factories are producing vodka faster than they can sell it.

    Alcohol is to Russians what coals are to Newcastle. During the Cold War, the Soviet Army was constantly having to guard against its soldiers drinking the brake fluid from vehicles. As David Remnick puts it in the great Lenin’s Tomb: The Last Days of The Soviet Empire, ” I’m not sure it is possible to describe just how hard it is to acquire a reputation as a drunk in Russia.” The phrase “too much vodka in Russia” is like the phrase “Cubs win the World Series”: a linguistically logical construct with (until now) no chance of ever happening.

    Marketers love putting booze into guns

    Apparently the hot idea in niche alcohol sales is to put your product into a package that looks like a weapon of personal destruction.

    The tequila company Hijos de Villa offers both a sidearm and a long-gun.

    There’s also a choice vodka in two different iconic machine guns: The Tommy or the AK-47. Or it you want to better target your vodka, there’s also a Sniper version.

    Sadly you have far fewer choices if you don’t drink the hard stuff. Wine drinkers are all liberals, right? So the best you can do is a bottle opener for your Beaujolais. And beer drinkers don’t even get that. Yep, despite its claims to be the Silver Bullet — there’s nothing from Coors (or any other brewer I could find) that had any trace of verisimilitude on the topic.

    Of course you can put whatever substance you want in one of these flasks. You have a choice of one that looks like a pistol or looks like it saved you from a pistol. (If we ever become really good friends I’ll tell you the story of why I drove a bayonet through a silver flask.)

    And fear not if your taste for mood altering substances run to something less potable:

    Louisiana won’t name its poison: Nixes official state cocktail

    State senators were concerned that naming The Sazerac (invented in New Orleans: whiskey, sugar, bitters and absinthe. Sugar AND bitters?) the state’s official drink would “send the wrong message” about the state.

    To which I can only ask, “Have they ever been to Louisiana?”

    Isn’t that the basis of most of its tourism?

    Story quotes a great exchange between the bill’s author, Sen. Ed Murray and Sen. Buddy Shaw:

    “Is there a possibility that we could be encouraging folks, who were not intending to drink, that it would be acceptable and they could become an alcoholic?” Shaw asked.

    “No,” Murray replied.

    Two points for Sen. Murray.

    Absolut apologizes for ads but I have no idea why

    So Absolut is apologizing to US consumers for an ad that most of them have never seen. The ad that in Mexico and shows a map of the Americas with the parts of the US that once were part of Mexico as STILL a part of Mexico.

    The campaign, which promotes ideal scenarios under the slogan “In an Absolut World,” showed a 1830s-era map when Mexico included California, Texas and other southwestern states.

    Apparently, some people at conservative columnist Michelle Malkin’s web site posted angry comments about this and called for a boycott. (Michelle Malkin fans angry? Who’da thunk it?*) As a result Absolut apologized for the ads after they stopped running.

    This is dumb for a number of reasons.

    1. Absolut has been absolutely fearless (by corporate standards) in its willingness to be identified supporting gay men and lesbians. If that’s part of your brand you don’t dump it just because of some whiny Wingnuts.
    2. This is one where you don’t have to apologize, just say look they’re not running anymore. You say it’s over and then ignore it. Apologizing just puts fuel on this fire.
    3. Name me a boycott that has worked in the last 20 years. Name me one that has even actually generated any sustained PR problem.
    4. This apology sure isn’t going to go down well among Mexican consumers. As a matter of fact if I were a citizen of Mexico (Motto: “Too far from heaven, too close to the US”), I would see this as another example of someone ignoring my interests as a result of US bullying.

    Y’know even cynical little me was surprised to find out exactly how insecure some of my fellow Americans are. Let’s here it for the USA (Motto: We Can’t Take A Joke).

    *I am not going to say that either the Wingnuts or the Crybabies have better or worse columnists, but I will say that the Wingnuts seem to have a monopoly on the truly entertaining crazy women columnists.

    Science proves what country music already knew: Booze makes you sad

    Researchers at the University of Tokyo concluded that ethanol — an intoxicating agent in alcohol — does not cause memory to decrease, as widely believed, but instead locks it in place. The researchers, led by pharmacology professor Norio Matsuki, gave mild shocks to lab rats to condition them to fear. As a result, the rats would freeze in terror and curl up the moment they were put in their cages.

    I hope the research paper cites “Haggard, Merle: Tonight The Bottle Let Me Down

    Beersicles, Mafia wine & other developments in potent potables

    Is there any food that’s not improved by adding the words “on a stick”? Once a food has been sticked the only remaining improvement is “deep-fried in batter.” Well, a chef at Rustico’s in DC has gotten beer half-way there. He put a beer in the freezer to get it cold quickly and then forgot about it. The brew froze solid and he ended up eating his booze instead of drinking it. Now the place is sticking a stick in it and selling them. Reports are they are quite popular. You first.


    What with the recent demise of Mr. Soprano and America’s obsession with fictional mobsters, it is not surprising that someone has created a Mob-branded wine. What is surprising is that it is an anti-mafia branded wine.

    Campo Libero, which means Free Field, is a lightly sparkling white wine made from Trebbiano grapes , and the brainchild of a teetotal charity worker. Dario Campagna, whose Il Gabbiano (“The Seagull”) association provides jobs for drug addicts and former prisoners, has taken advantage of an Italian law that allows property belonging to convicted gang bosses to be used for “social purposes”.

    Campagna has taken to growing the grapes for the wine on land formerly owned by Francesco Schiavone, a boss in the Naples mafia.

    “At the beginning, local farmers that we’d asked for advice kept missing appointments,” Mr Campagna explained. “But then we discovered that one of Schiavone’s relatives was living nearby and people were simply scared of having anything to do with us.”

    Last year someone cut the wires holding up the vines causing Campagna’s group to lose half their crop.

    The vines were replanted. And now 10,000 bottles of vino bianco are waiting to be drunk. “I don’t drink alcohol but those that have tasted Campo Libero say it’s a solid wine,” Mr Campagna said.


    Everyone knows that alcohol can lead to ill-fated romance, now a French vintner is hoping the interweb will remove the ill-fated part of the equation.

    The ‘Soif de Coeur’ (A Thirst for Romance) bottles of rosé, red or white wine contain a unique code in their labels that you tap into the website in the hope of finding your perfect match.

    Go to the site, type in your age, sex and the sex of the person you would like to meet and the site will link you up with someone who also bought a bottle of the wine and registered on-line. And there’s no risk that you will ever be asked to appear in one of those creepy eHarmony ads.


    Not only can you drink yourself into the gutter, now you can advertise there as well. Quoth the NYT: In the June 15 issue of Wine Spectator, Newton Vineyard purchased a series of ads on a narrow slice of the page that is known picturesquely as “the gutter” — the space, normally blank and white, between the binding and the first column of text. Maybe AA should consider it.


    madonnaMadonna may not have wanter her papa to preach but she doesn’t have any problem with his selling wine with her name on it. Tony Ciccone, recently decided to advance his winery business by releasing Madonna Wine, which is available in five varieties: Pinot Grigio, Pinot Noir, Gewurztraminer, Cabernet Franc and Chardonnay.  The label on each bottle features a colorful picture of Madonna, with whom he consulted beforehand to make sure his daughter approved of the idea. Those of you wondering what wine made in Michigan tastes like can go here to order some.

    Just what the world needs: Dehydrated margaritas for kids

    Now on the market: Booz2Go, a powder that when mixed with water produces a “bubbly, lime-colored and -flavored drink with just 3 percent alcohol.” The Dutch invention comes in packets that hold 1.4 tablespoons of powder and sell for around $1.50.

    “We are aiming for the youth market. They are really more into it because you can compare it with Bacardi-mixed drinks,” said one of its inventors, 20-year-old Harm van Elderen.

    Because just adding booze to candy gets you in to all sorts of trouble, that’s why. Not that people haven’t done that, too. CandyAddict has tales of shot glasses made of candy and gummi beers — non-alcoholic gummi products that look and taste like beer.

    I want someone to make Pop Rocks out of Booz2Go. If that doesn’t kill Mikey, nothing will.

    Sex, booze and Jay McInerney … well, 2 out of 3 ain’t bad

    What could possibly improve booze and sex? Well, if you said “literature” instead of “mutual consent” or “birth control,” then boy, do I have a marketing campaign for you. The makers of tarted-up distilled-potato-juice Svedka have gotten in to bed with the producers of the intellectually tarted-up porn site for a summer fling. The result is a book, 2033: The Future of Misbehavior: Interplanetary Dating, Madame President, Socialized Plastic Surgery, and Other Good News from the Future. Two colons in one title? Let’s add one more – “: Soon To Be Remaindered.” To quote the press release: “The celebrated work of literature will highlight how adults entertain themselves in the year 2033.” The book is alleged to contain work by “the brightest minds in writing today.” brightlightsOddly, this list includes novelist Jay McInerney* who, last I checked, was one of the brightest minds in writing 20 years ago. In addition to the book there is a Web site for Svedka. There you can download ads featuring a “sexy fembot” named “Svedka Girl.” She looks on as coyly as a robot can next to the copy that reads, “I go both ways. Straight up or on the rocks.” The site also features a lot of party pictures of people you’ve never heard of. The campaign claims that all this is “the future of adult entertainment.” Sadly, they might be right.

    (NB: I still think Bright Lights is a really, really funny book. Except for the ending. That’s just lame. Kind of like “Stripes.”)

    Scary news is brewing: Companies set to market brewskies based on beer, milk

    Add this to the ever expanding list of reasons I’m glad I don’t drink anymore:

    1. A brewery in Hokkaido, Japan, has started selling a low-malt beer made with milk. The product, with the wonderfully perfect name of Bilk, is made by the Abashiri Brewery which also makes the equally appetizing Purple Ale pictured at right. Bilk “reportedly has a fruity flavor that its brewers hope will be popular among women.The idea for the drink was conceived after dairy firms threw out a huge amount of surplus milk in March last year.” I’m not getting drunk, I’m fighting off osteoporosis. Suddenly the Mongolian national booze Ayrag — fermented mare’s milk — sounds … every bit as gross as it did before. (Anyone ever explore the connection between Mongolian cuisine — care for some mutton boiled in tea  — and their desire to conquer the world? Maybe they were just looking for a decent nosh.)
    2. Coca-Cola is looking to produce kvass in Russia, a traditional beverage made from fermented bread that is also sweet and fizzy. NB: Coke is just playing ketchup, er catch up, here: PepsiCo, has catered to Russian tastes via white-mushroom-and- sour-cream-flavored potato chips and sukhariki, a traditional snack food made from dried brown bread.

    Bilk is sounding better by the minute.