Bottled water awash in a sea of controversy

Want a canine companion but don't have the time, desire or level of commitment to actually own a dog? Sign up for an "occasional pet."

New company Flexpetz offers a dog-sharing service that works similarly to the way firms sell vacation home shares. Members pick the type of pup they want — such as a Labrador or Afghan — and select a loan time that ranges from one to seven days. When they are not out with their new best friends, each of the pups is watched over by a primary caregiver, says founder Marlena Cervantes.

The service is available in Los Angeles and San Diego and goes to New York, San Francisco and London this year.

Being commitment-phobic does come at a price, however (bad boyfriends take note). In the case of Flexpetz, it's a hefty membership fee and other expenses, which can total about $850 a year.

Are you ready for some baseball?

Somewhere in America, two taco-loving baseball fans are destined to soon get their fill of both.

A Taco Bell YUM sweepstakes dubbed The World Series Experience of a Lifetime will award a grand-prize winner and guest tickets to every World Series game. Also included in the prize package: on-field access during batting practice, the chance to toss a ceremonial first pitch and $50,000 (which can cover a whole lot of taco bingeing).

How to try out: Customers buying a large or extra-large drink get a code to enter at worldseriesblast.com.

The gold standard in facial firming.

Just when you thought a facial couldn't be any more of a luxury, beauty marketers have come up with a gold-leaf process.

Japanese company Umo recently brought gold-based facials to the USA with spa treatments in Southern California, Atlanta, Dallas and New York, starting at $300.

At Roop Ayurvedic Center & Day Spa in Hoboken, N.J., the bling is a better bargain: $175 for a 60-minute, 24-carat-gold facial. Roop co-owner Jaanvi Shah is not surprised that it sells. "If people are willing to do surgery, they are willing to pay to do it the natural way," he says.

The facials are touted as being based on the ancient Indian healing art of Ayurveda and are said to firm the skin, give it a glow and reduce wrinkles. The only hitch: the potential for stress-induced wrinkles after facial customers get their credit card bills.

Beer-and-babe marketing gets Second Life.

Anheuser-Busch's BUD Budweiser Select is the latest brand to set up shop in the Internet-based virtual universe Second Life.

The brewer invited Second Life women to become a Lingerie Legend by pitting their animated Web persona — their avatar — against other virtual vixens in an online beauty pageant. The winning avatar gets a two-page spread in the September issue of Second Style, an online fashion magazine for Second Life users.

Not to leave out women who'd rather flaunt their sex appeal the old-fashioned way, Select also is hosting "real-life" competition in bars, with the winning model starring in a fashion spread in men's magazine Stuff.

By Laura Petrecca, Theresa Howard and Bruce Horovitz

ASK THE AD TEAM

Q: Who sings Mr. Blue Sky in the Sears commercial that features a variety of products, including home appliances, scrolling across the screen?

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