Making lemonade

Even as America was pummeled by recent economic events and consumers were more worried about ending up penniless in their twilight years than about buying stuff, some advertisers, nonetheless, found ways actually to tie in with the financial fiasco:

•Restoration Hardware. The upscale home goods retailer is promoting its own "bailout bill" — a $100 credit on purchases of $400 or more.

"We wanted to offer a gesture of support to those who are considering a purchase in these difficult economic times," spokeswoman Donata Maggipinto says. The discount runs through today.

•Washington Mutual. Sure, it collapsed and was swallowed up in a government-brokered deal, but WaMu kept the marketing sense of humor it's known for in ads praising new parent JPMorgan Chase jpm.

One headline: "We love Chase. And not just because they have a trillion dollars." The fine print: "WaMu has a bright new future, thanks to the stability of JPMorgan Chase (and their nearly trillion dollars in consumer deposits)."

•Steve Madden shoo. In several of its shoe stores, including on Manhattan's tony Upper East Side, it has posted a financial chart in the window. A red line stands for stock prices dropping, a green one shows shoe sales rising. The scrawled text: "Sell stocks, buy shoes."

Gallows humor can work. An unintended result of Ad Team's reporting on Madden's promotion was a great pair of stilettos on sale.

The torch still burns

More than a month after the Olympics, gold medalist Michael Phelps is still swimming in the promotional spotlight. On Saturday, AT&T t launched a TV ad that shows him losing a race to connect to the Internet faster than former CBS news anchor and AT&T spokesman Bill Kurtis. Kurtis uses AT&T's new 3G LaptopConnect Card, while Phelps fumbles with a non-AT&T cellular Internet card.

Meanwhile, fractional jet ownership service CitationShares is featuring the swimmer in online videos. In a series of clips, Phelps shows off his medals, annoys a sleeping passenger by shooting a swim cap at him and sings the Journey song Don't Stop Believin'.

Food for thought

Here's a not-so-grown-up thing to do while killing time on your computer at work: Start a food fight. Mexican fast-food chain Del Taco last week launched a game at www.FoodFightFiesta.com. The object: Toss around as much on-screen food as possible. Virtual products ready for throwing: Nachos Nightmare, Fries of Fury and, of course, the Bean-O-Pult. Bombs away!

Treated — or tricked

Hostess hopes to get consumers to hand out its CupCakes and Twinkies — rather than less-expensive candy — on Halloween by dangling a $1 million sweepstakes prize. In a promotion tying in with Universal Studios' Oct. 21 DVD release of The Incredible Hulk, it is asking consumers to register at www.HostessCakes.com for a chance at the cash.

Yet, the complicated nature of the promotion could scare some people off: Ten entrants will be randomly selected; one can get the million. On Oct. 31, a Hostess rep will show up at the entrant's door, and within 90 seconds of knocking or ringing, the entrant must hand over a Hostess product or a card that says "Hulk out Halloween with Hostess." There are other hoops, too, so maybe your odds are better if you go trick-or-treating yourself and hope someone tosses $1 million in your bag.

By Laura Petrecca and Bruce Horovitz

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