The point of an advertisement is to make you want to buy the company's product. But when the company is so far off the mark with their marketing, those campaigns can backfire big. Here are some of the most spectacular advertising campaigns turned tire fires.
Nivea went under fire for running an ad depicting a well-groomed black man throwing away the Afro-ed head of his former self. The image was captioned with the message "Re-Civilize Yourself." The ad got major flack for being racist — especially since the white version of the ad (a well-groomed white man holding a caveman head) did not bear the "Re-Civilize Yourself" caption.
The Economist attempted to expand their female readership by taking out an ad. But the magazine should have chosen their words more carefully. The first page of the ad read, "Why should women read The Economist? They shouldn’t..." The second page continued, “Accomplished, influential people should read us. People like you.” Which pretty much implies that women aren't accomplished, influential people. Were they just trying to neg women into reading the magazine?
Cross promotions between movies and products go together like peanut butter and jelly. Unless that movie has a pro-environmental message and your product is notorious for destroying the environment like it's its job. Then you'll just make people go, WTF? That's exactly what happened when the movie The Lorax, based off of Dr. Seuss's eco-friendly book, teamed up with Mazda to promote their SUVs. But then again, they were probably basing the cross promotion off of that controversial deleted chapter where the Lorax sells out his principals for cold hard ca$h.
In 2010, the BP oil spill was everywhere, including a campaign for Spirit Airlines. The ads featured greased up women with the slogan, "Check out the oil on our beaches." Maybe not the best thing to joke about when both ecology and the tourist economy of the entire Gulf Coast was threatened by a massive, uncontrollable oil spill?
American Apparel's over-sexualized ads have caused their fair share of controversy, but it's surprising that it wasn't one of their billboards that look like the beginning of a snuff film that caused the most upset. In fact, it was a fully clothed, decidedly not sexy image of Woody Allen that caused problems for the Los Angeles-based clothing company. Allen sued American Apparel for $10 million for using an unlicensed image of the comedian on their billboards.
It's a commercial that will live in infamy. Texas-based Miracle Mattress decided to advertise their 9/11 sale with a commercial that can only be described as in poor taste. Full of 9/11 puns, the commercial ended with the spokesperson knocking down two employees, you know, like how the Twin Towers were knocked down on 9/11. The backlash from the commercial was so strong that the store closed down "indefinitely." Because it's definitely too soon to start commercializing one of the nation's greatest tragedies.
LifeLock was so confident in their product that CEO Todd Davis published his actual social security number in their ads. But of course, when you do that, you're pretty much asking to get your identity stolen. And so, Davis' identity was stolen...13 times.
Groupon aired a Super Bowl commercial featuring Timothy Hutton, in which he talked about the struggles of the Tibetan people...before launching into the great deals you could get on Tibetan food through Groupon. Moral of the story, don't talk about Free Tibet then talk about freeing yourself from hunger.
UK-based company Antonio Federici tried to communicate that their ice cream was sinfully delicious by creating ads with a pregnant nun bearing the message, "Immaculately conceived." You know, because it was so perfect. Instead the ads got banned for being too offensive. It probably didn't help that they were released right before the Pope's visit to England.
Maybe "No" should be in some people's vocabulary, like the Bud Light exec who was pitched the #UpForWhatever campaign. As part of the campaign, Bug Light released beer cans with the slogan, “The perfect beer for removing ‘no’ from your vocabulary for the night.” Which pretty much reads as, "The perfect beer for getting date raped."
McDonalds' #McDStories social media campaign started out as a way to increase consumer interaction, but that interaction went above and beyond what the fast food company ever expected. The hashtag was quickly used to talk smack about the company on Twitter. Good news for McDonalds, the hashtag started trending! Bad news for McDonalds, the hashtag started trending.
In 2008, Absolut Vodka ran an ad with a map of North America, which isn't a problem...except that the Southwest United States was drawn to be part of Mexico and it was tagged with, "In an absolut world." The ad drew ire from both Mexico and the U.S. even though the ads only ran in Mexico. Could you imagine if they ran that ad now? We'd have to hear so many "build the wall" jokes!
Kendall Jenner's controversial Pepsi ad is the most recent ill-thought-out ad to receive backlash, and it probably won't be the last. The ad depicts Jenner defusing a racially tense situation during a protest by handing a police officer a Pepsi. Wow! If only we knew that solving the complex issues of police brutality and racism were that easy sooner!