At their best, over the top advertisements make us laugh at their ludicrousness. Some ads are funny because of their desperate sounding word choice, because of their hopeless attempt at persuading buyers to choose their company's product. Other times, it's their wacky images that make us wonder just what on earth their advertising team was thinking. At their worst, "bad ads" can actually deter their intended customers from a product because they're nonsensical, obnoxious or, worst case scenario, downright offensive.
At either end of the spectrum, from funny to nasty, ads can go viral online, but usually not in the way that the advertisers intended for them to. Here are 15 examples of hilariously bad ads that would make Mad Men's kick-butt copywriter Peggy Olson facepalm over and over.
15 Febreze...for life's less than dainty moments
We get it. Everybody poops. And yes, sometimes, unpleasant smells emanate from the bathroom, while our guests politely pretend to focus on things other than diminishing oxygen levels in the house. Thank you, Febreze, we get where your product comes in to save the day. An especially charming portion of the commercial was spent watching people slowly lower themselves onto the toilet, and seeing their uncomfortable faces wait for relief.
As if Febreze's point was not made clear enough, the perfectly timed sound of a fog horn rang out as black exhaust belched out of a ship’s smoke stacks in the lovely animated portrait above the commode. Guess we can’t judge them too harshly, after all, this product is not intended to mask the smell of a delicious cooking dinner or a fragrant bouquet. Febreze is used for situations like the one portrayed in the video, and honesty is the best policy in advertising, right? Stay classy, Febreze.
14 When gimmicks go bad. Very, very bad
This one is a bit older, but it's so good that it's difficult to know where to start the critique. Everyone in the US learns the cardinal rule of avoiding identity theft: Never EVER give out your social security number to strangers. In the words of Will Ferrell in Zoolander, “I feel like I’m taking crazy pills!” How could anyone, let alone a CEO honestly agree to post his own social security number online? In what universe is that a good idea? This is a terrible gimmick, and it reeks of desperation. Favorite line: "No I'm not crazy." It is also ironic that a company whose sole purpose is to protect people’s identities online would engage in such a risky, ridiculously stupid “stratagem” to demonstrate how invincible their system is. Oh, speaking of invincible, yeah, not so much. Todd Davis’s identity was stolen 13 times. Wonder how that happened...want to buy a LifeLock plan?
13 "Diapers" and "swag" do not belong in the same sentence
Kids are cute, there's no denying it. Diapers, on the other hand, are not, and they aren’t swag, either. "Swag" is defined by Merriam Webster as "stylish confidence." There is nothing stylish about a diaper, clean or not. They are utilitarian, necessary, and yes, we're all glad that they exist for the individuals who need them but no, diapers are not swag. If your toddler is confident about his diaper, that’s great. Hopefully, potty training is going well; your arduous journey is not a thing to be envied (props to you, for real!). But this ad is trying to appeal to the “young, cool parents” who use Urban Dictionary terminology to describe what are essentially their kids’ wearable poo traps. Swag? We think not. Try again, Pampers. Stick to what you’re good at: adorable baby pics.
12 Pregnant men = nope
OK. This skit could be sort of funny, if...wait, nope. First of all, they're comparing the very real, very medical, life-changing, life-forming condition that a couple experiences together to...a dude who is bloated with gas from pizza. And not just any pizza mind you, but pizza that pretty much anyone over the age of 10 can agree is pretty awful: Pizza Hut pizza. It's highly doubtful that the Hut advertisers intended for us to look at the swollen bellies of the men in this video and immediately think yup, that’s gross gas from their gross pizza change the channel, Marge, but if they did, then they met one of their performance goals. Call us crazy, but we don’t want Pizza Hut gas.
11 Guns, babies and classy parties
There’s so, so much going on with this ad that a psychology PhD student could base her entire dissertation on this one picture, featuring a sophisticated lady whom we have lovingly christened, Starla Mae Lynn. Sure, just like everyone else, pregnant women need to relieve stress here and there, and have a little fun, but with bullets? Even the paint guns they boast could be just a tad dangerous if someone’s aim was off, what with two people at stake in one pregnant body...regarding the “Bachelor/ette” party offer, guns and alcohol (and pregnancies!) rarely mix well. This Kentucky-based ad is certainly eye-catching, but it's unlikely that this place would be the bachelorette party or Shotgun Wedding locale of choice for many, if any, pregnant brides-to-be. Because nothing says "I'll love you forever" like a 9mm luger. Then again, we haven’t spent much time south of the Mason Dixon line.
10 What sex appeal isn't
White Pike Whiskey seems to think that alcohol poisoning and romance go hand in hand. We are inclined to disagree. Seriously…how is this an attractive ad? We all know that sex sells, but is this abomination what passes for sex appeal now? Who would look at this image of two lovers puking into each other’s mouths and then think, “Mmm, I’m going to buy me some of that there whiskey!” Even if our drunken Romeo and Juliet are only spitting the whiskey upon each other’s faces, the ad still has the effect of making us want to never, ever do anything resembling what is portrayed in that picture. And that includes drinking that there Moonshine, which has to be the opposite of White Pike's goal.
9 Suicide over jewelry?!
This is an example of how ads can quickly wander into offensive territory. Suicide is not a joke, and it is not funny. It is a not a trivial matter, and should not be likened to something superficial such as mistakenly purchasing a ring at the “wrong” jeweler. In today’s world, it is difficult to imagine a room full of advertisers who all collectively agreed that this ad was a good idea, as well as a company who was so desperate for business that they willingly accepted and paid for it. Moeller got our attention, but not because we all want to rush out and buy their diamonds. On a more philosophical level, what does this say about the relationship of men and women? That men are idiots if they don’t buy jewelry from the "right" store? That women will respond to their fiancés so horribly that suicide is the only option? On a lighter note, what is a moon-calf?
8 Don't you always mop like this?
Oh, sad wives whose husbands rarely clean, UNITE! We’ve all been there. But still, Mr. Clean dancing seductively to a knock-off boy band song with his painted on white clothes, (check out those pecks!) and frosty white eyebrows to match? When he really gets into those mopping motions to clean that crud behind Mrs. Sadface's couch (presumably left there by her unappreciative children or husband), she focuses on his buttocks, which are front and center on the screen. At this point, Mrs. Sadface has let her hair down and is dancing like a saucy lady in a Justin Timberlake video.
Her reverie is interrupted when her real (and far less muscular) husband appears in Mr. Clean’s place, mop in hand, and says her name, “Mrs. Sadface?” Just kidding, it’s Sarah. Yeah, they went a little too far with the sexualizing of a fake, elderly, cartoon man whose Magic Erasers are used to clean scuff marks off of baseboards. They work great, by the way.
7 Secret family dinners
Kraft Macaroni and Cheese. Four words to make any kid—and clearly from the video, any grown kid—become super duper excited about dinnertime! What a sweet, little multigenerational family meal, complete with a lovely Kraft orange glow. That is, until mild-mannered old Grandpa gets caught stealing off his grown son’s plate and then lets it slip that his OTHER FAMILY didn’t let him eat mac n’ cheese either. WTF, Grandpa?! Apparently, the writers at Kraft mourn the days that they used to write for soap operas, because this just took a reeeaaally dramatic turn for a processed boxed dinner commercial. Maybe Kraft’s attempted niche here is psychologically traumatized family members? Either way, the Kraft ad writers need a hell of a lot of therapy, as did we after watching this commercial.
6 Pancakes with a side of sexism
Who doesn’t love pancakes? They’re fluffy, soft and terrible for you, like most delicious tasting foods. But seriously, IHOP, what were you thinking? We all know that folks frequent their neighborhood IHOP at two a.m. for decently bad fried food, after they've been out all night, doing things that others may find judge-worthy (ahem), but that doesn’t mean you should stoop to such a low level! Butter face? That's a lame joke the likes of which haven't been seen since Billy the Jerk from eighth grade.
Are your social media campaign writers also in the eighth grade? Just who are you trying to resonate with here? Because any eigth graders at the IHOP were brought there by their parents, who (hopefully!) would not find objectifying women’s bodies funny. Never thought we’d say this, but we're going to Denny’s, a classier establishment. Also, kiss off, Billy.
5 Here are lots of emojis...we're cool now, riiiight?!
Eight bucks (that's what's in the piggy bank, don't judge!) says that this Chevy ad was written by someone maybe possibly over the age of 45. Just an inkling. Clearly this ad attempts to target people a bit below that age range, particularly the iPhone toting, constantly texting, Snapchatting folks... i.e. everyone nowadays.
But the only time an entire conversation has taken place using a giant, nonsensical string of emojis was during an episode of Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt in which “Xanthippe” and her equally dim friend texted a random slew of them to each other (while walking side by side), and seemingly understood each other. How would this mess of emojis convince someone to buy a Chevy? Someone please translate; the ad writers didn’t make it clear.
4 Elegant imagery
“All right, Mr. DeMille, I’m ready for my close-up!” Yikes, Onion Boy here may have needed a bit more grooming time before the cameras began flashing. We get what Colgate is trying to accomplish with this ad. Stanky breath? Don’t mask it with bubble gum, because the miasma of Spanish onion and Cotton Candy Yum Yum will inspire everyone in your vicinity to take a few steps back. But did they have to make the poor bloke look so...sad? Disheveled? Unappealing? What does eating a plate of microwaved liver and onions have to do with unkempt Beatles hair and bushy eyebrows? If he uses the Plax mouth rinse, will Onion Boy magically turn into an impeccably groomed Matthew McConaughey? You’re laying it on a wee bit thick there, Colgate.
3 Bieber fever requires immediate (mental) hospitalization
OK, here comes a statement which may be an unpopular opinion. Justin Bieber? He sucks. There, statement made. Without shame. "The Biebs" hostsed this T-Mobile commercial with his nasty bleached hair, introducing himself as a "Celebration Expert" (seriously? What the hell is a “Celebration Expert”?) Then, he tosses a football to Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski, who is dressed as a stupid caveman. Bieber then discusses the finer points of dancing with “unlimited moves,” which apparently T-Mobile is trying to make into a hashtag thing. Somehow, this all wraps up into a commercial about unlimited data, but at this point, our annoyance level is so hopelessly in overdrive (look at his smug little face!) that throwing the remote at the TV is quite appealing. Try again, T-Mobile.
Ah, underage marriage jokes. How refreshing. Not! That’s super gross, and leaves a bad taste in our mouths. The taste of pedophilia. Harley Davidson should know better, seriously, since they’ve been “notorious since 1903.” Maybe “notorious” should be replaced with “nefarious” in this ad. And if by “not until she’s 18,” they are referring to the bike’s age, then that’s still kind of awful because Scary Biker Dude would only let Mrs. Scary Biker Dude ride his motorcycle once it is old and broken down. Safety first, right?
Looking at this ad, the words “super-cool-appealing-masculine-tough-guy” do not come to mind. Instead, this is a blatant stereotype of the creepy old man, and it is highly doubtful that any men, Harley Davidson owners or not, would want to be portrayed that way.
1 Please, don't grab your dad there
Grab your sack here?! Oh, please go away, Dadz Nutz. We know, we know, it isn’t the ad writers’ fault that their client’s product name is so overwhelmingly cringe-worthy, but the advertisers did take it and run with it, and probably for a tidy sum, didn’t they? And for that, heads are shaking and talk therapists are being programmed on speed dial. And seriously, allergic folks aside, who doesn't love nuts? Think of all the tasty kinds of nuts in the world! What about the awesome sound they make as we smash 'em with a nut cracker? Big, salty nuts are just delectable in salads, or presented in a cute, little dish on a coffee table for guests,...oh, God we just went to a very, very bad place, didn't we? Thank you Dadz, you’ve ruined a perfectly good snack food forever now.