Am I a Hypocrite for Laughing at Charlie Sheen’s Ads?

Last week, I scolded Dior for calling their line “Dior Addict” and using Kate Moss, an alleged drug addict, for their campaign.

Yet, a few days ago, I saw Fiat’s new commercial called “House Arrest,” with Charlie Sheen and laughed out loud.

It got me thinking. Why was I so offended by Dior Addict and Kate Moss, yet I enjoy the ads from Fiat and DIRECTV starring Sheen? Am I a hypocrite? Am I being harder on one sex than the other?

The answer I’ve come up with is “I don’t think so.” Let me know if you think it’s a line of bull.

First, let’s look at the DIRECTV ad:

This clearly is making fun of Sheen and has a sort of playful vibe to it because Charlie is in on the joke. The guy in the ad meets Charlie Sheen in a Turkish bath house and then takes him home to re-enact movie scenes with the actor. You see a crazed-looking Charlie rising from behind plants aiming his crossbow at the guy. And you hear a voice:

“Don’t re-enact scenes from Platoon with Charlie Sheen.”

Funny! And good advice. I don’t find this offensive at all because it’s so off the wall and playful.

Then, a few days ago, I saw the Fiat 500 Abarth ad. Take a look:

Granted, I began loving it before I knew Charlie Sheen was the guy driving the car inside the house. My first thought on who it was (probably because I live near West Chester, PA) is that it was Bam Margera (notorious for pulling stunts like this in his parents’ home).

But then you see the driver’s foot step out of the car and it’s got an ankle bracelet (the criminal tracking kind) on it. Charlie makes a joke about loving being under house arrest, and then turns to the beautiful woman next to him and says, “What do I get for good behavior?”

Clever, witty, and perfect for Charlie Sheen.

But then I started having these feelings. These icky, uncomfortable feelings of not being sure if I was viewing the Sheen ads and the Kate Moss ads with the same moral barometer.

After much thought, I’m standing my ground. Here’s what I believe:

  1. Both Kate Moss and Charlie Sheen deserve to still be able to work in their professions. I think most people, including me, would love to see both of them stay healthy and sober and put out good work.
  2. The DIRECTV commercial is blatant in its intent to make fun of Charlie Sheen and use that fun to promote their product. And, it’s kind of nice to see Sheen making fun of himself and how far he’s fallen (after all, he was damn good in Platoon).
  3. The Fiat commercial, while entertaining, does make me a little uneasy. I think I’d be more comfortable laughing at it if I knew Sheen was committed to staying sober and if he hadn’t treated women so horribly in the past. The line “Not all bad boys are created equal,” at the end, leaves the impression that Fiat is doing more than making fun—they sound like they’re glorifying what he’s done.
  4. Dior’s Addict advertising, though, is still the worst offender to me. Their tagline, “Be iconic” along with their “Addict” name and choice of representative makes it very clear they are glorifying Kate Moss’ jaded history.

I will still laugh at the Fiat commercial. It’s a brilliantly creative ad with a terrific driving demonstration reminiscent of the Bourne Identity movie.

As for Dior Addict, I stand firm. It’s a horrible example to set for teen girls and women everywhere. Kate Moss’ comeback could have been glorious, but it’s tainted and irresponsible.

Not all bad boys or girls are created equal, indeed. But, I honestly don’t think it’s the gender of these stars that is causing my different take on their ads. I think it’s the content, so that I’m okay with.

What do you think?

Addicted to Shock Value? Dior & Kate Moss Should Be Ashamed

So, I’m a little late to the party on this, but last week was the first time I saw a Dior Addict ad. And, in my defense, the one I saw was a brand new ad for their new line of Extreme lipsticks.

I should also add that, yes, I do have a good sense of humor. In fact, I was watching Chelsea Lately when the Dior Addict Extreme commercial came on.

At first, I thought maybe it was a joke. Kate Moss, who stars in this ad had (or has) a notorious drug habit. She didn’t pick up the nickname “Cocaine Kate” for nothing.

I wish I could show you the new ad, but it’s not online yet. (If interested, you can view a longer “Addict Film” from Dior on the Dior YouTube channel.) But, I think the concept alone is enough for you to form an opinion.

Dior Addict Extreme Lipstick ad with Kate Moss

What do you think?

I’m absolutely appalled. This industry seems to have no shame. They employ models who are sickly thin, produce ads with women with black (bruised) eyes and now Dior is making light of or maybe just ignoring the seriousness of addiction.

Some call it “cheeky,” but I call having a former (alleged) addict promote your product called Addict is ridiculous. Maybe careless is a better word.

The tagline is “Dior Addict—Be iconic.” Yes, Kate Moss is a supermodel icon, so is Dior then telling women and teenage girls (who also use makeup and fragrance) to be like Kate?

Careless. Irresponsible. I’ll let you choose.

The thing is, Dior could’ve simply called their line “Dior Extreme” and still used Kate Moss. I do think they would’ve drawn a fair amount of attention because it really is her comeback. But, I’m sure they knew the sort of attention using “Addict” would create and chose the easy, sleazy way instead.

Too bad.

What Do a Fashion Icon and a NASCAR Driver Have in Common?

World Autism Awareness Day design. World with sun and people holding hands around it.Autism Speaks answers this question in a series of touching, personal public-service advertisements (PSAs) meant to raise awareness of autism.

These PSAs are effective for two reasons:

  • Smack-you-in-the-face statistics
  • Personalization

More and more advertisers, in general, understand that making advertising and messaging more personal help keep your audience engaged. Autism Speaks is doing that very well, so far with four stars from various fields:

  • Tommy Hilfiger, fashion icon
  • Jamie McMurray, NASCAR driver
  • Toni Braxton, singer
  • Ernie Els, professional golfer

Each celebrity has a family member with autism. Braxton and Els both have sons diagnosed with the condition.

It’s very powerful to hear the statistics—1 in 110 children will have autism.

Personalization really drives those statistics home. Each star talks about the odds of them making it to their different points of success.

Jamie McMurray says, “The odds of having 157 career top ten finishes in NASCAR—1 in 125 billion. The odds of winning the Daytona 500 and the Brickyard 400 in the same year—1 in 195 million.”

Tommy Hilfiger says, “The odds of opening his own clothing store at the age of 18—1 in 138,000. The odds of achieving his dream in the fashion industry—1 in 23 million.”

These two ads mimic ones done by Toni Braxton and Ernie Els. The only difference is that the newer ads start with animation rather than snapshots of the stars’ lives.

All the videos end with “The odds of having a child with autism—1 in 110.”

Speaking as someone who works in the advertising world, I like these ads for almost the same reason that blogger Landon Bryce hates them—for their use of celebrities.

Landon admits the ads are well-intended, but he also adds that the campaign seems to be making the following point:

You are much more likely to be related to someone with autism than you are to be a celebrity like Tommy Hilfiger or Jamie McMurray.  And even celebrities like them can be related to people with autism!  So being related to someone with autism is both normal and cool, so you should learn the signs that will help you see autism in a family member.

Landon seems to have much more experience than I do with autism and says he has autism as well, so I can understand why he reacted the way he did. But I don’t think the commercials send that message at all. I think the celebrities are used to gain awareness, to make people notice.

Bottom line—and it is a sad one—is that people respond to celebrities more than they would if the ads featured regular, everyday people.

But, I also don’t want Landon’s reaction to these celebrities to overshadow two other important arguments he makes about these ads:

  1. They suggest “all autistic people are unable to speak for ourselves and need family members to speak for us.”
  2. They suggest, “that what really matters about autism is how it affects family members.”

I hope that viewers aren’t going away with those impressions. The autistic spectrum has an extensive range to it, and yes, most autistic people can speak for themselves. At first, I didn’t even consider what autistic people thought of these ads, so I wonder now if others feel the way Landon does. I encourage you to read Landon’s blog and get that view from the other side.

Autism Speaks explains the intent of their campaign:

The PSA campaign was designed to demonstrate the odds of a child reaching milestones parents think about often compared to the much greater chances of being diagnosed with autism. We all dream that our child will one day be a professional athlete or famous musician, but in reality the “Odds” of your child having autism are far greater.

They go on to say that, “The campaign has been a tremendous success, generating over $300 million in donated media, earning numerous awards, and most importantly, serving as a major catalyst to the rise of autism awareness in the general public over the last five years.”

So, I have to believe that most people do see the ads more favorably. Agency BBDO started this campaign (pro bono) back in 2006. The new work involves handmade fabric and paper models brought to life by 3D computer animation. Impressive and creative, the intent was to lull the viewer “into storybook worlds where they witness Hilfiger and McMurray’s respective journeys from humble beginnings down the road to success, before being brought back to reality by the odds of a child being diagnosed with autism.”

It all makes sense to me. Do you think they achieved that? Or do you react in a different way?


April 2 is World Autism Awareness Day, and Autism Speaks asks everyone to Light It Up Blue. Cities around the world will turn on blue lights on many of their buildings and landmarks.

Mobile Marketing and Gamification in One Neat Package for Brands

Screenshot of SCVNGR menu on iPhoneTwo marketing trends that will continue to grow (per many marketing experts’ predictions) are mobile marketing and gamification. The two go hand in hand, and one startup just may have been ahead of the curve on this.

SCVNGR is a social game played using your mobile phone. Unlike foursquare—which has been much more popular, but still isn’t quite sure how to engage users past check-ins—SCVNGR nailed the engagement factor.

How SCVNGR works

The basics of SCVNGR are similar to foursquare. You download the free app on your iPhone or Android phone. Then you check in at participating locations. Once you check in, you complete challenges to earn points and unlock rewards.

For example, you can get points for checking in, writing a review or taking a photo. You can then share what you’ve done with friends on Facebook and Twitter. Brands can create all sorts of challenges, like the one on the demo video (below) at Boca Grande. You can earn 4 points for Tin-Foil Origami—unwrap the foil from your burrito, fold it into an interesting shape and snap a photo of it.

You’ll know exactly how many points you’ll need to claim a reward (a store discount or other reward). And you’ll see the point-earning options listed on your phone. Once you earn a reward, you show your phone to the waitress or employee of the store and redeem it right away.

Check out the video showing you how to play. And no, that’s not Gabe from The Office talking–it’s Seth Priebatsch, the company’s founder.

Brands are seeing results

GameStop worked with SCVNGR for their launch of Call of Duty: Black Ops. The results they saw were exciting:

  • 17,000 players competed in mobile challenges within just four weeks after launch.
  • 10,000 rewards were unlocked.
  • 4 challenges were completed per player.
  • Users stayed engaged for at least 10 minutes per play.

(Source: Mobile Commerce Daily)

Of course GameStop saw good numbers for their promotion. Their customers are the perfect audience for social games. But other brands are seeing success too. (See a list of current SCVNGR clients here.)

Mobile payments add a valuable twist

So far, SCVNGR has partnered with 1,400 merchants for mobile payments in Boston, New York City, Philadelphia, Atlanta, Seattle, San Francisco, San Diego, and Chicago.

Screenshot of QR code on mobile phoneLevelUp, their payment app, is pretty simple. Users register a credit card or debit card on the app. They then get their own unique QR code, which they can scan to pay at any one of those 1,400 locations. After each transaction is completed, a receipt is sent to their e-mail.

In 2011, LevelUp passed the $1 million mark in transactions. Now, users spend over $1 million at local businesses per month, using LevelUp. And engagement has been doubling every 5 to 6 weeks. (Source: TechCrunch)

I never really got into foursquare and their mayorships, but I have to say that SCVNGR is something I could totally get into and have fun with. The keys to success are making it easy, fun and rewarding in a tangible way, and SCVNGR and its brand partners seem to be doing just that.

In exploring SCVNGR’s site and articles about them, the biggest negative I’ve seen (other than some early growing pains and mistakes with LevelUp) is their attention to their blog—or “blag” as they call it. The last post is from December 23. For a company that lives or dies by engagement, this isn’t a great example to set. Nitpicking, maybe.

Overall, it’ll be interesting to see where SCVNGR goes or grows. Will another social media site acquire it? Will it die out as competition in the mobile payment space opens up? What do you think?


If you want to read more about SCVNGR, go to Read, Write, Web and read Having Survived Gowalla, SCVNGR’s Path is Clear.