The best – and worst – ads of 2007

Green is the new black.

Madison Avenue tried to curry favor with consumers this year by coloring products and brands with an environmental tint. A long list of companies such as General Electric Co., Chevron Corp. and Home Depot Inc. all jumped on the eco-friendly bandwagon. One Toyota Motor Corp. ad featured a Prius being created from straw, twigs and other natural elements. The gasoline-electric hybrid car is built up and then fades back into nature.

Despite the energy spent on eco-friendly marketing messages very few stood out, but being green wasn’t the only way ad makers tried to grab some attention in 2007. Thanks in part to ad-skipping devices, they littered the Web with viral videos, added smells to print ads and even found ways to have pitches appear in unsuspecting places such as on TV screens on gas pumps.

But one thing stayed the same: Some campaigns were big hits and others were big flops. Our choices for the best and worst in 2007:

The Best

Eye of the Beholder

Client: Unilever’s Dove.

Agency: WPP Group’s Ogilvy & Mather

Content: The online video, which cost less than $150,000 to create, takes aim at the definition of beauty. The spot shows an average-looking woman being transformed into a billboard supermodel with the help of lots of makeup, lighting and airbrushing. ”No wonder our perception of beauty is distorted,” reads the screen.

Feedback: One of the best examples of a company using the Web for advertising. The ad, which was posted on YouTube last year, has been viewed more than 24 million times on the video-sharing site, and it has had about 4.6 million views at Moreover, ordinary people have created their own films spoofing the ad.


Client: ”The Simpsons Movie”

Agency: Omnicom Group’s FreshWorks

Content: A part of a cross-promotion with News Corp.’s Twentieth Century Fox, 7-Eleven converted 12 of its stores into Kwik-E-Marts, the fictional chain of convenience stores in the animated TV series. The stores even sold specially created items such as Squishees, the fictional frozen beverage similar to 7-Eleven’s Slurpees; pink-frosted Sprinklicious doughnuts (a Homer favorite) and boxes of KrustyO’s cereal.

Feedback: The movie has grossed more than $180 million domestically. The 7-Eleven chain, a unit of Japan’s Seven & I Holdings Co., saw major sales lifts at the 11 U.S. stores that were converted for the month of the promotion. The company says total merchandise sales doubled; fresh bakery sales increased sevenfold and customer count went up almost 50 percent. Moreover, 7-Eleven says the promotion garnered about $7 million in free publicity. The 7-Eleven Web site on July 11 received 10,420,730 hits. The site typically gets an average of about 400,000 hits a day.

Drummer in a Hair Band

Client: Cadbury Dairy Milk chocolate bar

Agency: Publicis Groupe’s Fallon

Content: Cadbury Schweppes PLC launched a TV ad in the United Kingdom featuring a gorilla playing the drums as Phil Collins’s 1981 hit ”In the Air Tonight” blares in the background. The ad ends with a shot of the candy bar and its slogan: ”A glass and a half full of joy.”

Feedback: After the agency placed the ad on the Web, the spot has become a global sensation, garnering seven million downloads. More than 200 people have posted their reworked versions of the gorilla ad on sites such as YouTube, and fan clubs have sprouted up on social-networking site Facebook. Cadbury has credited the spot with lifting sales of the candy bar.

The Human Stain

Client: Procter & Gamble Co.’s Tide to Go

Agency: Publicis Groupe’s Saatchi & Saatchi

Content: The TV commercial shows a man interviewing for a job who is repeatedly interrupted by a talking stain on his shirt.

Feedback: The consumer-product titan has tried for years to add some fun to its often staid advertising that for decades had largely been based on showing product demonstrations. This ad won a Silver Lion Award at the annual International Advertising Festival in Cannes, France. It is one of the ad world’s top honors and an accolade that rarely goes to soap.

K-Fed, Insurance Salesman

Client: Nationwide Mutual Insurance

Agency: Interpublic Group’s TM Advertising

Content: A Super Bowl ad starring Kevin Federline, Britney Spears’s ex-husband and wannabe rapper, working in a fast-food chain. The spot, which looks like a rap video, shows Mr. Federline, wearing a baseball cap and wireless headset rapping. As the camera pulls back, Mr. Federline is seen working the drive-through window. ”Life comes at you fast. Be ready with a Nationwide annuity and you could be guaranteed income for life,” a voiceover says.

Feedback: Big-game ads are typically about glitzy ads oozing with special effects, but this spot became a PR sensation because of its use of an in-the-news celebrity. The clever ad move dominated a week’s worth of pre-game media coverage from segments on ”Entertainment Tonight” to ”Good Morning America.” The spot generated 3,584 news stories, which the company, a unit of Nationwide Financial Services Inc., estimates to be worth $23.3 million in free publicity.

The Worst

A Stunt That Bombed

Client: ”Aqua Teen Hunger Force,” an animated TV show on Cartoon Network

Agency: Interference Inc.

Content: In an attempt to promote an animated TV show the agency planted about 40 boxes – adorned with blinking lights in the shape of ”Hunger Force” characters Err and Ignignokt – around downtown Boston.

Feedback: The boxes prompted a major bomb scare that closed highways and subways. Not only was the ad effort a major PR mistake, but the network’s parent company, Time Warner Inc.’s Turner Broadcasting Systems, ended up paying the Massachusetts attorney general $2 million to settle any potential civil or criminal claims. ”Clearly this was not the intended outcome for this campaign,” said Turner spokeswoman Shirley Powell. The campaign also increased scrutiny of guerrilla-marketing companies that often operate under the credo that it is better to apologize later than to ask permission first.

They Built It, No One Came

Client: Anheuser-Busch Cos.

Agency: An in-house marketing team and Omnicom Group’s DDB

Content: An online entertainment Web site that contains more than 2,000 minutes of original programming. Short shows include stand-up comedy acts and ”The Joe Buck Show,” which features the sports commentator interviewing celebrities in a New York City cab.

Feedback: The King of Beers has long been the king of advertising with its funny TV and radio ads, but the brewer, like many advertisers, is struggling to find a way to translate that to the Web where beer-drinking young men are spending more of their time. The company sunk about $15 million into creating the site, but it flopped anyway. Despite revamping the site in May to make it edgier, Anheuser-Busch has failed to lure a significant amount of traffic. The number of visitors to the site was so low it didn’t meet Web-tracking firm comScore Inc.’s threshold for measurability of visitors for most of the year. ”Though hasn’t drawn the kind of traffic we hoped for, it recorded more than one million video views, and the average visitor spent more than seven minutes on the site,” Keith Levy, the company’s vice president for brand management said in a statement.

Metal Meltdown

Client: General Motors Corp.

Agency: Interpublic Group’s Deutsch

Content: A quirky Super Bowl commercial showed a despondent robot jumping off a bridge in a dream sequence after it made a mistake on a Detroit assembly line.

Feedback: The spot drew fire from a suicide-prevention group, and the car maker was forced to re-edit the spot to remove the suicide scene. In addition, some consumers complained that they felt the ad was insensitive to auto workers who had lost their jobs as a result of automation. GM declined to comment.

Kiss It Goodbye

Client: Mars Inc.’s Snickers

Agency: Omnicom Group’s TBWA/Chiat/Day

Content: The ad showed two mechanics eating the same candy bar at the same time – in what was a bizarre spin on the famous scene from ”Lady and the Tramp,” where two dogs simultaneously eat a strand of spaghetti. After the men reach the middle of the candy bar and lock lips, they rip out clumps of their chest hair in a desperate attempt to ”do something manly.”

Feedback: Mars pulled the ad after the Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation condemned the ad as antigay. ”Feedback from our target consumers was positive, and many media commentators ranked the commercial among their top 10 best,” said Alice Nathanson, a spokeswoman for Mars. ”We know that humor is highly subjective and understand that some people may have found the ad offensive. That was never our intent.”


Client: Chrysler

Agency: Omnicom Group’s BBDO

Content: A Web video ad, which appeared on YouTube, hawked the Dodge Nitro, a midsize sport-utility vehicle, that featured a dog sniffing the tire of a red Nitro as it was looking for a place to relieve itself. With the help of special effects, the dog was zapped by an electric bolt coming from the car and burst into flames.

Feedback: The ad, which was originally created for a European market, made its way to the Web. Tipped off by a consumer, Chrysler, then a unit of the former DaimlerChrysler AG, moved quickly to remove the ad from the Web. ”The ad was created by an agency without the company’s permission,” said Lori McTavish, a spokeswoman for Chrysler. The ad drew harsh criticism on the Web, in part, because it appeared around the same time as the firestorm surrounding pro football quarterback Michael Vick, who later pleaded guilty to a federal dogfighting charge.

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