When advertising got it wrong. Are these the worst adverts of all time?

When advertising works it can influence conversations in pubs and playgrounds (we’re looking at you Compare the Market with your Meerkat campaign) and it can get records to number one in the chart (see any Levi’s advert from the 90s including the godawful Spaceman by Babylon Zoo). But even global brands don’t always get it right and the wave of controversy they can create is sometimes astonishing.

So, if you’re ready for a laugh and a trip down memory lane, we’ll begin by showcasing some truly shocking adverts and remind you that even the most creative and intelligent marketing brains can sometimes get it drastically wrong.

Pepsi’s infamous ‘Live for Now’ advert starring Kendal Jenner

Has any other commercial in recent times been laughed at more than this? You can just imagine the meeting where they sold this in to Kendall… “So Kendall, you’re on a fashion shoot, then suddenly you notice there’s a protest in the streets outside that’s full of culturally diverse people in our core target audience holding meaningless placards up, you go outside to join them and grab a Pepsi from a conveniently placed iced bucket (because protesting is thirsty) and then walk to the front of the line and defuse tensions with the Police by giving him said Pepsi… which will then miraculously appear back in your hand for the money shot at the end… and to do this we’ll pay you millions of dollars… sign here!”

Cue a car crash of an advert that is rightly celebrated as one of the worst adverts of all time.

Peloton – the gift that gives back

I mean, you only have to watch this to see how bad it is. A guy gives his already thin partner a Peloton for Christmas and documents her year long journey to… err… staying thin! The whole thing feels uncomfortable, like she’s in some kind of abusive relationship… file this under ‘what were they thinking!’.

Bud Light – Up for whatever

At some point in 2015 all common sense left the marketing bodies at Budweiser and their agency and they decided to create a campaign called ‘Up for Whatever’, not realising that alcohol and being up for anything might relate to things that are non consensual… especially when as part of the campaign, one of the bottles allegedly had printed on it the below:

Needless to say, lots of people were rightly concerned, annoyed and shocked.

Ok, so there’s some recent ones, let’s now look back at some of the worst adverts from the past.

Just for Feet Superbowl Advert

Even the great ad agency Saatchi & Saatchi can sometimes get it wrong. In 1999 an advert for trainer store Just for Feet ran during the Superbowl and stirred up a maelstrom of controversy with its racist undertones. Basically it involves a white hunter tracking down a black guy and putting trainers on him.

BMW – One origin, two originals

BMW have done some pretty great stuff with their advertising budget – just check out The Hire on YouTube and see what we mean. But then they go and launch this advert that just makes you realise what you thought is true… BMWs tend to be driven by people who aren’t that likeable. Whoever decided to create an advert featuring two very unlikeable and bragging people in an advert really needs their head examined.

Dr Pepper Ten – it’s not for women

So you create a low calorie version of Dr Pepper and then for some reason you decide to alienate half of consumers by telling them the drink is not for them. Not only that, the advert and messaging is so bad that the other half (the men) would probably not buy it anyway because women would probably think less of any man who would make the decision to buy such a drink based on the advert that sold it to them.

Yes, the advert is that bad.

There are many more times that brands and agencies have got it wrong, but these are certainly our particular stand outs here at Think OTB. Feel free to share in the comments section any other ads you feel should have made the list of worst adverts of all time.

If you want to get creative minds working for you to design advertising campaigns that really work, get in touch. With over 30 years of industry experience and a unique, innovative approach, you can rely on us to show off the very best of your business. 

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