Self Deprecation / Advertising

  • The original ads for the Volkswagen Beetle constantly mocked the car for its small size. Allegedly this violated one of the unwritten rules of advertising, "Don't mock the product." The ad campaign was a smash success.
    • This was the famous "Think Small" ad campaign of 1959. This, and its successor of 1960 ("Lemon") started the so-called "Creative Revolution" in advertising: put the creative guys in charge of selling the ad. This ad series gets a Shout-Out in Mad Men: in Season 1, set in 1960, which Don Draper does not approve (talking derisively about its creator, Julian Koenig). By Season 4 (starting in November 1964), his ads are more or less in the same vein.
    • Volkswagen has used this fairly often, including in this ad for the Karmann Ghia sports car. "It's the most economical sports car you can buy. It's just not the most powerful."
    • Skoda ads have played on their reputation by having people see a new Skoda and refuse to believe that such a great car could be made by such an awful company. The tagline is "It's a Skoda. Honest."
      • Skoda, incidentally, are owned by Volkswagen.
      • Hyundai did something similar, minus the humor. One of their slogans was "Hyundai. Yes, Hyundai."
    • Mocking cars for their smallness seems kind of strange now, what with cities getting larger and more people being able to afford a car. Many people take the ability to park over performance.
      • The '50s and Sixties were a different time. Take a gander at...well... any American car from that era. You don't even have to look at the muscle cars; even the coupes were like boats on dry land.
  • Michael Bay is known to indulge in a bit of this, a good example being this commercial.
  • Billy Mays' commercial for is a parody of his infomercials.
    • The ESPN SportsCenter ads are usually at the expense of the athletes, the anchors or the company itself.
  • A Burger King ad for a breakfast sandwich that's a ripoff of the Egg McMuffin depicts the King breaking into the McDonald's headquarters, stealing the McMuffin recipe, and escaping on a scooter. Also counts as Refuge in Audacity.
    • Another instance came after a few of the ads involving the King Mascot. People across the internet began referring to the mascot as "the creepy king" based on both the Uncanny Valley appearance of the person and the way he always appeared in very odd situations offering people a burger or breakfast sandwich. The commercials started to refer to him as "The Creepy King".
  • The Super Bowl XLV ad for Best Buy's "Buyback" program shows Ozzy Osbourne being replaced as a pitchman by Justin Bieber. Ozzy asks "What's a Beiber?" and a stagehand responds "I dunno, kinda looks like a girl." The stagehand is Justin Bieber in a wig.
  • The infamous "HeadOn, apply directly to the forehead" commercials have been superseded by a variant where the product's mantra is interrupted by people excoriating the repetitiveness of the commercial.
  • Miracle Whip has a commercial that falls into this; half of it is various celebrities praising Miracle Whip, while the other half is other celebrities talking about how disgusting it is.
  • Some years ago, a Dutch brand of condiments had a special offer where their products would come with free napkin-rings with funny limericks written on them. In the commercial, a lady was shown reading the napkin-ring with an increasingly obvious lack of interest, then throwing it in the trash.
  • The official slogan of Buckley's cough medicine is: "It tastes awful. And it works."
  • Stan Freberg created a memorable series of ads for the Sunsweet prune company, emphasizing what people dislike most about the dried fruit: the wrinkles and the pits. They boasted that they'd gotten rid of the pits; the wrinkles were another matter. "Today, the pits. Tomorrow, the wrinkles. Sunsweet marches on."
  • Vince Offer, previous commercial pitchman for the Sham Wow!, has been pitching commercials for a product called the Schticky. At one point in the commercial, he says "Use it during moments you'd like to forget!" as a mugshot is taken of him, referencing his earlier arrest for assaulting a prostitute.
  • A Capital One ad ends with one of the vikings asking Alec Baldwin if he can play games on his smartphone; he responds "Just not on the tarmac, believe me!" This refers to an infamous incident where Baldwin got thrown off an airplane for refusing to stop playing Words with Friends long enough for the plane to take off.
  • Insurance comparison site Go Compare's adverts starring Gio Compario, a fictional tenor who sang an irritating jingle, were voted the UK's most annoying advert two years running. Go Compare responded by running a series of ads in which various celebrities inflict harm on Gio, such as blowing him up with a rocket launcher, kicking him in the groin, or sucking him into a black hole, all with the tagline "Saving The Nation".
  • One case where this sort of thing seriously backfired was McDonald's $100 million advertising campaign - one of the most expensive in history - to promote the Arch Deluxe. Billed as a "hamburger for adults", several of the commercials (none of which were very appealing) expressed how much children would not like it. Both the campaign and the product was a failure, which likely resulted in a management shake-up.
  • Hemglass uses the slogan, "Hemsk musik. God glass." It means "Horrible music. Good ice cream." The music in question one of the most infamous tunes in Sweden, and signals the arrival of the ice cream truck to the neighbourhood.
  • Ozzy Osbourne makes fun of the fact that people can barely understand him in this cellphone commercial.
  • Tesco Mobile - a mobile network provider that's effectively a punchline in the UK - ran a series of ads riffing off that reputation. Someone would admit to being on Tesco Mobile, everyone in the vicinity would laugh at them for it, then a famous comedian would appear and stop the laughter by pointing out Tesco Mobile's award-winning features.
  • This has been the MO of Domino's Pizza for a few years now. They are essentially admitting publicly they are trying to repair their image. It started in 2009 with the Domino's Pizza Turnaround campaign, and went downhill from there as they became the Rodney Dangerfield of fast food delivery.
  • For Super Bowl XLVIII, Radio Shack said of themselves: "The '80s called. They want their store back."
  • Pro soccer star Landon Donovan began making commercials mocking his controversial exclusion from the US roster for The World Cup. One for EA sports where he plays himself winning the title - on his couch, in the videogame - and another for Nike mocking "short memories"
    Donovan-They couldn't cut me, I'm the captain!
  • During the 1960s and 1970s, the California Public Utilities Commission stated that General Telephone of California (GTE, now owned by Verizon) was "the worst telephone company in the country, bar none." GTE ran TV ads including this one where a Public Relations flack announced (to boos and catcalls) that they were improving their facilities and equipment to provide better telephone service, while showing him being pelted with eggs, tomatoes and a cream pie.
  • Brigham Young University, whose sports teams are nicknamed "Cougars", ran a promotional campaign in the early 2010s called "Real Cougar", a series of commercials featuring notable BYU people (mostly sports alums, plus a couple of coaches) interacting with an actual cougar (obviously inserted by computer). In one of the ads, Pro Football Hall of Famer Steve Young had this interaction with the cougar:
    Young I love BYU so much, I even got my law degree here.note 
    Cougar (growls)
  • In this commercial, MC Hammer seems to be mocking his old "Can't Touch This" hit.
  • The ad for Splendid chocolate depicts children eating the product and cringing in disappointment once they realize how dark chocolate tastes like. The slogan is "When you grow up, you'll get it".
  • In one of the ads for MeTV, Thelma Harper declares "that Vicki Lawrence is overrated".
  • A promotional video from scientific equipment manufacturer Analtech (often pronounced by folks in the industry as "Anal-tech") features the annoucement "Analtech. Short 'A,' people. Grow up."
  • Please Re-elect Gerald portrays Texan commissioner Gerald Daugherty as being so obsessed with helping people in his precinct that he is intolerable to be around in a domestic situation. The advert ends with his wife pleading with voters to re-elect him just to get him out of the house. He got re-elected.