6 Painful Ad Fails You Won't Believe Companies Didn't Notice
Not everyone can be Don Draper when it comes to advertising. Most of the time, companies are really just shooting in the dark, hoping to hit their target demographic as mercilessly as possible through a combination of subliminal messages and good old-fashioned luck. And inspirational ads are great because they make you feel good while you're being suckered into giving up your cash.
But what happens when your marketing team is so inept that your inspirational advertisement actually does more harm than good?
College Catalog Inadvertently Drops Depressing Truths About America
When you're trying to make your university look more tolerant and diverse than it actually is, there are a few things that you'll probably want to avoid doing. For instance, you probably don't want to magically Photoshop a couple of minority students into a photo after the fact, like the University Of Wisconsin did in 2000. And you don't want to choose a stock photo that's sexist or racist, like the University Of North Georgia, which put out a catalog with a cover that accidentally celebrated only two kinds of diversity: white men in blue ties and white men in black ties. Notice the guy in the black tie came in second in the picture above.
"High-10 for the social status quo!"
Let's break this terrible picture down in a point-by-point analysis: To the far left is our lone woman, desperately trying to beat the forces of gravity and patriarchy. To her right is our sole black guy who is FALLING from what we can only assume to be an entry wound from the starting gun. The other guy is obviously having too much fun on the White Male Privilege roller coaster, and the fucker on the far right isn't even trying. He looks like he just got back from lunch at Subway and decided to sweep up a race in time to put those minorities and women in their place. And, of course, there's the salt in the wound tagline, "Why follow when you can lead!" Hey geniuses, you just ended a question with an exclamation point. You are not doing right by North Georgia in any respect.
Especially given the depressing statistics of who actually gets to lead. (White men, mostly.)
Foot races are way easier when you start halfway to the finish line.
The university admitted that they picked the stock photo at random and has since removed the catalog from print and their website. (This was presumably the better option than claiming the picture was "a stealth think piece" or a "viral truth bomb" or a "brain-teaser from Peachy Puzzler, better know as the Georgian Riddler.")
Singapore Anti-Gambling Ad Bets On The Winning Team
Gambling in Singapore is huge. Like, "second-biggest gambling country in the world" huge, which lends itself to some considerable problems. Gambling addiction is rampant to the point where heavy restrictions and fines are placed on betting. That's why the National Council On Problem Gambling decided to address this issue with an ad featuring a kid named Andy talking to his friend about his gambling-addict father, who used his son's savings to bet on Germany to win in the 2014 World Cup. Unfortunately, Singapore handled the issue with about as much finesse as a mastodon playing craps.
"So should we get back to the game, or what?"
"No. Pop said we should throw the match in the second half."
If you're sports-savvy, you know that Germany actually won the World Cup in 2014, so Andy's dad is probably not going to do any deep life reflection anytime soon, and Andy has probably already forgotten about the whole thing, being busy with his newfound fortune. The next version of this ad should have shown that Andy morphed into the fat, rich man-child from Pee-Wee's Big Adventure while taking a bath in his pool-sized bathtub.
Eventually, the gambling council ran an updated version of the ad, featuring the same children, but this time with Andy lamenting his dad's decision to keep on spiraling into a gambling debt hole.
"No. He said, 'I'm going to ride this shit until they start taking fingers.'"
Wouldn't it have been wiser to just wait until it was over, then run the ad with the name of the losing team?
Levi's Ad Celebrates All (Skinny) Body Types
In 2010, Levi's made the bold move of cutting to the chase by pretending that unskinny women don't exist. Most retailers simply cast thin models in their ads and assume that we customers have the imagination to project our own Quasimodo-esque bodies into their garments. Those companies usually don't add the extra insult of claiming, "Welp, these are all the attractive body types there are in the universe." Levi's cut out the middleman of tact and blatantly advertised their version of diversity with an ad celebrating three skinny white girls.
"Many sizes available, from 0, all the way to 0.5!"
What Levi's was trying but failed spectacularly to say was that this line of jeans offers different amounts of butt room depending on your butt needs. So three women who theoretically wear the same size could each find fitted jeans depending on how much junk is in the trunk. Levi's just adorably failed to realize that when the average American woman wears a size 14, she isn't going to look at three tiny women with slightly different ass sizes and say, "That one's just like me, but we are all equally hot!"
Thankfully, Levi's is working on their size and race issues by featuring several different white women with different lengths of hair on their site.
Football Team Accidentally Approves Of Domestic Violence
What's the worst way to advertise your team for one of the most violent sports on the planet? Unless you said, "The Holocaust?" nothing you came up with is as bad as this 2011 train wreck of a Toronto Argonauts ad. The marketing department started off in the right spot: Connect the home team with home, connect home with good feelings, fans will have good feelings about their home team. Simple! And for the cherry on top of this ice cream sundae of goodwill, the Argonauts used the cozy saying "Home Is Where The Heart Is." If only they had stopped there.
Toronto kept going and finished with "It's Also Where We Hurt People." In a sport that clearly has issues with domestic violence, it probably wasn't the best idea to connect the words "home" and "hurt" in the same sentence. Never mind the fact that people are seriously worried that football players' brains are getting "hurt" into mush after years of playing the game.
Whoever thought this was a good idea was probably concussed at the time.
Assuming they got that part right and fans really do enjoy watching concussions happen before their eyes, they could have also assumed that fans read the news and know that some of these big men have problems controlling their tempers at home. And that when those fans read "home" they aren't thinking about the Toronto Poutine Centre or wherever the hell the Argonauts play football. They're thinking of home, where football players are sometimes caught beating up their wives and girlfriends.
Don't worry, though. It only took two weeks, a thousand posters, a letter from the mayor, and a couple of complaints for them to pull the campaign.
The Clippers Celebrate Black History With A White Guy During The Wrong Month
Imagine all the ways an ad celebrating Black History Month could go wrong. Now throw those ideas in the trash and stare at this Clippers ad for a while, because chances are everything you imagined isn't nearly as offensive as all of the terrible breaches of courtesy captured above.
Let's start with the picture. The guy on the left is Donald Sterling, former owner of the Clippers and Tommy Lee Jones lookalike. In 2011, when the ad came out, no one could predict that Sterling would one day tell his mistress that she could sleep with black people but she couldn't bring them to his games. His preference, in fact, would be if she didn't associate with black men whatsoever. But we're getting ahead of ourselves. Only a psychic would have known that the very white man in the basketball ad about Black History Month would one day announce he doesn't like being around black people. They did know that Sterling was recently accused of managing his team with a "plantation mentality" and reportedly brought women into the locker room so his lady friends could admire the players' "beautiful black bodies."
Anyway, Sterling's mug is next to Blake Griffin (who happens to be biracial). Griffin is an exciting player whom fans love to watch, so it makes sense that his image is included alongside the random shot of the owner.
"Yo, I filled the Gatorade cooler with mint juleps!"
Then there's the date. When scheduling their Black History Month celebration, the Clippers forgot to actually consult a calendar and went ahead and slated the party for March, which we all know is Irish History Month. Finally, the biggest insult of all is slipped into the text.
In honor of Black History Month, the Clippers will admit 1,000 underprivileged children free.
The sound you just heard was a record scratch from the invisible DJ who just realized that the Clippers organization equates black people with poverty. How is Black History Month connected to underprivileged youth otherwise? Why did they put those two unrelated things together if they didn't think a bunch of black poor kids would show up to this game? Furthermore, how did the seating work? Did they designate a special section of the Staples Center for their impoverished guests? Did they picture a separate but equal seating section full of poor kids? Don't answer that, Clippers.
A University Uses Men To Honor Women
It's hard to talk about exclusion if you're not part of the group that's being excluded. Many have tried but failed horribly. The problem is that most usually end up in the trap of promoting themselves or patting themselves on the back for being a good socially aware Samaritan. And so that brings us to a fair question: What do women and common sense have in common? Neither of them are on this embarrassing billboard about women.
In 2013, Mount Saint Vincent University wanted to advertise their new Women's Wall Of Honor in their Margaret Norrie McCain Centre For Teaching, Learning, And Research. Each person that donated $1,200 would get their name on the wall. A charming gesture, and certainly a step in the right direction, but their best foot forward went straight into their mouth, as the billboard announcing the project featured only men, even though most of the donors were women and the Women's Wall Of Honor was not specifically built to celebrate men, weirdly. We're pretty sure it's about 100 percent harder to celebrate women when you don't have said women on your billboard.
It says a lot when we can do this and it's still EXACTLY as relevant to women as the original.
Maybe we could peg it as a simple error in judgment -- that is, until university spokesperson Ben Boudreau opened his mouth and removed all pretenses, claiming that the ad was an attempt to get more men to donate money: "I don't know that we were really shooting for juxtaposition there, to be honest with you. It was just about reaching a different audience." Because men feel the need to do something good only when they see themselves represented. Might as well have said, "Men are better than women at everything, even at being women!" (As expected, responses to it weren't so favorable.)
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