The advertising industry can be an odd one, based as it is on creative work that depends on unusual associations and concepts. Sometimes they come up with absolutely brilliant results. Or they can be compelling but worthless. (More on that in a bit.)

This year has been an odd one in many ways and there has been a bevy of ads that have ranged from quirky to downright odd. Here are some of our favorites.

The name is Cruise, Tom Cruise

Many marketers have employed celebrities in the past. They are often entirely expensive and not that compelling.

Bixby Roasting Co., which is a coffee bean business, has two founders, one of whom is particularly photogenic. A commenter remarked on his resemblance to the actor James Roday, from the old comedy mystery series Psych.

But then, you might think he looks, and acts, a bit more like Tom Cruise in a presidential campaign.

This has to be one of the strangest promotions ever. There's not a mention of Bixby coffee. Instead, people can go to a website for the Tom Cruise campaign and sign up for the announcement of the running mate. Maybe that eventually comes back to the company, or perhaps the whole thing is a gag. The registration information traces back to co-founder Miles Fisher and his website of some good photography. Worth a look. As is his collection of spoof videos, which might make you wonder if it's a personal project. (I contacted Fisher who said that it will definitely tie back into coffee. Should be interested to see the next step.)

As if anything in life could seriously be independent of coffee.

Avocado toe-st

The popularity of avocado has reached astounding and, by now, mockable heights. Not because there's anything inherently wrong with it or that it should be a niche product. In Mexico, avocados have had mass appeal forever.

It's more the trendiness of it. Avocado toast becomes a dig at millennials, for example. A company could try to take cheap shots or, with a wink, become part of a cultural moment while minimizing the chance of offending someone.

That's what Saucony pulled off with its Shadow 6000 Avocado Toast early this year, as USA Today mentioned.

The men's Shadow 6000 Avocado Toast is made of brown leather and what the company calls green "smashed avocado textured suede" and features red-pepper flake speckle on the collar lining and a "Saucamole" shout-out on the heel.


A pair of the limited edition was $130. Now, you can get them on secondary markets for more--like upwards of $175 at times.

Saucony got a ton of earned media (free PR through stories, YouTube videos, and more). So, offbeat? Sure. Smart? Absolutely.

Cheesy wardrobes

Cheetos logos and artwork on clothing that happened starting in June seems like another offbeat bit of marketing.

It's not. Forever21 does a lot of this cross-promotional work. My guess is that they license the designs with a royalty back to the brand and use modern supply chain approaches to create items close to when they're purchased to manage production and inventory. They make money--and if not, they're probably not out a whole lot.

The brand--Cheetos--gets some money and a people willingly acting like human billboards. There was a lot of social media pickup of this line at the beginning of the summer, which is also when brand owner Pepsi-Cola was pushing "Flamin' Hot Cheetos" to capture a consumer taste and tie it to a seasonal promotion. Again, smart work.

My question: How much play does the Forever21 United States Postal Service collection get?

A different Christmas story

Pushing buttons on common beliefs is often a part of good marketing. You don't generally get that from governments that are promoting services for the public. That's what Norway got this year from its postal service.

Taking a twist on the biblical Christmas story, the ad had a deliveryman making the rounds in old Nazareth. And then there was a scroll addressed to Joseph and Mary. He drops it off, mary comes out, certain looks ensure, and nine months later she's very pregnant. So much for an immaculate conception.

Maybe it works in Norway, but this is the type of treatment that could generate a lot of antagonism for an organization.

Compelling but worthless

Then there are those ads that make no sense at all. I mentioned this back in June, as a three-year-old ad for the Brazilian market that suddenly went viral in the U.S., but let's have another look.

If no one warned you about this in advance, you likely wouldn't guess what brand the ad was for. An arty short that's supposed to be an ad for Subway. The message: You're born, raised, grow up, experience life, heartbreak, and you end up eating a sub sandwich.

That this was supposed to appeal to any market and make them want a sub sandwich is just a little...self-indulgent. Which is a dark side of creatively quirky.

Get that superego in control before you head off to do your next promotion.