Kiwi-themed ad for Air New Zealand

September 4, 2017 • 2:45 pm

As an Honorary Kiwi, I present Air New Zealand’s new promotion (they’re famous for their funny ads), featuring a kiwi that is no longer flightless due to cultural evolution. As FastCompany notes,

In the plucky airline’s first global brand campaign aimed at U.S. and Canadian residents—starring a talking kiwi named Pete who is voiced by Jurassic Park’s Sam Neill—Air New Zealand will teach travelers all about the wonders of the kiwi bird and encourage them to follow their dreams to New Zealand (hopefully, on a certain airline).

The campaign is part of a concerted push for a growing number of American visitors. “Air New Zealand is probably the premium airline that you’ve probably never heard of living in America,” says Air New Zealand’s CEO, Christopher Luxon. “I would argue it’s the most successful airline in the world, by commercial results, customer results, and cultural results.” Some numbers may back him up: In 2016, Air New Zealand posted record profits of $663 million (which it shared with its staff in the form of bonuses) and the airline has been named Airline of the Year for the last four years in a row by the review website

Very clever, those Kiwis.

Worst ad of the year: Kendall Jenner quells social unrest and promotes harmony with Pepsi

April 6, 2017 • 9:00 am

Remember the old 1971 ad for Coca-Cola with the song “I’d like to buy the world a Coke”, proving that diverse peoples could be united by sharing a soft drink? Here it is:

That reminds me of the Google Doodle I wrote about the other day, promoting diversity but doing so in a way that irritated many of us. Sentiments about unity are easy to come by and easy to make, allowing you to flaunt your virtue (and indeed, such sentiments are virtuous and to be desired), but they overlook the very real problems of the difficult issues that divide us—things that often seem intractable.  Further, simplistic solutions simply look dumb: you can’t unite the world by sharing Cokes or drawing cute Google Doodles. What does that accomplish?

But tell that to Pepsi and Kendall Jenner, both of whom got into trouble for creating a 2.5-minute video ad (below) that uses recent social unrest to sell Pepsi, suggesting that all such unrest can be quenched with a carbonated beverage. As Pepsi said on the video’s YouTube site:

A short film about the moments when we decide to let go, choose to act, follow our passion and nothing holds us back. Capturing the spirit and actions of those people that jump in to every moment and featuring multiple lives, stories and emotional connections that show passion, joy, unbound and uninhibited moments. No matter the occasion, big or small, these are the moments that make us feel alive.

Starring Kendall Jenner and featuring music from Skip Marley.

Now, Kendall being a Kardashian, a family with more money than neurons, you’d pretty much expect something like this, though Pepsi bears most of the responsibility. And I suspect that the Kardashian philosophy is that “there’s no such thing as bad publicity,” since the fracas about the ad has simply has given the family more public notice. But Pepsi, embarrassed, has now withdrawn the ad (see below).

Watch for yourself. Kardashian, doing a modeling gig and then spying a crowd protesting some unspecified wrong (Pepsi, after all, can’t take sides), decides to become a social justice warrior, doffing her wig, wiping off her lipstick, and striding into the fray. There, judiciously offering a can of Pepsi to a thirsty cop, Jenner makes everything right—to the joyous approbation of all.

Note the hijab-wearing photographer and the Asian cellist, both also drinking Pepsi. Note as well the fist bump, with Kendall’s Pepsi-bearing fist knocking a black man’s. Full inclusiveness, true, but also cultural appropriation! Yet why is there a tub full of iced Pepsi in the middle of a demonstration?

Be sure to spot the upside-down peace symbol at 1:46.

Yes. the ad is dire and cringe-inducing, and it’s prompted backlash from many who saw it as a commercial appropriation of real political unrest such as that instantiated by the Black Lives Matter movement. For once, though, I find the protests far more defensible than the commercial itself, especially because they’re tinged with sarcastic humor. The one exception is the hectoring and humorless HuffPo piece by religion editor Car0l Kuruvilla (click on screenshot to go to article), whose virtue-signaling and hijabophilia I detest.

Out of all the things she could have written about the ad, she concentrates on the Muslim woman, with the ever-outraged Kuruvilla saying this:

Along with making light of protests against police shootings, the ad was also criticized for using images of a Muslim woman without amplifying the issues that have actually caused Muslim women to protest.

The ad failed to mention any of the issues that have troubled American Muslims over the past few months ― continuing religious-based discrimination and surveillance, President Donald Trump’s backdoor Muslim ban and his resounding silence about attacks on mosques, the bullying of Muslim kids, the rise in prominence of white supremacist groups, the fight for black lives. [JAC: Note to Kurivilla: it’s an ad, for crying out loud, not a piece of political analysis!]

But it used the image of a Muslim woman in a headscarf to sell soda to the masses.

Although Pepsi has removed the ad, this kind appropriation of a Muslim woman’s image is not new and not likely to go away soon.

What’s amusing here is that her article quotes with approval a statement from a Muslim woman:

In an article for The Wall Street Journal, Misha Euceph, a Muslim journalist who does not wear a headscarf, pointed out that the ad also represents Muslims women “through a single item of clothing.”

“I understand the desire to create a culture of inclusion, but the line between welcoming and tokenizing is very thin,” she wrote. “Today, the culture wars are being fought on the bodies of hijabis, as these women are the easiest Muslims to notice. They should be relieved of the burden of representing 1.7 billion diverse people.”

Yet, as I’ve documented repeatedly, HuffPo, which has posted article after article extolling hijabi fencers, ballerinas, news anchors, and so on, has made a living by equating Islam with women wearing hijabs.

But back to serious and humorous pushback. Perhaps the most powerful response on social media was the tweet by Bernice King, the daughter of Martin Luther King, Jr,:

The Independent showed some other Twitter responses:

And remember the iconic picture on the left (below)?

After all this, the New York Times reports today (Thursday) that the ad has been withdrawn:

Pepsi on Wednesday pulled an ad after it was widely mocked and criticized for appearing to trivialize protests for social justice causes.

“Pepsi was trying to project a global message of unity, peace and understanding,” the company said. “Clearly we missed the mark, and we apologize.”

It said it was “removing the content and halting any further rollout.”

Who do they have as their advertisers? It seems to me that any rational person seeing the prospectus for the ad, or the video itself, would flag it immediately as soppy and stupid.  The Times report continues:

. . .[Pepsi] initially described the spot as featuring “multiple lives, stories and emotional connections that show passion, joy, unbound and uninhibited moments. No matter the occasion, big or small, these are the moments that make us feel alive.” That description was also derided on social media.

The Purchase, New York, company had stood by the ad late Tuesday. By Wednesday, it was apologizing to Jenner for putting her “in this position.”

Critics say the image of Jenner handing the officer a Pepsi evoked a photo of Black Lives Matter protester Ieshia Evans approaching an officer at a demonstration in Baton Rouge last year. Others criticized the protesters’ signs for being comically innocuous, with messages like “Join the Conversation” and heart and peace signs. The website Gothamist expressed a common sentiment online in calling the ad “gloriously tone-deaf.”

I think Jenner is old enough to realize what position she was “put in,” but of course the Kardashians are gloriously tone-deaf about society and politics.

While Israel and Palestine battle it out, Assad drops chemical weapons on his own people, and North Korea fires yet another missile, the last thing we need is what one reader described as “mindless, relentless, hortatory pablum.”

Why is the goose cooked?

February 5, 2017 • 1:30 pm

In preparation for my trip to New Zealand, I’ve been watching some of their famous commercials, including their safety demonstrations, like this one having a Lord of the Rings theme:

or this one, featuring the beloved All Blacks rugby team:

This one features the entire crew wearing nothing but body paint:

And here’s an ad, also funny, but I have one question: WHY IS THE GOOSE SINGED AT THE END?

What’s wrong with this ad?

April 7, 2016 • 11:10 am

Here’s an ad for a new clothing line involving a collaboration between The Gap corporation and comedian Ellen DeGeneris. Look at it, and then guess why it provoked a huge burst of outrage on social media—one so violent that The Gap is going to pull the ad.

The girls, by the way, are members of Le Petit Cirque, described (not in the ad) as “the only all-kid humanitarian cirque company in the world, comprised of eye-popping, pro-level children aged 5-14.”


Have you guessed the problem?

Now here’s an earlier ad from The Gap. Would having seen this tend to ameliorate any criticism directed at the photo above? If not, why not? The fact is that it didn’t.


Now read about the issue, and see a sample of social media outrage, at the BBC site where this was posted. (See also here.)

I’ll leave comments about the sensitivity of people, and the obsessive search for things to be outraged about, to the readers.

h/t: Barry

Ceiling Cat bless the Kiwis!

October 26, 2014 • 11:34 am

Here’s a fantastic safety video from Air New Zealand: a takeoff of Lord of the Rings which, of course, was filmed largely in that country.

And the information from YouTube:

As the official airline of Middle-earth, Air New Zealand has gone all out to celebrate the third and final film in The Hobbit Trilogy – The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies. Starring Elijah Wood and Sir Peter Jackson; we’re thrilled to unveil The Most Epic Safety Video Ever Made.

Special cameos by Sylvester McCoy, Dean O’Gorman and Weta Workshop co-founder Sir Richard Taylor. Directed by Taika Waititi. Enjoy!

You have to admit that it’s a pretty epic safety video, one that will make jaded passengers sit up and pay attention!

Also, doesn’t Elijah Wood bear a resemblance to a younger version of one of our favorite Horsemen?



This is not the first time that Air New Zealand produced unusual safety ads.  One from 2009 features the pilot and cabin crew bedecked in nothing but body paint (all naughty bits are strategically hidden), while another from two years later features the bizarre Richard Simmons and a bunch of athletic passengers. But the Middle Earth one is the best.


Ron Reagan’s ad for the FFRF

May 14, 2014 • 1:12 pm

The Freedom from Religion Foundation (FFRF), our Official Website Secular Organization™, has sent its members a link to a brand-new secularist ad by Ron Reagan, son of the late President. Reagan fils is, of course, a longstanding and outspoken atheist, and has won the FFRF’s “Emperor Has No Clothes” award.

I love the last line. It will be cool to see something like this run during popular television shows.

The FFRF (which I urge you to consider joining; you can do so here for only $40/year) notes where and when the ad will run:

In an exciting development, FFRF has contracted to air our 30-second spot on Jon Stewart’s “The Daily Show” and “The Colbert Report,” Comedy Central’s two award-winning comedy-cum-news shows — some of the nation’s most watched, most influential, and most irreverent TV shows. This will be the first atheist/freethinking commercial aired on either program.

Our ad will broadcast live on both programs on Thursday, May 22, once per show, then again when the show is rerun two hours later on Comedy Central. “The Daily Show” live broadcast starts at 11 P.M. Eastern, followed by “The Colbert Report” at 11:30 P.M. Eastern.

It’s eerie that you can see the Gipper’s genes in his features!

Fiat ad with a living car

July 20, 2013 • 12:18 pm

This is one of the more amazing ads I’ve seen. It previewed in the ESPN “Body Issue,” and is a Fiat 500 Abarth Cabrio. Made of living bodies.


A detail:


Here’s the real car:

Picture 1

The picture took five days to put together, involves no PhotoShopping, and is documented on the video below. (There’s more information in the New York Daily News.)