Gross Ad Campaigns Nobody Thought Out

We're not professionals, but advertising doesn't seem too complicated. Explain your product's features, associate it with positive emotions, and absolutely don't link it to sleazy schemes, racism, or war crimes. (The following brands struck out on that last step.)

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5
An Instagram Influencer Rigged Her Giveaways, Got Hella Caught

Influencers, in their endless quest to one day be as popular as Hide the Pain Harold, use all sorts of promotions to boost their follower count. One common strategy is to have a giveaway of a product they're advertising but, like a tinpot dictator with a better skincare routine, the outcomes can be rigged. In 2015, Tower Jewellers contracted Irish influencer Terrie McEvoy about giving away two bracelets to her followers. McEvoy then picked her best friend and her brother's girlfriend as winners which, going by the jewellers' website, is about 600 pounds worth of petty grifting.

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When she was caught, McEvoy issued the standard "But what about me?" influencer apology, saying "I 100% should have picked somebody I didn't know and I appreciate why people were so angry, I TOTALLY understand... But I just want people to know that at the time I had my reasons to pick these two particular girls and my heart was in the right place..." The inane scandal prompted her to take a break from social media, but she's now back and posting (like so many influencers) terrible poetry with lines like "Cruising by airplanes, and past borders, now here you are,..... present" and "World leaders ignored, hoping the economy's would not fall" to 203,000 literary followers, so life goes on.

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4
Ikea Showed Unmarried Women Getting Yelled At, Was Shocked By The Backlash

Some brands like to present themselves as a traditional, old-fashioned corporate monolith, like Pabst Blue Ribbon bragging that their beer hasn't improved since the 1800s. Ikea tried a similar approach in China by dunking on "leftover women," the increasingly resisted term for wizened Chinese seniors who remain unmarried even at the Methuselahian age of 27.

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In the ad, a hideous old crone talks to her mother, only for mom to yell "If you don't bring home a boyfriend next time, then don't call me Mom!" The withered harpy, having been taught a valuable lesson, returns with a man on her arm, probably after enchanting him with foul sorcery. Her relived parents then whip out their fine Ikea tableware for a celebratory dinner.

Ikea was unsurprisingly lambasted on Chinese social media for its "parents think their single children are the scum of the earth" message, prompting them to apologize for "giving the wrong perception" and clarify that they only meant to "show how Ikea can help customers easily and affordably convert a typical living room into a place for celebration." Which also doesn't make sense, because if potential in-laws are greeting you with the leftover decor from their first apartment they probably don't think much of you.

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3
South Australia's Scheme To Deliver Goldfish Somehow Went Wrong

In 2011, South Australia (which, based on Australian rules, we assume is in the north of the country), was going through a bit of an economic slump. To encourage media companies to spend their ad dollars in the province, the government hired a marketing agency that came up with the slogan "Be the big fish in a small pond and come test the water." To promote this lugubrious turn of phrase, 55 goldfish in bowls with the slogan on it were sent out to potential ad buyers around the country.

Ideally, your marketing campaign shouldn't be interpretable as a <i>Godfather</i>-esque threat.Via MumbrellaIdeally, your marketing campaign shouldn't be interpretable as a Godfather-esque threat.

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To the surprise of no one but the agency, many of the fish arrived dead. That was not the economic metaphor South Australia was hoping for, and the agency had to issue an apology and a "Well, we totally meant for them to stay alive!" explanation. Shockingly, they're no longer in business.

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2
Yahoo Mixed Fashion Advertising With News Of A Terrorist Attack

In recent years, in-image advertising has been a common feature that let users hover over a picture to see what clothes its subject was wearing. Finally, you too could own Noam Chomsky's sweater vest! Of course, sites had to be careful to not enable this on any old portrait... like in 2012, when Yahoo News told readers they could "Get the Look" of a stunned man gazing at the aftermath of a Taliban attack on a Kabul hotel. Sure, his country was locked in a prolonged, bloody conflict, but hey, nice scarf.

A tragedy has occurred here...and it's that jacket with those <i>shoes</i>!!<br>-Yahoo, we guess.Yahoo"A tragedy has occurred here...and it's that jacket with those shoes!!"
-Yahoo, we guess.

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Yahoo claimed "The photo in question was immediately flagged as inappropriate and the tag was removed," but in reality it stayed up for three days (of incredible deals!). But hey, at least it was just an unfortunate one-off ... for Yahoo. Readers of other sites were told they could get the look of Lindsay Lohan entering rehab. Or of Kelsey Grammer's partner after a miscarriage. Or of a cancer-stricken Elizabeth Edwards. You, uh, don't see in-image advertising a lot anymore.

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1
Italian Soccer Fought Their Racism Problem With Ape Posters

Italy, the country where people don't like being associated with nothing but spaghetti and organized crime, has a racism problem in soccer that makes America's Colin Kaepernick saga look downright quaint. Pundits and team presidents use racist jokes, newspapers write dumb headlines, and fans openly employ slurs and taunt black players, leading to routine fines, bans, and closed door matches. To combat this growing problem Serie A, the top flight of Italian football, launched an anti-racism campaign in 2019. This is, somehow, what they came up with:

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Their logic went something like this: when players like Mario Balotelli and Kalidou Koulibaly are called monkeys by jeering crowds that's, uh, technically accurate but, like, only because we're all monkeys, man. The artist insisted his message was "If we cannot stop stupid fans from screaming 'monkey' at black people, then I will try to reverse the concept by saying that everyone is an ape," but somehow three apes in Power Ranger makeup didn't quite get this concept across. The backlash was swift, with everyone from anti-racism advocates to Serie A's own teams slamming the fever dream campaign. Serie A apologised but, sadly, they didn't offer the world any insight into the decision making process that somehow led us to this point.

Top image: Schankz/Shutterstock


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