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A laughably bad commercial for the East Hills Mall in St. Jospeh, Mo.-which we wrote about yesterday-has gained a rather large following this week. A piece of ironic Internet treasure, it's already well on its way to a million YouTube views.

Given the amount of Internet hoaxes, though, and the ad's perfectly executed terrible-on-purpose quality, we wondered if it was real-and who was responsible for such a jewel.

Well, according to the report below by a local Fox affiliate, the spot is indeed authentic. In fact, it's the work of local producer Chris Fleck. In the interview, he tells Fox he isn't really surprised at the enormous popularity of his masterpiece.

"The whole time we pitched this idea, we said, 'Maybe it would go viral.' Boy, it did," he says with a laugh.

This isn't Fleck's first time at the rodeo, either. He's amassed a few thousand clicks on some other spots, including one with a rapping Mitsubishi dealer and another for a liquor store featuring a jockey riding a cooler.

His advertising philosophy is simple: "If you can entertain, and then slide the message in, you've accomplished your goal. I just love that it's getting this much response. That's what commercials do, you get response."

Check out the mall ad, and a few of Fleck's previous works, here:

When DreamWorks bought the rights to Lassie in 2012, it seemed like an odd move. The fading brand didn't appear to have much clout in an era ruled by viral video sensations like Grumpy Cat, and the bucolic adventures the canine embarked on in her heyday hardly seemed primed for a reboot. But instead of films, DreamWorks is reimagining the character as a merchandising star.

The studio is preparing for a bevy of Lassie products next year with a publicity tour this summer, The New York Times reported. Lassie-in her current incarnation, the tenth in a family line-has appeared in a video for People, as a guest on Ryan Seacrest's radio program and at charity functions for Best Friends Animal Society and Save The Children. "Unlike everyone else in Hollywood, Lassie is much bigger in person," Seacrest joked on the air.

Vanity Fair also recently agreed to write a feature on Lassie's beauty regimen. And DreamWorks CEO Jeffrey Katzenberg persuaded Harvey Weinstein to put the dog in an upcoming episode of Project Runway. According to The New York Times, Katzenberg has been manning the phones, making the promotion of his canine star a priority and has also pitched the pooch for a guest spot on The Amazing Race.

DreamWorks sees Lassie as a way to make up for recent failures at the box office. The studio has reported a loss for the last two quarters, and sees Lassie as a potential crown jewel as it moves into merchandising to generate revenue. The character-who first appeared in The Saturday Evening Post in 1938 and went on to star in a CBS series from 1954 to 1973-retains an 83 percent "brand awareness," according to DreamWorks' market research. Participants associated the character with words like "heartwarming," "loyal," and "hero."

"We realized that Lassie has an authenticity that makes her a merchandising holy grail," Michael R. Francis, DreamWorks Animation's chief global brand officer, told the Times.

So what kind of Lassie products can we expect in the near future?

"Our ambitions are global," Francis said. "Dog food, dog accessories, dog grooming, dog beds, dog training" are some of the products the studio currently has in the works. None of these items, which will be aimed primarily at adults, are available yet, but the studio is reportedly working on deals for all of them at the moment.

No-shows and last-minute cancelations have plagued fine-dining restaurants for as long as there have been reservations. For years, restaurateurs just ate the losses. But now, a few intrepid operators are experimenting with a drastic solution: Hitting diners with the check before they even come to dinner.

Gone are the days of slipping the maître d' a ten spot to guarantee a good table. In this ticketing system, you pay for everything up front.

Chicago restaurateur Nick Kokonas has created a ticketing system for his restaurants Next and Alinea after losing serious money on no-shows, reports SiliconValley.com. He's also made his pre-payment system (which carries no brand name as such) available to other restaurant owners. One of them is David Patterson, chef-owner of San Francisco's Coi, which will start using it next month.

Patterson told SiliconValley.com that the no-show problem is getting worse, so he has no choice but to pass those costs on to customers before they come in. (Kokonas will reportedly collect a fee of $695 from operators who want to lease his ticketing system, plus $40 per month to use it. He said about 20 other restaurants have expressed interest.)

The ticketing system is simple enough to use, jarring as it may be to newcomers. On the Coi web site, for example, diners click on the "Reserve" tab, choose a dining time and number of diners, and then pay with a credit card. The price ranges from $145 to $195 depending on the time of the week, includes the tasting menu only, and does not include wine. The restaurant also tacks on an 18 percent service charge.

To the question of whether a guest can obtain a refund, the FAQ page has this to say: "No. Just like a sporting event, concert or theater ticket, all sales are final."

Mercenary as these measures sound, they're apparently catching on. Lazy Bear is another San Francisco restaurant experimenting with the same pre-purchase ticket arrangement. Trois Mec in Los Angeles and Elizabeth Restaurant in Chicago are also early adopters of Kokonas' system.

In the past, restaurant owners have fought the no-show problem by trying cancelation fees, with varying degrees of success. Some operators fear such fees will anger customers, who can easily take their business elsewhere. The pre-purchase ticket concept runs the same risk, but it also guarantees that restaurant owners get paid.

Time will tell if Kokonas' ticket system, or ones like it, catch on in the fine-dining segment. The arrangement is unlikely to work for any but high-end restaurants with limited seating and large demand for their food. Meanwhile, for those unlucky diners who book their meals and later find that they can't make the seating, there's one recourse: ticket scalping.

Pinterest touts its newly unveiled messaging feature in this handsomely shot two-and-a-half minute video from production house Strike Anywhere.

The clip is Apple-esque, as are so many personal-tech ads these days, celebrating Pinterest's heightened functionality as a means of enhancing everyday life. Using the new messaging system, people engage in pithy yet productive text conversations about pins showing canoes, casseroles and spaceships. This demonstrates Pinterest's ability to help folks collaboratively plan outings, dinners and work projects. (Of course, it could also create fresh opportunities for advertisers.)

The music track, Kishi Bashi's "Philosophize in It! Chemicalize With It!" is a fine choice. It's uplifting and accessible, but doesn't overpower the spot. It works here, and would work equally well in any number of recent ads for Apple, Samsung or Microsoft. In fact, this spot, while true to Pinterest's vibe, is a good sign of how tech services and their ads are increasingly blurring together.

But for Pinterest, building on earlier long-form ads, it represents a noticeable step toward being a major marketer in the social tech arena. Take a look below and see what you think.

Doug Scott, the president and founder of OgilvyEntertainment, is joining WME | IMG this week as the firm's New York-based vp, marketing and brand solutions, a new role at the entertainment, sports and media giant.

Scott, who was recognized in Adweek's 2012 'Top 50' list of industry innovators, became part of the Ogilvy & Mather branded and original entertainment unit in 2006. Previously he was svp, general manager of L.A. entertainment public relations firm Bragman Nyman Cafarelli. In other earlier roles, he was founder of Matter, an entertainment marketing company; evp, marketing and creative director of TV and film production company Hypnotic and evp, general manager at the Hollywood Stock Exchange, a simulated stock market where fans could trade movies, stars and music properties.

In December, WME and private equity partner Silver Lake said they were acquiring talent agents IMG in a $2.4 billion deal that was described as creating a mega-agency that would dwarf WME's primary rival, Creative Artists Agency.

Aaron Paul was just going on about how he misses playing Jesse Pinkman. Well, he gets a bit of a Breaking Bad fix here by reuniting with Bryan Cranston for this amusing comedic short from Audi for next Monday's Emmy Awards.

Cranston and Paul once again play colleagues in a sketchy trade, though this time, instead of cooking blue meth, they're running a pawn shop together. The video also stars Julia Louis-Dreyfus-that makes three Emmy winners-who tries to pawn her 1996 Emmy (for playing Elaine on Seinfeld) to help pay for a private island she's bought in a fit of Celine Dion envy.

The video was produced by PMK-BNC and written and directed by Paulilu (the comedy team behind Dollar Shave Club's viral launch video as well as last year's great Spock vs. Spock ad for Audi with Zachary Quinto and Leonard Nimoy).

"We knew we had a great concept, a winning team and a client, Audi, who understood the value of this type of content," says Joseph Assad, executive producer at PMK-BNC. "We flew in face of convention by putting out a video at six minutes, but with the high-caliber acting and the quality of the idea, we knew we could push some boundaries."

The whole thing is pretty hilarious-particularly the sly nod to Walter White and Mr. Pinkman at the end.

UPDATE: Were the creators perhaps inspired by an actual episode of Pawn Stars Las Vegas in which a guy tries to sell a Grammy Award?

Client: Audi
Executive Producer: Joseph Assad, PMK·BNC
Featuring: 2015 Audi S3
Written and Directed by: Paulilu (Paul W. Downs & Lucia Aniello)
Producer: Jake Cassidy
DP: Chris Westlund
Starring: Bryan Cranston, Aaron Paul and Julia Louis-Dreyfus
Hashtag: #BarelyLegalPawn
Audi Twitter Handle: @Audi

Many online advertising firms are struggling in the wake of falling stock prices, as reported by The Wall Street Journal, even though global spending on online ads is expected to climb 25 percent this year, according to eMarketer, and will represent 39 percent of total ad spending in the U.S.

Some of the young, publicly traded companies that are not reaping the benefits of that growth are Rocket Fuel, down 73 percent since January; YuMe, down 38 percent; Tremor Video, 46 percent; and Millennial Media, 66 percent, the Journal reported. Even Rubicon Project, a company in which Journal owner News Corp. owns a 13.7 percent stake, is down 27 percent from its $15 initial-public-offering price in April.

Some of the companies attribute the loss to the significant expense for automated solutions, among other investments. "Research-and-development [costs] increased 65 percent year over year as we accelerated our investments in existing product and emerging programmatic initiatives," according to YuMe CEO Jayant Kadambi.

Some industry experts have suggested that the investors funding these companies don't fully understand the complexity or expense of the online ad market, specifically the programming required to automate the ads. Each of the struggling ad companies plays its own role in improving and innovating the programmatic elements.

"It's a confusing market," Frank Addante, founder and CEO of Rubicon Project, told the Journal. "I liken it to the early days of Silicon Valley. If you were an investor back then, you didn't know what was going to be valuable."

Another factor is the fierce market competition. Smaller, younger companies are finding it difficult to keep up with the larger conglomerates, such as Google. In fact, some of the big online players, including AOL, Adobe, Oracle and Salesforce, are purchasing online advertising products-and sometimes even acquiring the smaller companies themselves-with the goal of building fully automated solutions.

When Showtime invited Dan Cassaro to join a design "contest" he felt amounted to milking professionals for free work, he let the network-and the world-know how he felt about it.

The offer, made to a number of designers, involved promoting the Floyd Mayweather-Marcos Maidana boxing match on Sept. 13. Those who submitted designs for Showtime's use "could be eligible for a chance to win a trip to Las Vegas and have your artwork displayed in the MGM Grand during fight week!," the network told Cassaro in an email.

After sending an email response slathered in sarcasm ("I know that boxing matches in Las Vegas are extremely low-budget affairs"), Cassaro then posted the exchange to Twitter.

Here's the screenshot of the conversation (click to expand):

In the week since, Cassaro's tweet has become a viral rallying cry for creatives who feel besieged by expectations of free work. It has more than 5,000 retweets and 5,600 favorites, and has become one of the topic's most electrifying moments since Mike Monteiro's "Fuck You Pay Me" speech in 2011.

Showtime issued a response to BuzzFeed, saying the network is "a strong supporter of artists around the world. This contest, like many others, is entirely optional."

We caught up with Cassaro to ask what it's been like seeing his frustration go global.

AdFreak: Your tweet just keeps blowing up. A week later, it's still being retweeted. What's it been like watching it all unfold?
Dan Cassaro: It's been pretty unreal. I would have double-checked my grammar if I knew this many people would see it.

Why did you go public with it? Clearly, you were frustrated. But after responding to Showtime, what made you say, "Screw it, I'm going to post this on Twitter"?
Partially I just wanted to do it as a joke. But I also wanted to let people know that while it's good to say no to this kind of work, it's even better to explain to everyone why this business model is unacceptable.

Why do you think it struck such a chord with designers and other creatives?
Because they all get these emails. And it's not just designers. I received a ton of responses from writers, cartoonists, architects and people in other professions who get asked to work for free. I don't know what it is. Maybe people think that if you went to art school you don't understand money?

Were you concerned about calling out a brand like Showtime by posting the email? I'm guessing they won't become a paying client anytime soon.
Who knows? Maybe they admire my pluck? Honestly, people valuing themselves and their work enough to say no to this kind of thing has more long-term value than any one job or one client.

Has Showtime responded directly to you?
They wrote me a short and very polite email. Honestly, it's less about Showtime and more about these hack crowdsourcing campaigns that certain agencies are selling to them. There are lots of folks doing very cool things with user-generated content, but to ask professionals to compete against each other for potential "exposure" is completely different. It's demeaning, and it lowers the value of everyone's work.

Among your peers, clearly a vast majority of the response has been positive. Have any designers criticized you for how you handled it?
The response from designers has pretty much been all positive. Some guy on a boxing enthusiast forum called me a "slimy hipster," though.

Do you think anything constructive will come out of this, for yourself or the industry?
I hope so. If nothing else, it's good to get people talking about it.

On Monday, we posted Miller Lite's new national TV spot, featuring a handful of fan photos selected from some 180,000 gathered through the immensely successful #ItsMillerTime hashtag campaign.

Now, with impeccable timing, Newcastle is here to call bollocks on the whole idea.

The British brewer, known for its anti-marketing marketing, just launched its own hashtag campaign, #NewcastleAdAid, in which it's also asking for fan snapshots-and promises to use the wonders of Photoshop to turn them into really shoddy-looking ads.

Why the sudden embrace of low-cost user-generated content? Because it blew its marketing budget on celebs for the Super Bowl and the Fourth of July.

"Newcastle recognized it needed more 'engaging social content' to keep all of its new followers interested, but this lazy branded content wasn't going to make itself," the brand tells AdFreak. "Newcastle definitely is not the first brand to ask fans to post photos on social media to 'build a stronger community' and whatnot, but Newcastle definitely is the best at turning those photos into into obvious, exaggerated, poorly executed ads."

Here's the pitch video from Droga5, running on Twitter and Facebook:

text Publicis N.A. Hires Julie Levin as CMO
Tue, 19 Aug 2014 07:17:57 PDT

Publicis North America CEO Andrew Bruce is rounding out his new executive team with the addition of Julie Levin as chief marketing officer. Levin, who joins the agency's flagship New York office on Sept. 8, was chief growth officer at The Martin Agency since last August.

She succeeds Chris Shumaker, who last September was named North American CMO of the Interpublic network now known as FCB.

While Levin was at Richmond-based Martin, the agency won business like Stoli and Georgia Pacific's Sparkle paper towels. Previously, Levin was head of business development at BBH N.Y. for nearly three years, during which time the agency landed Sony PlayStation's global account. Prior to that role, she was managing partner, director of business development at mcgarrybowen, N.Y. when the agency picked up business from Verizon Wireless, Kraft Food and Pfizer. She has also worked in account management, running Revlon at Deutsch N.Y. and Gillette's Venus brand at BBDO N.Y.

Publicis' Bruce, who was named to his current role last December, said Levin's mandate not only covers new business development but also organic growth from existing clients.

"She's such a personality, so bright and driven with a lot of energy and has such a depth of experience with clients. She won't just bring in new clients in but will continue to work with them," he said.

Bruce also sees Levin's role internally as one of understanding the network's resources and sharing them across the agency as a way of having colleagues put them before clients and drive organic growth.

Levin is Andrew Bruce's latest hire. In May, Dawn Winchester joined as Publicis North America's chief digital officer from R/GA, where she was chief marketing services officer. Earlier in the year, Carla Serrano was recruited as chief strategy officer of Publicis Kaplan Thaler, after serving as CEO of Naked Communications.

Advertisers may dominate the lion's share of America's billboards, but roadside signs seem to be an increasingly popular medium for artists as well.

A number of billboard installations have been popping up around the country, reports The New York Times. In Missouri, there's the "I-70 Sign Show," which seeks to spark political debate with images like a Mickalene Thomas piece on female sexuality.

In Cincinnati, the "Big Pictures" show aims to break up the daily routines of passersby with images like a toucan surrounded by Post-it notes, created by artist Sarah Cwynar. And along cross-country Interstate 10, "The Manifest Destiny Billboard Trip" has since last fall sought to call attention to issues concerning the history of westward expansion, with some 100 signs featuring the work of 10 artists.

Each example offers a bit more art theory and cultural critique than your average billboard. They're also more modest in scope than the massive "Art Everywhere" initiative launched this summer, which has seen an advertising trade organization team up with a group of major museums to bring more than 50 crowd-curated paintings, including classics like Edward Hopper's Nighthawks, to more than 50,000 outdoor ad spaces.

While the smaller works might not be as inventive as turning billboards into houses for the homeless, they are a nice change of pace from, say, Ashley Madison.

After coming off of a high note during this summer's World Cup, soccer player Tim Howard has signed one of his first new brand partnerships-with Marriott International's #LoveTravels campaign that launches today.

Tim Howard's campaign

"It's huge for me-working with Marriott International," said Howard. "I'm always trying to seek out top brands that think the way I think-that to me is important when engaging in a partnership." The athlete said he has a few other deals in the works but declined to name specific brands.

Marriott made a swift bid for Howard coming off the World Cup hype. "It came about very quickly, and certainly when I came back from Brazil, it all happened within weeks, really, if that," he said. "I think that's a sign of a good relationship, a good partnership-when the interest level from both sides is high, it's very simple."

The Adweek cover subject is one of five spokespeople in the hotel chain's new marketing initiative, which also includes fashion designer Angela Simmons (daughter of Joseph Simmons, more commonly known as Rev. Run); chef Mia Banducci; model Anouschka Dap; and Mima Media founder and CEO Christoph Geisler.

The hotel brand worked with agency Grey to roll out branded videos and a media campaign starring the spokespeople. Its marketing plan includes display and video ads, social media components and a microsite. #LoveTravels also churns out some user-generated content with a social contest that asks consumers to share travel photos tagged with the campaign's hashtag for a chance to win a $2,000 grand prize or $500 weekly prizes.

According to Kristine Friend, senior director of segment marketing at Marriott, the decision to partner with Howard is based on the athlete's passion for travel. "He lives in Manchester, he travels with his children, he's into body art, and he travels to get new tattoos," she said, "so he just had a very interesting story, and we wanted to partner with him to talk about his travel journeys and how his passions continue to grow along those journeys."

Marriott has also partnered with the U.S. Soccer and the U.S. International teams since 2012, making the new partnership a logical step. As for Howard, he said the campaign is right on his wavelength. "I love to travel, [and] I do it as one of my passions," he said. "When I was a kid, it was a burden, and now it's allowed me to do all the things that I want to do, whether it be for business or for pleasure."

Howard also recently starred in a short film for NBC with Jason Sudeikis as part of a two-year contract with the broadcasting company. "It came about last year when I was asked to commentate on a game, so we did it on a trial basis," Howard said. The test turned into Howard commentating roughly seven or eight games last year. After Howard returned from a vacation earlier this summer, he and NBC agreed to a two-year contract; under it, he will commentate for NBC on Premier League broadcast games in England this year and next.

The goalie also re-signed a four-year contract in April with current team Everton in England that will keep him playing until the 2018 World Cup in Russia. When asked if he would ever consider playing for Major League Soccer in the U.S., Howard didn't rule it out, but he said it's unlikely if he rides out his current contract. At the same time, he also wants to get involved in other aspects of the sport, such as the NBC commentator gig.

"I think, potentially, that's something that interests me-I get excited about it," he said. "I like doing some of the television. I don't know if that's going to be what I will transition to, but it's certainly an option."

We've all been there-Googling a laundry list of symptoms out of concern that our cough and runny nose could be something more serious.

In fact, the third most popular online activity-right behind checking email and using a search engine-is looking for answers to health-related questions, according to a Pew Internet survey. And it isn't only people with the common cold. Those suffering from severe illnesses research medical questions online, too.

The Internet has extended the influence of healthcare providers far beyond hospitals and doctors' offices. Yet the information that patients find online is often inadequate for their individual needs. In light of this, providers are discovering how important it is to control the accuracy of content they produce online.

Check out Contently's free e-book, State of Healthcare Content Marketing: A Prescription for Success.

Additionally, with great power comes great responsibility, especially if your demographic is looking to self-diagnose. After all, if you're a healthcare provider, the ramifications of misleading content are much greater than if you're a software company. People's lives are in your hands.

Organizations including the Cleveland Clinic, Johns Hopkins Medicine and the Mayo Clinic have benefited in tangible ways from content marketing efforts. However, the healthcare industry on the whole lags up to two years behind in terms of producing engaging content, according to one study.

So how can healthcare companies make sure that patients turn to their resources for crucial advice, and how can they offer the safest and most beneficial information possible?

Contently's free e-book, State of Healthcare Content Marketing: A Prescription For Success, examines trends, highlights best-in-class examples and lays down predictions for what's next in the industry.

Whether a brand is looking to start a marketing initiative or vying to improve existing efforts, understanding the landscape can mean the difference between success and failure.

In order to find the strongest content marketing diagnosis for your healthcare brand, download State of Healthcare Content Marketing: A Prescription For Success:

There is something undeniably nostalgic about David "The Hoff" Hasselhoff that makes me feel as if I'm back in the '80s. His perfectly coifed hair. His overly dramatic one-liners. The somewhat automated way in which he moves. Whatever it is, it's magic.

Hasselhoff has given us decades of TV and film entertainment, from his role as the crime-fighting Michael Knight with his futuristic intelligent supercar in Knight Rider to lifesaver and beach hunk Mitch Buchannon on Baywatch. But the Hoff hasn't stopped delivering impressive performances.

Most recently, he has been delivering cheesily stellar performances in zany ads for Norton software, Subaru, Cumberland Farms and Volkswagen, just to name a few.

Check out some of the ads above-the quintessential picture of David Hasselhoff.

Earlier this year, Coca-Cola rolled out its first TV spot made completely with user-generated content. Now, it's Miller Lite's turn to shine the spotlight on its fans.

Back in May, the beer brand launched a summertime #ItsMillerTime campaign, in which it used packaging, promoted tweets and its social channels to ask people for their best summer photos-with cameos by the retro-cool Miller Lite cans, of course.

The brand says nearly 180,000 photos were submitted. (It further claims that #ItsMillerTime has been the No. 2 branded hashtag on Twitter since May 7, trailing only Adidas's #allin).

The brand liked seven of the fan photos in particular and featured them prominently in the new national TV spot below, which breaks early this week. (A few dozen shots more are compiled in a collage at the end of the ad, but only the seven get full-screen treatment.)

They're all fun snapshots-not particularly compelling, but "relatable," as they say. And as for the wedding couple-more power to you.

Advertising is easy. You can sell anything you want nowadays if you just pick up a camera, press record and then upload the results to the internet. Music? No problem! Just get your friend to beatbox over the video. So simple.

What is not easy is getting people to go to malls. East Hills Mall in St. Joseph, Mo., needed some summer traffic in its glorious shopping paradise, so it made its own spot.

The commercial really has everything you need: actors, props, a soundtrack! I can't think of anything else that would make it better. Take a look below.

Sure, some might call it the worst local commercial ever made. I call it perfect.

text Could P&G Sell Off Iconic Ivory Brand?
Mon, 18 Aug 2014 11:18:52 PDT

Since Procter & Gamble's Aug. 1 announcement that it intends to shutter or sell off as many as 100 brands, investors, advertising firms and retailers have speculated over which products would change hands or become unavailable. The Wall Street Journal has crunched sales data and projections and uncovered a bombshell of a candidate: Ivory soap.

A range of reports peg Ivory's 2013 global revenues at $112 million, and its share of the U.S. bar soap market at 3.4 percent. Even though Ivory maintains a high profile, it has retreated significantly from its highs of past decades, and it may be considered an expendable laggard among the high-performance product mix P&G CEO A.G. Lafley foresees.

Lafley has made it clear that his company wants to concentrate on the 70 to 80 brands that generate more than $100 million in gross annual revenues. Ivory is just above that cutline, and projections do not call for growth.

A decision to wash its hands of Ivory would come three years after P&G tried to reinvigorate the brand by introducing lines of body wash, liquid hand soap and combined hair-and-body wash. The company also had Sterling redesign Ivory's packaging and partnered with Wieden + Kennedy to create print and Web ads to cast the soap as a top choice for mothers of young children.

As the WSJ article notes, abandoning Ivory could represent a fundamental shift in corporate identity for P&G. The son of the company's founder helped develop the vegetable oil-based bar in the late 1870s, and the product was the first one P&G marketed as a stand-alone brand.

A clue to which brands P&G does plan to retain could come from a statement at the bottom of the Cincinnati company's press release summarizing the company's fiscal performance during the fourth quarter of 2014. The company lists the stars of its portfolio as Always, Ambi Pur, Ariel, Bounty, Charmin, Crest, Dawn, Downy, Duracell, Fairy, Febreze, Gain, Gillette, Head & Shoulders, Lenor, Olay, Oral-B, Pampers, Pantene, SK-II, Tide, Vicks, Wella and Whisper.

Who turned out the lights?

Tim Hortons and JWT Toronto plunged customers at one of the coffee and donut chain's Quebec locations into inky darkness for a prank introducing a new dark roast coffee blend.

When unwitting patrons arrived, they found the L'Île-Perrot store completely covered in black-out material, even the windows. Dark vehicles were parked out front to heighten the mystery. Those who ventured inside bumped into a dude wearing night-vision goggles, who led them to a counter where dark roast was served and the gag revealed.

Goggles Guy looks pretty creepy, and unlike the hammy, self-aware fright reactions we've seen in some "scary" ad pranks, the squeals of shock and surprise at Tim Hortons seem genuine.This is the client's second large-scale, Twilight Zone-ish effort of late. In May, it meticulously recreated its first shop from 1964, interior and exterior, in minute detail (see below)-even bringing back the original employees as servers.

Both the time machine and darkness stunts have generated lots of attention (the latter is approaching 700,000 YouTube views in four days). Still, such shenanigans seem like an awful lot to digest before you've had your morning joe.

Gatorade must think its customer base is too big, as the brand's new ad campaign from TBWA\Chiat\Day shows people in convenience stores being denied the sports beverage unless they're actively sweating.

Eight hidden-camera style videos are anchored by Rob Belushi (son of Jim), who plays the deadpan store clerk doing the denying-explaining to the customers that they have to "sweat it to get it" (the campaign's tagline) and "burn some to earn some."

Peyton Manning and Cam Newton then make cameos-the former as the ostensible manager of the store, the latter as a fellow customer.

The agency says the campaign was shot on location at an actual convenience store with over 15 hidden cameras and directed by Jody Hill of Eastbound & Down fame. (Hill also directed the new Dodge Dart campaign out of Wieden + Kennedy.)

"Gatorade was invented to replace what athletes sweat out. So the intent was to create something that might cause someone who reaches for a Gatorade to think, 'Hold up…have I earned this?' " says Brent Anderson, ecd at TBWA\Chiat\Day in Los Angeles.

"Sweat it to get it" signage will appear in more than half of all Gatorade convenience store retail locations through the NFL preseason and regular season. Presumably no one who's dry to the touch will actually be turned away.

Client: Gatorade
Chief Marketing Officer: Morgan Flatley
Senior Director, Consumer Engagement: Molly Carter
Marketing Director: Jamie Davies
Manager, Branded Entertainment: Nancy Laroche
Senior Director, Sports Marketing: Jeff Kearney
Director, Sports Marketing: Tom Prochaska

Agency: TBWA\Chiat\Day, Los Angeles
Chief Creative Officer: Stephen Butler
Executive Creative Director: Brent Anderson
Global Creative Director: Jayanta Jenkins
Senior Art Director: Dave Estrada
Senior Copywriter: Nick Ciffone
Copywriter: Nick Cohen
Art Director: Jon Soto
Director Of Production: Brian O'Rourke
Senior Producer: Tim Newfang
Managing Director: Peter Ravailhe
Branded Entertainment Manager: Marc Johns
Sports Marketing Manager: Erika Buder
Project Manager: Parker Adame
Associate Brand Manager: Ralph Lee
Group Planning Director: Scott MacMaster
Planning Director: Martin Ramos
Planner: Rebecca Harris
Junior Planner: Katie Acosta
Junior Planner: Matt Bataclan
Director Of Business Affairs: Linda Daubson
Executive Business Affairs Manager: Lisa Lipman
Talent Payment Manager: Mirielle Smith
Director, Traffic Operations: Dessiah Maxwell
Broadcast Traffic: Jerry Neill

Production Company: Caviar Content
Director: Jody Hill
Executive Producer: Luke Ricci
Producer: Brian Quinlan
Production Designer: Mark Snelgrove
Director Of Photography: Michael Svitak
Managing Partner: Michael Sagol

Editorial Company: HutchCo Technologies
Editor: Jim Hutchins
Assistant Editor: Joaquin Machado
EP: Jane Hutchins

Postproduction: The Mill, Los Angeles
Sr. Executive Producer Sue Troyan
EP: Enca Kaul
Producer: Kiana Bicoy
Production Coordinator: Jillian Lynes
2D Lead Artist: Robin McGloin
2D Lead Artist: Scott Wilson
2D Lead Artist: Patrick Munoz
2D Lead Artist: Scott Johnson
Colorist: Nick Sanders

Back-to-school sales will continue to drop this year, according to projections from The Integer Group. The global retail marketing agency teamed up with M/A/R/C Research to complete the study, which found that 36 percent of U.S. consumers, constrained by tight budgets, will not do any back-to-school shopping this season.

A decline was already evident in 2013, with a dip of 3.5 percent from the prior year. This year, a drop of nearly 5 percent is projected. With fewer people shopping, retailers will be under more pressure to offer compelling deals, higher quality products and engaging ad campaigns.

Craig Elston, svp of insight and strategy at The Integer Group, offered a theory on what triggered the decline. "A combination of several factors could explain why a third of the respondents won't be shopping, including fewer school-age children in the home and households repurposing school supplies and merchandise to help minimize costs," he said.

Among those who do shop, a growing number will go online. According to Deloitte's annual back-to-school survey, six in 10 shoppers will buy supplies on their tablets, while one in five will use social media to complete back-to-school shopping. Integer's data indicates that half of all millennial shoppers are using the Internet to complete their purchases.

Some other key findings of Integer's study:

  • For three out of four shoppers, price is the most important element in back-to-school purchases, although a growing number of consumers are focused on quality and fun.
  • Hispanic shoppers are more likely to shop for back-to-school: Only 17 percent will not be shopping, compared to 43 percent of Caucasians.
  • Although 44 percent of all shoppers still browse traditional circulars and catalogs, only 24 percent of millennials do, indicating that digital channels are likely to surpass print over time.
  • Over half of all shoppers will wait until one to three weeks before school to buy their supplies.

Branding campaigns form the backbone of the massive amounting of marketing behind the food and beverage industry. And while the focus of those campaigns is starting to shift to healthier lifestyles, making sure to get the right message to the right audience is always a challenge.

With that in mind, a new study from Womensforum.com found that twice as many mothers are concerned with their own weight more than the weight of their children. The family of Websites polled more than 1,000 women, and found that 70 percent are regularly worried about their own weight, versus 36 percent who are worried about the weight of their children. Diet food marketers should find those stats particularly interesting, and they should probably ramp up on digital marketing.

Just a little over 40 percent of mothers say they regularly turn to the Internet for information on health and nutrition, especially when it comes to their children. And 46 percent of respondents go online for the same information in relation to themselves and the adults in their household. Also, 39 percent of mothers use the Internet for information about dieting and calorie-counting for adults, but only 23 percent do the same for their children.

Indeed, the study also found that when purchasing food meant for the entire family, these same women valued low calorie, low fat and high protein options, suggesting that these women are not viewing dieting and weight issues as the same topic as general health and nutrition. This is a crucial difference for brands and agencies looking to target this demographic.

"Marketers need to embrace these priorities and understand critical nuances in the way that moms perceive and balance specific weight worries with concerns centered on the broader subject of health," said Mark Kaufman, founder and CEO, Womensforum.com.

Andrea Metcalf, health and fitness expert, Womensforum.com, added, "It may appear surprising that moms seem to be more concerned about their own weight rather than their children's, but if you look at what they actually buy at the supermarket, it becomes clear that they view health and nutrition differently from dieting and calorie-cutting."

The National Health and Nutrition Examination Study found that one-third of all U.S. adults were obese in 2011-2012-the latest year it has released such data-including 36.1 percent of all women. Over the years the survey has been done, that number has held fairly steady.

The CDC survey also found that approximately 30 percent of children age 8-15 misperceived their weight. Seventy-one percent of overweight girls and 81 percent of overweight boys believe they are the correct weight. Additionally, the survey discovered that more than 2 million children in this age range who are at a healthy weight believe they are either too thin or too heavy.

Life in Thailand is pretty meaningful, judging by the heartrending commercials the country produces. Companies like TrueMove and Thai Life Insurance have been rolling out masterful long-form spots about the deeper meaning of existence for several years. And now, the latter returns with a lovely little story about the power of music.

The spot is about a boy who's bullied, at first, for his clumsy attempts at playing guitar. As usual with these things, it's best not to reveal too much about the plot beforehand. So, watch below-and shield your watery eyes from co-workers. Agency: Ogilvy & Mather.

If you were looking for someone to blame every time a pop-up ad mars your web-browsing experience, here's a guy who'd like to nominate himself-and offer his apologies.

Ethan Zuckerman, internet pioneer and director of MIT's Center for Civic Media, takes to the pages of The Atlantic in a lengthy essay titled "The Internet's Original Sin." In it, he delves into the myriad issues around something we all might generally take for granted: a free, ad-supported web. He also owns up to having invented that odious pop-up format, which assaults your eyeballs when you least want it (i.e., anytime), while he was working at the early web-hosting service Tripod.com back in the 1990s. (Though, in a moment agency people might find empathetic, he also sort of pawns off the blame on an auto client, who didn't want its ad appearing on the same page as explicit content).

It's worth reading the whole article, if you're up for reflecting on the the current, sorry state of web affairs. Zuckerman includes a lot of smart perspective on topics like meager digital revenues, and the stupefying allure of click bait, and blasé consumer attitudes about behavioral tracking, along with how all that ties in with broader financial systems, and why it came to be so in the first place. He also notes that the ad-supported web was borne of good intentions, though, as Fast Company points out, that's a tricky line to walk, given that it was, on some level, always at least in part about making money.

Toward the end of his treatise, Zuckerman even begins delving into other possible revenue models, like subscriptions, micro-payments and crowd-funding-acknowledging the difficulty of finding solutions, and allowing that regardless, "there are bound to be unintended consequences."

And at risk of being fatalistic, it's hard to imagine alternatives gaining traction when the vast majority of consumers expect free content, and don't seem to mind becoming the product to get it. But you also have to credit Zuckerman for falling on his sword to help draw attention to the debate.

We're still not sure we forgive him for pop-up ads, though.

Apple has had its ups and downs in advertising lately. But one recent unqualified creative success-last year's much-loved "Misunderstood" holiday spot-waltzed off with the 2014 Emmy Award for best commercial at the Creative Arts Emmys on Saturday.

The spot, created by TBWA\Media Arts Lab and directed by Lance Acord of Park Pictures, shows a teen at Christmas who seems anti-socially glued to his iPhone, though it turns out it's for heartwarming reasons. It beat out four other nominees for the prize. Two of them were Super Bowl ads by Anomaly for Budweiser-"Hero's Welcome" and "Puppy Love." The other two were BBDO's "Childlike Imagination" for GE and Wieden + Kennedy's "Possibilities" for Nike.

See all five spots below.

The results are a reversal from the Cannes Lions festival where "Possibilities" won gold in Film while "Misunderstood" took silver. The Emmys, though, are known for rewarding big crowd pleasers. The GE spot was shortlisted in Film Craft at Cannes but didn't win. Neither Bud ad was shortlisted in any category.

Last year's Emmy winner was Grey's "Inspired" spot for Canon. Before that, W+K won four Emmys in a row-for Procter & Gamble's "Best Job" (2012), Chrysler's "Born of Fire" (2011), Old Spice's "The Man Your Man Could Smell Like" (2010) and Coca-Cola's "Heist" (2009).

2014 Emmy Awards - Outstanding Commercial

Winner: Apple, "Misunderstood"
Ad Agency: TBWA\Media Arts Lab
Production Company: Park Pictures

: Budweiser, "Hero's Welcome"
Ad Agency: Anomaly
Production Company: HSI Productions

: Budweiser, "Puppy Love"
Ad Agency: Anomaly
Production Company: RSA

: GE, "Childlike Imagination"
Ad Agency: BBDO
Production Company: MJZ

: Nike, "Possibilities"
Ad Agency: Wieden + Kennedy
Production Company: MJZ

Earlier this week, we recapped some of the best moments from Robin Williams' contributions to advertising, but a reader pointed out that we omitted one of his last-and most touching-commercials.

In the 2012 spot below for Sky Italia satellite TV, Williams plays a life-sized toy robot that a boy finds waiting for him under the Christmas tree. The two are soon inseparable, playing games throughout the house and sharing a few magical moments.

As news of Williams' death spread this week, the Internet was flooded with stories from fans who grew up in broken or even abusive homes. Williams' comedies showed them that there really were great fathers out there, and the films offered them a chance to escape to a world created around a man who was as creative and fun as he was loving and genuine.

The family in this ad seems just fine, but it's still a wonderful encapsulation of the very personal joy Williams brought to children around the world.