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The latest on Tiger Woods, Star Wars spoofs and BMW

This image provided by IMG shows Tiger Woods promoting a Japanese pain reliever, his first endorsement since he was caught in a sex scandal toward the end of 2009. The deal with Kowa Company Ltd. is geared only toward the market in Japan. Woods already has filmed commercials for "Vantelin Kowa," a heat rub used to relieve muscle and joint pain.


Welcome back, Tiger! Sure, the famously wayward athlete hobbled off the golf course back in May in the midst of an unstoppable personal and professional swan dive. And sure, fickle fans have deserted Tiger in favour of U.S. Open champ Rory McIlroy. But at least one company still thinks Tiger is bankable, even though he's on the sidelines with another knee injury. This week the Japanese pain-relief brand Vantelin Kowa signed the faltering golfer to his first endorsement deal since he was dropped by Gillette , AT&T and Accenture amid his sex scandal made headlines in late 2009. We're happy for Tiger, but we do wonder if a pain management sponsorship doesn't make him seem (hmm, what's the word?) old. How long before he signs with Geritol?

You know what never gets old? Star Wars spoofs. Volkswagen proved that in February with its brilliant Superbowl ad about the little kid who thinks he starts his dad's Passat with The Force. The spot won a Gold Lion at the Cannes ad festival, but Greenpeace, for one, wasn't impressed. This week the environmental group released a spoof of the spoof, calling out VW for allegedly opposing legislated cuts to CO2 emissions in a pair of cutesy videos starring pint-sized Princess Leias, Obi-Wans, and R2-D2s under threat from a VW-branded Death Star. Viewers are asked to "join the rebellion" - that is, sign an online petition against the Darth Vader-like company. In a statement, Volkswagen rejected the comparison. And then, weirdly, it added: "Greenpeace, I am your father."

Even if VW is truly green, we're still not sure cars are exactly good for your health. This thought comes to mind upon viewing a couple of recent online spots made by Toronto's Cundari agency for BMW Canada. The first one, which went live in mid-June, appeared to show an M1 Coupe drifting sideways at high speed through a series of car-shaped cutouts in concrete walls. The second, which hit YouTube on Monday, shows a driver doing precarious doughnuts on a helipad atop a Los Angeles skyscraper. The videos are huge hits, powered in part by an online debate over whether the stunts are genuine. They're clearly not, but who cares? The heart palpitations they gave us are very real. Indeed, when the BMW campaign is over, Cundari could re-use the spots for Valium.

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Of course, that feeling of edgy excitement is spreading through the advertising world, where executives are beginning to party like it's 2007. This week reported that the U.S.-based research firm Advertiser Perceptions found optimism among marketing and advertising executives at the country's biggest brands to be higher than it's been in more than four years. But if ad-buying budgets are going up, the spending bump won't be evenly distributed. Strangely - given all the talk about seismic shifts in consumer behaviour spurred by technology - the execs are planning bigger buys of advertising on cable TV, network TV, magazines and national newspapers, but lower spending across mobile and digital platforms. Which means they must actually think it's 2007. (And wouldn't Tiger love that.)

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About the Author
Senior Media Writer

Simon Houpt is the Globe and Mail's senior media writer, charged with covering the industry's transformation. He began his career with The Globe in 1999 as the paper's New York arts correspondent, covering the cultural life of that city through Canadian eyes. More

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