After Birdseye's ultimate ad fail asking the audience to 'mix up the menu' with some 'civilised' potato waffles and chicken dipper canapés, most of us were feeling a little flat and possibly slightly confused about the campaign that cost £3million. The Drum Network has turned to its members who have revealed what they believe to be the worst ad fails over the past years. Cringe worthy doesn't cover it.
Burlington Socks: Can You Sock Me?
Saman Mansourpour, managing director, The Agency
For me it is the culmination of every 'don't' in the book of advertising:
1. It's actually just a bad idea right from the start, in fact if you look there's no actual idea in it.
2. Assuming shock tactics are all ads need to work, this one has nothing to do with socks. Suck and Sock don't rhyme!
3. Subscribing to sex sells mentality - which out of context it actually doesn't.
4. Derogatory to all women the world over.
5. Unfunny and completely cringe worthy.
6. Poorly executed, badly dubbed, it doesn't even work as a script.
7. But ultimately just completely offensive, especially in a world where the media is so hot on sexual exploitation of minors...
Now I'm just waiting for someone to tell me the whole thing was a bad joke!
Toyota Yaris: Sing
Tom Poynter, CEO, Southpaw
Don’t get me started.This one gets me the most every time. How the Creative Director let this work through the agency of Saatchi & Saatchi mystifies me. An agency of that calibre should be producing much better work. It is cheap, off brand and misguided. Apparently Toyota communicated its ability to drive around relatively narrow roads was an important message. I didn’t get that from the dicks belting out tripe. To make matters worse, even the ASA banned the first version!
Nokia: Cortana Gets To Know Clean Bandit
Kieron Weedon, director of strategy, BWP Group
You know that feeling when something horrifyingly embarrassing you once did forces its way into your consciousness for no apparent reason. The time you offered your seat to the ‘pregnant’ woman on the tube for example… yeah that feeling. Clean Bandits are literally living that stomach flipping, cringe-inducing moment right before our very eyes in this ad for Microsoft’s Cortana. The scariest part of this is that it ever made it to TV; surely someone, somewhere must have watched it and said ‘Well, this feels a bit awks’. A horrible sequence of events that ends in a clumsy attempt at flirtation… with a mobile phone. You can almost sense the presence of a Microsoft overlord stood just off-shot wielding either some form of harmful implement or a sack full of crisp new notes. If you didn’t dislike the band’s violin-drenched noise before this ad, you certainly do now.
Flora: The Wrestlers
Tom Webster, group account manager, The Future Factory
The difference between an ad hitting the mark or instead, missing it terribly (think Protein World's 'Beach Body Ready?' ads), can be small. Often it comes down to personal perspective, with a great example being the 2013 'End Marmite Neglect' which I loved but also had over 500 complaints, not to mention a lot of negative social media commentary.
The last ad I saw which had me fall on the other side of the fence was Flora's 'The Wrestlers'. If you haven't seen it, the animated TV ad shows two children making breakfast in bed for mummy & daddy only to interrupt an 'intimate' moment with the voiceover of the young child Josh saying “mummy won’t let us watch wrestling on the TV, but she seemed quite good at it with daddy.”
It's not a brand "fail" in the most hilarious sense and maybe I'm being a bit of a prude however for me it doesn't fit with the everyday family favourite image the brand is otherwise portraying. Not just that; it might have also left UK parents with some tricky questions from some younger audiences, even if it didn't air around programmes that have a particular appeal to under 16s.
Special mention here must go to the incredibly creepy 'Fred About the House' from Homepride.
Guinness: Round Up Your Mates
The team, Gravity Thinking Limited
From the planning department naming the debacle of the Guinness ad with Jonathan Ross and Danny Wallace, #RoundUpYourMates as the most patronising ‘craic’ ever. Sheila's wheels and Winner’s Esure ads come out on top as the most patronising and sexist.
The creative department named the VW who used to do the most creative and enjoyable ads but now just do pan-European client mood films. Ambulance chasing Claims Direct ads were also mentioned.
Andrew Castle’s First4lawyers as it ‘grates my nipples’ and the larger lady with the bowl haircut slipping on a floor as well as anything from Go Compare.
Interestingly the consensus was that if you remember an ad you don’t like, it’s in your head, and you’re still more likely to use the product. Counter intuitively, the worst ads are the ones we've seen and can't remember at all.To quote Dave Trott - "you can’t persuade me unless you have impact to get on my radar and you communicate it to me."
Levi's: Hotness Comes In All Shapes and Sizes
Will Kirk, graphic designer, Strawberry
My first thoughts when seeing this advert were: "Oh look, another modelling ad for a fashion brand.” It wasn’t until I read the strapline and noticed the generic size 0 models featured that I started to question it.
Mainly, I questioned the eyesight of the designer and thought process of the marketing team behind it. I understand they meant for this advert to describe the various fits of their jeans. But this is not what the advert communicates, as you immediately take note of three women who look practically identical in body shape with a strapline that describes the exact opposite. If you've chosen a target audience, make sure you at least follow it through so your design and imagery reflect your chosen strapline.
Kelloggs: Choco Krispies
Ricky Neault, director, Chapter
Remember when Coco Pops nearly changed their name? Remember the outcry? The anger, the rage, the sheer disbelief that the corporate man in a suit could come along and change the name of the nation’s favourite, ‘you can only have them if you’re good’ breakfast cereal with probably the best jingle in advertising history (there can’t be many people in this country who don’t have 'I’d rather have a bowl of Coco Pops’ permanently imprinted on their brains).
When the ad hit our screens it seemed like madness and, looking back, it nearly was. In 1998 Kellogg’s renamed Coco Pops as Choco Krispies to bring the UK branding closer to that of the rest of the world and reflect an update in ingredients. It resulted in a rubbishy ad, with a tune that didn't work any more. Little Coco the Monkey even looked annoyed – it was his name after all!
So, in an age before social media, the nation spoke. Kellogg’s conducted consumer research and it turned out that 92% of the population wanted the name changed back. The very next year, we got our Coco Pops back and the ads could get back to what we loved.
Was it a great publicity stunt to rekindle our love for the brand or just a terrible decision? Either way, I think we’d all rather have a bowl of Coco Pops.
Inland Revenue: Mrs Doyle
Martin Jordan, innovation director, Equator
One of my favourite TV comedies of all time was Father Ted. It's ridiculous, banal, caustic and, above all, self-deprecating on an unprecedented scale. It never ages and it never gets dull. Unfortunately, not long after the show came to an end, the Inland Revenue (now the HMRC) thought it would be a good idea to take the beautiful, hilarious memories of this show and drive them through the quagmire by using Mrs Doyle to remind people to do their tax returns!
What possessed them? What possessed Mrs Doyle? The ads are insufferable and take the character's lead line and throw it completely out of context, into a scenario far more befitting another Father Ted character - Father Austin Purcell...the most boring priest in the world.
Yes, Procter & Gamble has proven that repetition in advertising gets the message home. But there is nothing more dull than tax returns and this is the worst way to get anyone to do them.