TIME

This Ad for Totino’s Pizza Rolls Is Disturbing in the Best Possible Way

"Pizza freaks unite"

Tim and Eric’s new ad for Totino’s Pizza Rolls is a little bit like an art house film from which you need to flee after 10 minutes. It’s a little bit like a nightmare in which the creepiest characters from Pee Wee Herman’s Adventure and American Horror Story commandeer your brain’s control center and threaten never to return you to normalcy. And it’s certainly… different.

The comedy duo, whose shows Tim and Eric Awesome Show, Great Job! and Bedtime Stories have appeared on Adult Swim, made an ad that can only be described as having sprung forth from the collective sensibility of two people who are seriously disturbed in all the best ways. It follows their recent ad for General Electric, in which Jeff Goldblum sported gold chains and a questionable ’70s wig to sell light bulbs.

An effective ad leaves viewers salivating and halfway out the door to buy whatever good it’s hawking. Hunger is not exactly the feeling this ad inspires. But if the goal is to produce terror at the mere sight of a pizza roll, then it’s definitely done its job.

TIME Innovation

Five Best Ideas of the Day: November 5

The Aspen Institute is an educational and policy studies organization based in Washington, D.C.

1. Beyond PTSD: Returning soldiers struggle to recover from the ‘moral injury’ of war.

By Jeff Severns Guntzel in On Being

2. On climate and so many other scientific issues, the way we communicate polarizes audiences. We can do better.

By Paul Voosen in the Chronicle of Higher Education

3. Entrepreneurs and educators need to observe students in school if they want to make real change.

By Alex Hernandez in EdSurge

4. Lifesaving ultrasound technology may soon come to a device the size of an iPhone. The applications for medicine in the developing world are massive.

By Antonio Regalado in MIT Technology Review

5. Many Arab governments are fueling the very extremism they purport to fight and are looking for U.S. cover. Washington should play the long game.

By Michele Dunne and Frederic Wehrey at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace

The Aspen Institute is an educational and policy studies organization based in Washington, D.C.

TIME Ideas hosts the world's leading voices, providing commentary and expertise on the most compelling events in news, society, and culture. We welcome outside contributions. To submit a piece, email ideas@time.com.

TIME celebrities

Watch Darren Aronofsky and Woody Harrelson’s Climate Change Ad

The Noah director continues on his environmentalist bent

The director Darren Aronofsky claimed his recent film Noah was about contemporary environmental concerns, reframing the Biblical tale of the rising oceans through a modern lens: “The water is rising,” he told a CNN interviewer, “and we already saw it once. We are living the second chance that was given to Noah.”

Now Aronofsky is making his political point yet more forcefully, and without the benefit of allegory. The director has enlisted Woody Harrelson to narrate his new ad encouraging voters to turn out in the upcoming midterm elections and vote on the basis of climate change. This is hardly Aronofsky’s first foray into advertising (he’s made both anti-meth PSAs and a perfume ad) — but with its ominous images of seeping gas leading into cataclysmic scenes of ice shelves collapsing and forest fires, it may be his most striking, and proof positive that the themes he explored in Noah are ones he’s going to keep exploring.

TIME Companies

Get Ready, SoundCloud Users: Ads Are Coming

Lorde performs during Lollapalooza 2014 at Grant Park on Aug. 1, 2014 in Chicago.
Lorde performs during Lollapalooza 2014 at Grant Park on Aug. 1, 2014 in Chicago. Theo Wargo—Getty Images

But you may soon be able to skip the ads by paying for a subscription

SoundCloud, the popular free music-sharing platform that’s helped artists like Lorde skyrocket to fame, is introducing advertisements to its service.

The company said Thursday that select content creators will be able to authorize playing ads beside their tracks and collect some of the revenue from those ads. The ads will first roll out in the U.S., but they’re expected to appear for international users soon, SoundCloud announced.

Ads mark a big step for the music streaming service, which has struggled to monetize its vast user base that includes some 175 million listeners a month. Until now, the service has earned revenue by charging some of its most active content providers.

SoundCloud Chief Business Officer Jeff Toig told the New York Times that most of SoundCloud’s ad revenue will go to content providers, including Sony/ATV, BMG, the comedy show Funny or Die, and independent rapper GoldLink, for example. SoundCloud has already signed up Red Bull, Jaguar and Comedy Central to run ads on the platform, according to the Times.

But you may soon be able to skip the ads, if you’re willing to pay. The Times reports that, over time, the service plans to roll out subscription plans for listeners who want to skip the ads, much like you can do on Spotify, another music-streaming service.

TIME Innovation

Five Best Ideas of the Day: August 15

1. 1,000 new visas is a good start, but to continue building trust, the U.S. must further expand the visa program for Afghans assisting ISAF at great risk.

By Jordan Larson in Vice

2. It’s not too late for the Internet to ditch pop-up ads and build a better web.

By Ethan Zuckerman in the Atlantic

3. A peace deal may be the only way to relieve Gaza’s “health disaster.”

By Dana Lea in Politically Inclined

4. Now ubiquitous, mobile phones can close the gap for maternal health care.

By Becky Allen and Jenna Karp at the Council on Foreign Relations

5. To save the African elephant, we must ban all ivory sales for a decade or more.

By Daniel Cressey in Nature

The Aspen Institute is an educational and policy studies organization based in Washington, D.C.

TIME advertisements

This Toyota Ad Is Utterly Insane — and Wonderful

Jungle Wakudoki, a.k.a. the most delightful two minutes of your day

Japanese ads are an art form in and of themselves. But this spot produced for Toyota by agency Dentsu Aegis is incredible nonetheless. The premise is dead simple: a group of businessmen are driving through the jungle in their Toyota truck. When they pull over to let one of them relieve themselves, things get … well crazy. The spot is part of a campaign dubbed “Do the Wakudoki,” which encourages consumers to submit clips of themselves dancing.

[AdWeek]

TIME Opinion

Jenny McCarthy Doubles Down on Deadly

McCarthy's ad may have been pulled but the images have gone viral
McCarthy's ad may have been pulled but the images have gone viral

The legendary anti-vaxxer becomes an e-cig peddler, once more endangering children

Jenny McCarthy is apparently determined to be present at the birth of every possible bad idea. Let’s pretend–pretend—for a moment that there was anything at all to the dangerous junk McCarthy has been peddling in falsely linking vaccines to autism and a host of other ills. Presumably her goal would be to protect children, to keep them safe and well.

And so what does McCarthy now propose to do with that generation of kids whose welfare she’s ensured? Why, hand them over to the tobacco companies, of course.

In a jaw-dropping bit of make-a-bad-thing-worse reputation management, McCarthy appeared in a cringe-inducing commercial for blu eCigs—which has since been pulled from the company’s website—peddling the increasingly popular product. Shot in what is meant to be a club, McCarthy appears in a skimpy dress with a silent piece of beef-cake by her side, going on about the virtues of e-cigs, including the fact that “I can whip out my blu without scaring that special someone away—know what I’m sayin’?”

But here’s the thing McCarthy isn’t sayin': e-cigs are way, way too young a product for anyone to be able to say with certainty how safe or how dangerous they are. They may well be a gateway out of smoking for some people, a healthier alternative to traditional cigarettes. But they may certainly be a gateway in too—particularly for kids.

A study of electronic cigarette advertising from June through November of 2013 by the American Legacy Foundation found that Lorillard Tobacco Company’s blu brand spent more on marketing than “all other brands combined,” and that blu’s advertising was the most commonly viewed by teenagers, “with 73% of 12- to 17-year-olds exposed to blu’s print and TV ads.”

Worse, as my colleague Eliza Gray reported, advertising for e-cigs jumped 256% from 2011 to 2013, and more than 1.78 million middle school kids have tried them. No surprise since “last year 14 million kids saw ads for electronic cigarettes on TV [and] 9.5 million saw them in print.” And with e-cig brands sold in sweet tooth flavors like cherry and vanilla, it’s hard to pretend they’re not being marketed directly to consumers with immature palates—otherwise known as, you know, children.

At this week’s hearing before the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee, e-cig makers got blowtorched by lawmakers who had already been through the lies and obfuscations from tobacco executives denying their deadly products were addictive, and are now hearing the same dissembling from the new generation of nicotine peddlers. Sen. Jay Rockefeller (D-W. Va.) was the most blistering, saying, “I’m ashamed of you. I don’t know how you go to sleep at night.”

It’s impossible to say how they do, but Jenny McCarthy, if her own words are an indicator, sleeps like a baby. “Now that I’ve switched to blu I feel better about myself,” she said. As the legendary U.S. Army counsel Joseph Welch might have put it, at long last, Jenny, have you left no sense of decency?

TIME Companies

Facebook Will Let You Edit What It Knows About You

Facebook has a file on you, and now you'll be able to see it and edit it.

In a move intended to make its advertising more relevant, Facebook says it will soon let you ask why it’s showing you a specific ad as well as tweak the list of what the company believes to be your interests.

If you’re seeing a Facebook ad for Coca Cola, for example, you can click it and select “Why am I seeing this?” Facebook will then tell you why it showed you that ad— maybe you “liked” other soda ads, for example. You can then choose to wipe that attribute about yourself and also scan through and edit all of the attributes that Facebook thinks describe you best.

Advocates of the change will say it means the ads you see will hopefully be more interesting to you. But it’s also good for Facebook, because the change will help Facebook connect businesses and potential customers, making its ads all the more valuable. You won’t be seeing fewer ads — just more relevant ads.

Facebook, which announced the changes in a Thursday blog post, also said it will begin serving up ads based on information collected about your travels around the Internet outside Facebook’s borders. The social media company already gathers a plethora of information about you from websites and apps, so it’s not surprising that it wants to use that information to show you more valuable ads.

If you’re concerned about your privacy, you can opt-out of letting Facebook view your web activity here.

Hear about the changes from Facebook in the video above.

TIME justice

Rise of the Private Surveillance State

Street graffiti by elusive graffiti artist Banksy is seen on a wall in central London
Street graffiti by elusive graffiti artist Banksy is seen on a wall, next to a CCTV camera, in central London on Nov. 25, 2008. Toby Melville—Reuters

Secretive data brokers have amassed thousands of details on virtually every household in the country.

Think you get to surf the internet for free these days? Think again. There’s a good chance you’re paying for the privilege with a little piece of your privacy, according to a Federal Trade Commission report released Tuesday. The ads you see on web pages are often automatically chosen to reflect your interests, based on collected bits and pieces of information you have made public as you go about your life online, and off.

And who’s doing the collecting? Data brokers, the largely unregulated middlemen in the privacy-for-personalization transaction at the heart of the digital economy. The FTC’s report, based on the responses of nine major data brokers to orders issued to them by the commission in 2012, shows just how far those companies have gone in amassing a huge information mosaic of Americans’ lives.

Of the nine data brokers, one data broker’s database has information on 1.4 billion consumer transactions and over 700 billion aggregated data elements; another data broker’s database covers one trillion dollars in consumer transactions; and yet another data broker adds three billion new records each month to its databases. Most importantly, data brokers hold a vast array of information on individual consumers. For example, one of the nine data brokers has 3000 data segments for nearly every U.S. consumer.

Among those thousands of “data segments” are seemingly private details, the report finds, like:

  • What kind of clothes you buy
  • Which charities you give to
  • What kind of pets you own
  • What movies you like to see
  • How big your house is
  • What kind of car you drive
  • Whether you’re liberal or conservative
  • Where you’re thinking of going on vacation
  • What kind of stocks you invest in
  • Whether you smoke
  • What kind of over-the-counter drugs you buy

The FTC found that consumers benefit from many of the purposes for which data brokers collect and use data. “Data broker products help to prevent fraud, improve product offerings, and deliver tailored advertisements to consumers. Risk mitigation products provide significant benefits to consumers by, for example, helping prevent fraudsters from impersonating unsuspecting consumers. Marketing products benefit consumers by allowing them to more easily find and enjoy the goods and services they need and prefer. In addition, consumers benefit from increased and innovative product offerings fueled by increased competition from small businesses that are able to connect with consumers they may not have otherwise been able to reach. Similarly, people search products allow individuals to connect with old classmates, neighbors, and friends.”

But the dangers are real, too. Consumers could be “denied the ability to conclude a transaction based on an error in a risk mitigation product,” without having any recourse to correct the mistake. Lower marketing scores could result in “different levels of service from companies.” The FTC also concluded that stored data on consumers could be vulnerable to “unscrupoulous actors” who could use the private data “to predict passwords, challenge questions, or other authentication credentials.”

The FTC found “a fundamental lack of transparency about data broker industry practices.” The brokers collect thousands of pieces of information about individual Americans’ lives, creating detailed mosaics of who they are and what they do, analyzing and sharing it with clients in multiple industries. But “all of this activity takes place behind the scenes, without consumers’ knowledge.”

The FTC says there is little it can do to mitigate the danger other than report on it. The Fourth Amendment and multiple federal laws constrain what the National Security Agency can do with the masses of data Edward Snowden revealed the government collects on Americans and others. But the law governing the use of personal data by commercial entities doesn’t cover marketing. So while Snowden imagines a dystopian future in which the government uses its collected information to endanger Americans, it seems that future already exists in the commercial realm.

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