Every year, no matter how sophisticated the ad industry thinks it has become, there are still those moments that make us go “Really?! In the 21stcentury?” and other examples of classic “badvertising.”
While such howlers are often reserved for small or local businesses with tiny budgets and little creative counsel, our rogues’ gallery also includes major-spending advertisers that are household names.
(If it’s all too much to bear, go back and cheer yourself up with our rankings of the 10 best ads of 2014.)
10. Thorne Travel, 'The Advert': We have a suspicion this ad from small independent Scottish travel agent was intended to be a turkey, with its bargain-bucket special effects, cheesy soundtrack and questionable costume choices.
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9. FairLife Milk -- 'Milk That Mooves You'. When Coke announced its plans to expand the FairLife milk brand nationwide last month, attention was immediately thrown on a bizarre ad campaign the brand launched back in February when the product first appeared on shelves in Minnesota. The marketing campaign (which was not led by Coke) featured a bevvy of pin-up girls who appear to be having odd, milk-related laxative issues.
8. VIP -- 'Quality Assured Since 2009'. There were high expectations for this spot, the first ad to feature someone 'smoking' in an ad on British TV screens since the 1960s, following a rule change regarding e-cigarettes. But the result was somewhat lackluster (and was only a slightly re-worked version of a previous ad for the e-cig brand.)
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7. Dove -- 'Patches'. Unilever launched 'Patches,' the sequel to its huge popular 'Real Beauty Sketches' viral hit, in April this year. When Business Insider saw this ad at the cinema, the audience audibly groaned. Writing for The Guardian, Arwa Mahdawi described it as a 'washed-down brand of corporate feminism,' while Telegraph Women contributor Radhika Sanghani said the spot was 'patronizing.' The spot did, however, lead to the creation of a brilliantly funny parody video from US comedy network Above Average Productions.
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6. Hooters -- 'World Cup'. When you think about the World Cup, a ton of brands spring to mind: Nike, Coca-Cola, Adidas, McDonald's. But Hooters? This awkward ad is a complete mismatch in every sense. The goal posts in Rio de Janero had more personality and a better sense of humour.
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5. Nippon Airways -- 'Let's Change The Image Of Japan'. Japanese airline Nippon Airlines was forced to apologise for causing offence and re-cut this TV ad, which saw the brand play on Caucasian stereotypes, with one character crudely donning a blond wig and big plastic comedy nose.
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4. Hungarian Police -- 'You Can Do Something About It, You Can Do Something Against It.' This video, creative by a county police department in Hungary, was released to mark the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women. But instead it smacks more of satire and is essentially a 101 in how not to make a PSA about rape. The ad, which has now been removed from YouTube, told Hungarian women not to invite rape by drinking, flirting, dressing scantily or dancing suggestively.
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3. Feed A Child -- TV ad. South African charity Feed A Child issued a lengthy apology after viewers were offended by its one-minute ad that showed a wealthy white woman feeding a poor black child like a dog. The organisation pulled the ad from all media, but was powerless to stop the spread of the video (and the outrage that followed) on social media.
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2. East Hills -- 'Shop East Hills'. A Reddit user dubbed this ad 'the worst local commercial I've ever seen.' The so-bad-it -- could-actually-be-good video soon went viral. Standout line in the awful theme tune: 'Boots and pants and boots and pants.'
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1. Paddy Power -- 'Money Back If He Walks. UK bookmaker and perennial mischief-maker Paddy Power pushed its own questionable boundaries of taste over the limit in March with this newspaper ad that offered to refund customers if double-amputee Paralympian sprinter Oscar Pistorius was found not guilty of the murder of his girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp. The ad sparked more than 5,500 complaints and the brand was quickly reprimanded by the Advertising Standards Authority, which said the campaign went further than 'simply being in poor taste' and had 'brought advertising into disrepute.'
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