Badvertising: The World of Poorly Chosen Ad Campaigns


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In a world where advertisements boarder on being a form of entertainment, the right ad could make or break your company. Advertising isn't an exact science, sometimes you have to take a risk to make an ad that's truly bold and innovative. Sometimes companies succeed in pushing the advertising envelope, and others fail with hilarious results. There will always be ads that will make viewers cringe, and these recent forays into "badvertising" will make you question how some companies are still in business.

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Badvertising: The World of Poorly Chosen Ad Campaigns

  1. 1. An ROI Zone Presentation
  2. 2. In a world where mass media is a part of everyday life, companies are doing their best to integrate every form of media possible into their advertising campaigns. Some companies succeed in making informative, catchy, and vibrant ads that attract new customers to their brand. Far more fail miserably at it. Have you ever seen an ad, cringed, and wondered why a company would ever think that their campaign was a good idea? You aren’t alone. Here are some particularly heinous examples of what people have dubbed “badvertising”.
  3. 3. When cataclysmic flood waters threaten your home and very well-being, what would be on your mind? According to an OKCupid executive, you’re probably thinking of finding someone to take on an awkward date to Red Lobster. The online dating site posted this ad directed towards people in Boulder, CO during the recent floods. After the news site Mother Jones posted the photo, OKCupid executives scrambled to remove the ad and apologize to Colorado residents.
  4. 4. On the 12th anniversary of the 9/11 terrorist attacks, companies across the country chose to observe the day with service work, honoring the victims, and spending the day in quiet reflection on how 9/11 drastically altered our country. AT&T was not one of those companies. When the company tweeted a picture of their smartphone capturing an image of the Tribute in Light memorial, people were outraged that they would use a national tragedy to sell their phones. AT&T publicly apologized a few days after the incident, and most likely went on to fire whoever handles the company’s social media.
  5. 5. Rosie the Riveter encouraged millions of woman during WWII to shed traditional roles, roll up their sleeves, and work hard to protect the country. Rosie’s image has been used in countless forms of media, but Swiffer may have managed to use the iconic image in the worst way possible. When Swiffer debuted an ad showing a Rosie look alike proudly holding a Swiffer to combat dirt and not restrictive and outdated gender roles, people were understandably upset. Swiffer ended up pulling the ad almost as quickly as they posted it, and apologized over social media for their “oversight”.
  6. 6. Between using scantily clad (and one time, under-aged) women to promote eating less meat and comparing factory farms to the Holocaust, PETA isn’t exactly known for their level headed and appropriate ads. When this billboard appeared in 2009 people were disgusted. PETA’s then president Ingrid Newkirk stood by the ad by claiming that obese Americans need “tough love” and need to face the realities of their weight and eating habits. After some time public opinion wore the organization down and the billboard was changed.
  7. 7. In 2011 Nivea For Men ran an ad asking men to “give a damn” about their appearance and to “re-civilize” themselves with their products. The ad may have worked if they didn’t use a well dressed and shaved African American man chucking an angry head with a wild afro into oblivion. The ad was pulled almost as quickly as it appeared, and the company apologized via Facebook for the “inappropriate and offensive” advertisement.
  8. 8. The GOP was sorely lacking in support from minority voters in the 2012 elections, so the website was launched to dispel the myth that Republicans are clueless about non-white Americans. Their attempt at unity was thwarted when they realized that picture of “Latino” children they used on their site banner was actually a picture of Asian children. Unfortunately sites like Gawker and Reddit took notice of their mistake, and soon screen shoots of the website were making their rounds on the internet hate machine.
  9. 9. Americans aren’t the only citizens that need eyewash after they view ads. This Bacardi ad was run in Israel for two months in 2008 before outraged customers demanded it be pulled from publications. Surprisingly this ad went under the radar for awhile, and Americans didn’t learn about it until well after Bacardi denounced it.
  10. 10. In April 2012 Amazon hoped to promote the Kindle device to Washington D.C. residents by using a billboard to display the first page of the last book in Suzanne Collins’ wildly popular Hunger Games trilogy. Amazon failed to notice that the first page revealed huge series changing spoilers, and book fans ended up being less excited to pick up a Kindle and more excited to send hate mail to Amazon employees.
  11. 11. When Huggies made their “Dad Test” ad, they probably thought that consumers would nod knowingly, and laugh when their commercial showed dads comically unable to provide basic care for their babies. They weren’t prepared when outraged single fathers, parents of both genders, and even children blasted the ad for assuming that men are incapable of caring for their own children. They dropped the campaign after only a few days or airtime, and spent months trying to rebrand themselves as a dad friendly brand.