The World’s Worst Ads Of 2012

When science-fiction writer Theodore Sturgeon first promulgated the principle that “90 percent of everything is crap,” he must have had advertising in mind.

With so much garbage out there, it’s hard to narrow down to the ten absolutely worst. But the dauntless staff of Business Insider was willing to grit their teeth, hold their noses and make a manful effort.

Here, from around the English-speaking world, are their picks for 2012’s worst of the worst:

10th Worst – Stanley Steemer “Rock ‘n’ Roll Carpet,” The Ron Forth Agency, Columbus, OH: This is a 30-second commercial; it only feels much longer.  Dee Snyder and Twisted Sister show up to party in some poor, defenseless woman’s home and really mess up the carpet. But that’s okay, because “Stanley Steemer gets the rock ‘n’ roll out of your carpet,” with “rocking savings.” Get it?

9th Worst – Chanel No. 5 “There you are,” Joe Wright: Not obnoxious, just pointless. Brad Pitt in black and white against a no-seam backdrop with changing lighting talks to someone or other off camera about something or other. Might have been a winner with a decent script.

8th Worst – Jaegermeister “Uncommon Men,” Mistress: People drink Jaegermeister in spite of the taste, not because of it, so the brand had to come up with some sort of reason for trying it. In this case, you should drink Jeagermeister because it’s the beverage of manly men – like…rodeo clowns?

7th Worst – Gevalia, “Motorcade,” Taxi: A condescending, pretentious, Eurotrash guy gets off his private jet to tell us why American coffee is sooo inferior to this European brand. American coffee is just a cup of Joe, while Gevalia is Johan. While Joe – how do you Americans say? – has your back, a cup of Johan gets to know you and spends time rubbing your feet. I’m not making this up; that’s actually what this character says. No wondee the European Union’s in such trouble.

6th Worst – Society for Abandoned Animals Ltd., “Dead Dogs,” DraftFCB Hong Kong: Apparently, the world’s worst advertising isn’t just on television. In this guerilla campaign, lifesize, realistically photographed stickers of dead dogs were placed in parking lots, and cars were photographed running over them. Funny, I thought that in China dead dogs ended up not in parking lots, but in kitchens.

5th Worst – Carmel Car and Limousine, “The Number 6!”: This local New York limo company’s singing commercial – the lyric being its phone number, 666-6666 – was so obnoxious it was singled out on The Daily Show. Figuring that you can’t get too much of a bad thing, the limo service based a contest on the jingle. Being too cheap to go for the full $6,666,666 they made the first prize a piddling $6,666 (only one order of magnitude away from the Number of the Beast).

4th Worst – Roller Kingdom of Reno, NV, “Say No to Crack, Say Yes! to Roller Skating,” Rhett & Link: This agency’s formula is to produce ironic advertising that seems to make fun of their local-yokel clients’ redneck tastes. But here it’s nowhere near satricial enough.

3rd Worst – Oxy, “Man Sized Problems,” Naked Communications, Melbourne, Australia: Just what the world needs – 53 full seconds teenage males’ zits being explosively squeezed and popped, in tight closeup, followed by four seconds of product sell and a full minute of a static call-to-action title.

Next-to-worst – Alibi Bourbon “Seriously Hard Liquor,” Jay Grey, Australia: Looks like the idea here is that nothing proves this bourbon’s American authenticity like a photo of a trailer-trash bimbo in cutoffs with a mispunctuated tramp stamp.

World’s Worst – Harvey Nichols, “Try to Contain Your Excitement,” DDB: Ths high-end women’s clothing retailer goes low-life showing photos of women in slacks with very wet crotches and the line, “Try to contain your excitement.”

With these ten worst ads, and tens of thousands like them, containing our excitement is very easy to do.

2 Comments

  • Jonathan Vernon on Dec 14, 2012 Reply

    Key test – could I imagine being pursuaded to buy any of these products or services were I in the target audience. Absolutely not. The most insanely awful are … Brad Pitt, the Coffee guy and the zit cream – I wonder if research will find the product left on the shelf? The Harvey Nichols ads are a real shame because they destroy what is otherwise a controversial campaign that works.

  • Julie Low on Dec 14, 2012 Reply

    I agree on all accounts except for one. I LOVE the Chanel No. 5 ads! Using a scruffy (scruffy is very hip now) Brad Pitt is such a twist for Chanel who has maintained a sophisticated, bordering on snobby brand over the years. These ads reposition Chanel to appeal to a new, younger public and Brad Pitt has suddenly made Chanel cool again. The huge photographic store displays and signage drive this home. The approach is bold, daring and the writing has sort of confident, poetic sensibility that says Chanel just doesn’t have to sell itself. I love the risk Chanel took!

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