18 Really Bad Advertising Examples

18 Really Bad Advertising Examples

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Looking for some bad advertising examples?

Global digitalization is transforming the advertising industry in both positive and negative ways. 

The good thing is that marketers have become much better at running their ads. 

The number of platforms where companies can find leads is increasing, the opportunities these platforms offer are getting more diverse, and the data received thanks to these platforms is becoming more accurate and useful.

The bad thing is that the relationship between marketers and consumers has gotten tense. It often happens that companies show the wrong ads to the wrong people. However, failed marketing campaigns aren’t just about showing your ads to the wrong people.

According to one survey published on eMarketer, more than 70% of US respondents said that ads had gotten more intrusive, and nearly 80% agreed that ads appeared in more places than several years ago.

In 2019, the number of Americans using ad blockers increased to almost 26%, and it’s slowly going up day by day.

Bad advertising examples — ad blocking reasons

Another survey from 2018 published on eMarketer revealed that 51% of respondents used ad blockers because they saw too many ads that were annoying or irrelevant, and 50% of respondents said there were too many ads on the internet.

18 Bad Advertising Examples to Draw Good Inferences From

Interestingly, some people hate advertising so much they want to buy freedom from it. According to Statista, 33% of US consumers surveyed in September 2017 were ready to pay more for services if they didn’t have ads.

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No matter what, bad marketing examples always give food for thought. 

Our article consists of three parts. In the first part, we’re going to highlight some of the most notorious ad campaigns the advertising world has ever known. The second part includes controversial YouTube and TV commercials. And in the third part, you’ll see some of the weirdest ads you can imagine.

4 Notorious Ad Campaigns That Generated a Lot of Noise

Let’s start with failed ad campaigns that gained notoriety for being offensive and wrong.

Coca-Cola — New Coke

Coca-Cola may be one of the best examples of a company that had a good product and bad marketing. Losing the Cola war against Pepsi in the mid-80s, Coca-Cola released “New Coke” in response to the sweeter taste of its closest competitor.

On April 23, 1985, Roberto Goizueta, the CEO of Coca-Cola, introduced a new formula in an attempt to disrupt the market. 

In this TV commercial, Coca-Cola marketers told about a taste test conducted by an independent research firm which showed that “more people all around the country” chose New Coke over Pepsi in a taste test:

Surprisingly, consumers changed their opinion soon after New Coke was released. And the best part? People didn’t want Pepsi. They wanted the classic taste of Coca-Cola back.

In June 1985, Coca-Cola was forced to launch a mea culpa commercial where Ron Keough, the president of Coca-Cola, told about thousands of phone calls and letters from customers who wanted to go back to the classic taste.

We might assume this wasn’t a failure but actually a cunning plan to succeed — after turning back, Classic Coca-Cola not only outsold New Coke within several months but even strengthened its position in the market and went ahead of Pepsi.

Nevertheless, the fact is that you should always think twice before changing your product instead of changing your marketing strategy.

Pepsi — Live for Now Moments Anthem

Released in 2017, this Pepsi YouTube commercial featuring American model Kendall Jenner made one of the world’s top beverage brands officially apologize to their customers.

After viewers saw how PepsiCO switched the view from young protesters and a woman in a hijab to a model handing a Pepsi can to a police officer, the food and beverage corporation faced strong criticism for using the Black Lives Matter movement as a reason to advertise one of their products. 

They say the road to hell is paved with good intentions. The Live for Now Moments Anthem commercial turned out to be one of the most failed ad campaigns ever after people started attacking it on social media.

What can we learn from bad advertising examples like this one? If you promote your business, remember that reputation is always more important than sales.

Dove — Body Lotion Facebook Ad

Just as Pepsi failed to stand with protesters, Dove failed to celebrate the beauty of diversity.

After posting a three-second Facebook video ad in October 2017, Dove faced a PR disaster after demonstrating a black woman turning white.

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As a result of one of the most unsuccessful advertising campaigns Facebook has ever known, social media users in the United States and Europe urged a boycott of Dove products and compared Dove marketing with racist 1880s posters.

In the end, Dove deleted their post and made a statement about it:

A young woman, a lollipop, and a creepy male voiceover made this TV commercial one of the creepiest icons on the advertising market.

PlayStation Vita — Female Doctor

In 2014, Sony announced the Remote Play feature for PS4 driven by the PlayStation Vita and Xperia Z smartphones. To promote it, the company uploaded a video ad to their YouTube channel.

The video you see above is a copy. The original video was removed from Sony’s official channel after a wave of accusations of sexism.

Xbox — Life Is Short

To promote the European release of the Xbox in 2002, Sony’s major competitor in the gaming industry produced one of the most viral video ads of the pre-YouTube era. 

With a budget of £500,000, Microsoft hired 12 actors ranging from 3 months old to 70 years old. The commercial was banned after receiving 136 complaints.

Tyco — Magic Potty Baby

Launched in 1992 by Tyco, Magic Potty Baby was a unique toy that allowed little girls to watch their baby answering the call of nature. The commercial for this product has no need for an explanation. Just have a look at it:

Is it appropriate to say that this commercial made it onto the list of bad marketing campaigns? You decide! The coolest part is that the little baby owners could turn the toilet chamber upside down in order to use it again, and again, and again…

MiO — Eye of the Squirter

Sometimes, marketers follow the rule the more ridiculous, the better.

MiO made a special tribute to “Eye of the Tiger” by Survivor and demonstrated how exactly their target audience can use their product in order to do sports more effectively.

Gillette — We Believe: The Best Men Can Be

On January 13, 2019, Gillette released a short film on their official YouTube channel that was supposed to celebrate manhood and criticize bullying and harassment.

And you know what? Instead of celebrating, men started bullying Gillette. According to people’s reactions, it was one of the most prominent examples of bad commercials YouTube have ever seen.

The example once again shows that big brands have a poor understanding of the reality their customers live in. Only two days after Gillette uploaded the video, it received a response:

The response received more positive feedback than Gillette’s attempt to celebrate masculinity.

KFC — The Whole Chicken

We urge all animal rights activists reading this post to keep cool.

On June 17, 2017, the KFC UK and Ireland YouTube channel released a controversial video featuring a chicken strutting to “X Gon’ Give It To Ya” by DMX.

Despite numerous complaints, the United Kingdom’s Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) didn’t find the ad offensive because there were no explicit references to animal slaughter.

Promote a food business? Take a look at 40 examples of the tastiest food ads now. 

Reese’s Pieces — Love Child

Imagine. If a candy was a baby, what would it look like? 

Warning. If you’re sensitive, be careful when watching this video ad:

Happy birthday, Reese’s Pieces! People will remember you till the end of time.

6 Weird Advertising Examples That Will Blow Your Mind

In a HubSpot report, 83% of people claim that although they want to avoid obnoxious ads they understand that not all ads are bad and that they can be useful. Let’s check out bad advertising examples that will be useful not only for customers but for marketers as well!

PS Vita

Remember that PS Vita YouTube commercial above? This one was produced by the same advertising agency in 2012.

Bad advertising examples — PS Vita

Axe

One of the world’s most famous antiperspirant brands is known for its creative approach to promoting itself. However, there’s always a line no one should cross.

Bad advertising examples — Axe

Panasonic

The “just slightly ahead of our time” tagline used by Panasonic had nothing to do with reality.

Bad advertising examples — Panasonic

Kleenex

When you realize that mother’s love needs no patience, you regret growing up.

Bad advertising examples — Kleenex

Dove

Yes, that’s right. Dove’s made it twice. Whitening isn’t their strong point.

Bad advertising examples — Dove

KFC

This brand made it on our list more than twice. KFC has been known for using controversial ads for quite a while. Interestingly, the model didn’t know how they used her image.

Bad advertising examples — KFC

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Thanks for checking out our list of bad advertising campaigns! We hope you liked it.

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