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Horrible / Advertising

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"The most common trouble with advertising is that it tries too hard to impress people."
James Randolph Adams

Advertisements litter every television, newspaper, and website they can find... and naturally, consumers will fall over and buy what's being promoted. But, why buy certain products if their ads are so bad, they're horrible? These advertisements are so bad that they even drove the people who liked the product in the first place away. This is the bottom of the barrel for commercialism.

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For a different variety of really bad advertising, see What Were They Selling Again?. For otherwise-decent ads that had one horrid messup, see the Dethroning Moment page. British website Ad Turds was set up for just this sort of thing - exposing, ridiculing, and stomping on this sort of advertising.

Important Note: Merely being offensive in its subject matter is not enough to justify a work as Horrible. Hard as it is to imagine at times, there is a market for all types of deviancy (no matter how small a niche it is). It has to fail to appeal even to that niche to qualify as this.


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Examples (in more-or-less alphabetical order):

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    Web Ads 
  • Voodoo, a mobile game maker, is infamous for their So Bad, It's Good ads that primarily use Very False Advertising, which usually consists of gameplay footage and a caption promising a prize that can't actually be obtained such as a trip to Disneyland or legal permission to skip class if the player can accomplish some goal in the game. However, their ad for the game Ball Shoot, which features the line "If you beat this level Etika note  will come back to life" (complete with an image of the game being played on top of a grave), took this too far in the eyes of many. In other words, they exploited the death of a revered Internet celebrity for their own profit. It's telling that the comment section of a Reddit post featuring the ad is chock full of outrage towards and damnation of towards the company for organizing such a despicable marketing stunt.
  • The YouTube Bic Shavers (all links now gone) ads from 2015 featured men doing things of varying "piggishness" to attractive women and then being "magically cured of their piggishness" by a weird mind-blowingly obnoxious Mary Poppins ripoff who uses Bic Shavers and a magical wardrobe change to turn them into "proper gentlemen". They were not received well. Most comments were objections to the notion that you can't be a proper gentleman, or in fact anything but a "pig", if you have facial hair. It appears Bic regrets having made the ads, as the ads can no longer be found.
  • Hudson Soft, in a last-ditch effort to advertise the critically savaged Bomberman Act:Zero, created an advertising campaign called 5 Reasons Why Bomberman Act Zero Rocks that was 50% advertising Act Zero and 50% attacking fans. The article is supposed to read like a hip teen trying to convince people to play Act Zero but instead reads like a middle-aged man trying to "get down with the kids", with Totally Radical wording and even mild swearing. It also reeks of Blatant Lies, such as calling Act Zero the first HD Bomberman game (that honor actually goes to Hi-Ten Bomberman, the first-ever released HD video game - all the way back in 1993!). The most infamous part, however, is the attacks on fans - it undermines the fan-favorite 10-player mode in Saturn Bomberman by claiming that few played it note , attempts to invoke the Animation Age Ghetto on the classic Bomberman design by comparing it to Hello Kitty toys, implying that people who play the Normal Game are losersnote  by saying that even people with no friends can grab random people to play with, and even resorts to Ad Hominem by calling fans names instead of addressing their criticisms. Calling out misbehaving fans is one thing, but responding to civil criticism with insults is just low. The immediacy and intensity of the resulting backlash surprised nobody except Hudson. While they did make a toned-down version of the campaign before pulling it altogether and apologizing, the damage was already done - fans felt so betrayed by this campaign that they stopped supporting the franchise, temporarily killing it and ultimately dragging Hudson Soft down with the ship.
  • To advertise Dream Corp LLC, [adult swim] made a series of YouTube adverts consisting solely of six seconds of a man dancing with a sign bearing the show's logo. The worst part is that not only can you not skip them, but there isn't even a "Stop seeing this ad" option, meaning you can't bypass the lack of a "Skip this ad" button and stop seeing them for good.
  • Evony propelled itself to nigh-instant infamy, not because of the game itself (a rather tepid Flash-powered construction/management game which also contains spyware, par for the course for games like this), but because it takes the idea that Sex Sells to rather ludicrous extremes. The ads contain images of often scantily-clad women and slogans such as "I'm waiting for you, my lord!" and "Once you start playing, your girlfriend won't be seeing much of you!", single-handedly popularizing the trope of Lady Not-Appearing-in-This-Game (thus the redirect "Evony Ad Girl") and inspiring other companies to adopt similar tactics for their ads. Early ads did at least try to connect to the medieval theme, such as imploring you to save a busty queen (which is still not part of the game), but eventually they just degraded to showing modern photos of almost-naked women - or even just a pair of disembodied breasts - with vague taglines like "Best Free Web Game". Those women you see tantalizing you into playing never actually appear in-game - in many cases, because the art they appear in was stolen from other artists and copyrighted material. Daniel Ibbertson shows these ads off and explains how ridiculous their advertising campaign became here in a video explaining some very stupid gaming promos.
  • Google's Know What's Nearby pre-roll ad campaign from late 2016 takes Totally Radical to heights not reached since Da Boom Crew (see the Western Animation page for more details on that). The ads consist of two- to five-second video loops with Google searches overlayed on top and a single sentence; for example, "When you find delicious ice cream nearby", in a style reminiscent of more recent Internet memes. Now, this could've worked, had Google not chosen to use a trap remix of a high-pitched man screaming loudly as the background music. This, coupled with the fact that the ads were so common when they were shown, led to people mocking and parodying the ads, to the point that Google had to unlist the first of these ads on their YouTube channel due to the toxic reception.
  • In August 2020, KFC Trinidad released a social media ad meant to commemorate Emancipation Day, which celebrates slaves gaining freedom. The ad featured a piece of fried chicken, with its shadow forming the black power fist. Given the racist connotations of the juxtaposition note  and the increasing racial tensions at the time, the ad immediately drew backlash and mockery from all sides, forcing KFC Trinidad to take it down and issue an apology.
  • In March 2018, the Kevin Klein Live show on San Diego's new 97.3 The Machine radio station promoted itself ahead of its premiere with a Twitter ad showing the Coronado Bridge, which has seen multiple suicides take place there, with the caption "Jump", which caused a lot of controversy in San Diego. note  This, along with other controversies, caused the station to apologize to its viewers, and the San Diego Padres decided to reevaluate their ties to the station one month into the station's existence. The show ended up being cancelled before its premiere and due to the negative attention the radio station was forced to rebrand the next month.
  • In May 2020, LG Poland put out an ad on TikTok with a Dirty Old Man getting caught taking an upskirt shot, but getting away with it due to the phone's dual-screen feature that lets him hide it. Naturally, the company got a metric ton of outrage over literally bragging about how useful its phones were to sexual harassers, and it didn't take long for the ad to be removed with a statement that it somehow got released without going through their usual approval process.
  • Miracle Mattress, a San Antonio-based mattress shop, posted an incredibly insensitive and unfunny ad in 2016 on their Facebook page. The ad had two men asking a woman, Cherise Bonanno, the daughter of Mike Bonanno, the owner of the store, about a "twin tower" sale. Bonanno then pushed the two men into stacks of mattresses, knocking them over while she screamed in mock terror, and then ended the commercial with "We'll never forget." This ad gained a ton of backlash, resulting in the shop shutting down. The shop has since re-opened with new management, but it's unlikely they'll ever recover from the reputation of the advert.
  • In August 2018, an ad for the horror film The Nun started appearing on YouTube. The ad consists of a fake iOS volume bar being lowered and muted note , attempting to trick users into raising their real volume note , followed by the movie's monster suddenly appearing and screaming loudly. Some people had panic attacks or accidentally dropped and damaged their phones due to the shock, resulting in the ad getting taken down shortly after due to severe backlash, as well as the ad violating the site's shocking content policy for advertisers, as the ad was known to play before innocuous and unrelated videos note . Watch it yourself here, but please remember to lower your volume first. AniMat talks about the whole controversy here. Later YouTube ads actually worked this controversy to hype the movie, which may have been the intent from the start; they only show a picture of the nun, stating the original ads were pulled for being too scary, so the picture is all they can show. While a step up from the original irritating ad, many people still hated the smug undertones that made their former campaign sound more interesting than it really was.
    • Believe it or not, this was apparently repeated for the later installment, Annabelle Comes Home, only the lead up is a "staring contest". According to the linked tweet, it also ran on Spotify and mobile games.
  • The "alliwantforxmasisapsp.com" campaign for the PlayStation Portable was actually somewhat ahead of its time in terms of a viral marketing campaign... at least in concept. In execution, however, it actually amounted to one of the most embarrassing "rap" videos ever filmed, along with an accompanying website that tried so hard to shill the console (which was actually selling very well as it was) that it fooled absolutely nobody. Adding insult to injury, after they were widely called out on the campaign, Sony gave an "apology" in which they claimed they had been too clever for people to understand what they were trying to accomplish. If nothing else, the whole mess did set some clear boundaries as to what is and isn't widely considered acceptable in a viral advertising campaign, even if there are still plenty of companies who ignore said boundaries. Guru Larry went into further detail on the failed campaign in this video talking about failed or otherwise bizarre campaigns Sony has done for their games and consoles.
  • The ads for mobile games developed by Playrix, such as Gardenscapes, Homescapes, and Township are no stranger to showcasing the reputation advertising for mobile games has following the Evony era for depicting players in the games making horrendously-poor decisions in the games (most infamously pouring gasoline on burning stoves or taking mallets to fish tanks and overflowing sinks) followed by a giant "FAIL" stamp, while a border above displays either complaints along the lines of "😭 WHY IS THIS GAME SO HARD? 😭" and the weird fixation on relationship drama (usually in the form of infidelity) that is shoved into even the most inappropriate games for such drama. However, what drove the ads for Playrix's games in particular, as well as the aforementioned "WHY IS THIS GAME SO HARD?" complaint, into infamy was due to their Very False Advertising. Gardenscapes and Homescapes are depicted in ads as anything but the Match-Three Game/house sim hybrids that they are, instead presenting the games as interactive stories where the player must help the game's main characters Austin and/or Katherine either repair messy homes or escape dangerous situations such as being stranded at sea or being chased by animals or zombies using tools and items provided to the player, none of which are scenarios that ever actually happen in the games nor an accurate depiction of their gameplay at all. Township, meanwhile, is most frequently depicted as either a Frogger-like game where the player must get a line of farm animals across busy highways to a farmer, or a game where a criminal who is trying to get away from the police with an interactive story, when it is also a town sim. Much like with Evony before them, the "WHY IS THIS GAME SO HARD?/FAIL" style of ad made popular with these games similarly influenced the advertising of many of its contemporaries (including Evony itself); in one egregious example, an ad for Be the King: Palace Game plagiarized music from Undertale (specifically the track "sans.", Sans' Leitmotif); a later ad also lifted a time card from SpongeBob SquarePants verbatim. The games quickly became a laughingstock among many internet circles for their blatant false advertising, very cheap production values, and the incompetency of the players depicted, and many of the game's critical reviews on app stores generally include at least one complaint about the misleading ads. The Advertising Standards Authority spoke up against these ads, deeming them misleading and banning them in the UK. These videos compare the ads to the actual product, with nothing but ridicule over the disconnect between game and ad in the comments below. Eventually, the games responded to the criticisms by programming a mechanic in which the main character Austin would have a dream the player was tasked with solving in exchange for coins, finally bringing the interactive story elements from the advertising into gameplay.
  • The "ads" for the anti-virus program Protegent. They are all poorly-drawn and badly acted (all of the people in the commercials have very thick Indian accents, and mostly look very similar), and the design of Proto (the mascot) is plagiarized from Whyatt from Super Why!. In addition, Protegent is notorious for being low-quality, so the ads shouldn't come off as surprising. The only good things to come out of these are the various memes. See all of the ads here.
    • Their rap song is the ad that launched them into fame, particularly from being featured in Joel Johannson's "Windows Vista Destruction" series of videos. The song's lyrics make little attempt to rhyme or seem forced, the animation is filled with blatant GIS Syndrome that could be replicated with cheap drag-and-drop animation, Proto has no flow whatsoever, pausing mid-sentence several times due to the words not having enough syllables, and the music is ripped from a generic royalty-free site. It also tries telling businesses that downloading Protegent and firing 20% of their staff will help the business. Make of that what you will.
    • Another notable one of these ads is the teacher ad. It focuses on the fact that you can monitor other computers using it, but they have a student apparently watching "porn"... which is just Twilight fan art of Edward and Bella hugging and kissing. The best part is the ending, where the student thanks Protegent for not leading him in the "wrong direction". note  It has to be seen to be believed.
  • In October 2020, SNK's licensing partners created an ad for their mobile phone app SNK All Stars that immediately drew backlash from everyone that saw it. The ad in question depicts a scene in which an extremely Out of Character Terry Bogard rides on a motorcycle and smacks the rear ends of three of SNK’s female fighters (who are all the exact same height and have the same hands as Terry for no apparent reason) that he passes when he goes by a bar, before riding into an obstacle and wiping out, as the women walk to confront him. The shoddy animation and Out of Character nature of the ad is bad enough in and of itself; what pushes it into Horrible territory is that one of the women is Kula Diamond, who is canonically underage. SNK pulled the ad and apologized, but the damage was done. Screen Rant has more details.
  • Teezyli and other similar novelty t-shirt online stores note  launched a pretty annoying Twitter campaign in late 2019: bots would look at artists' posts, search for people who say variations of "I want this on a shirt", steal the art in question, and then send notifications advertising a t-shirt featuring the stolen art. Spam and art theft are already bad enough, but this campaign then backfired horribly on Teezyli (and hilariously for everyone else) when artists started posting images with written admissions of plagiarism and copyrighted characters demanding to be sued, and asked their followers to reply with "I need this on a shirt". The ruse worked, and the site's store page became flooded with designs warning people that the site steals art and admitting to copyright infringement.
  • The ads for hangover remedy Thor RX are aimed at college students, with the premise being that you can party and get drunk while still letting you ace an exam the next day. It's more well-known for its horrible animation, especially the character's arms. The audio is also horrible, with staticky audio and high-pitched sounds peppering the track like a bad college DJ composed it. Even worse, the party scene is just a bizarre compilation of random tidbits loosely connected to each other, with so many rapid cuts and camera motions that it's ironically likely to give you a headache, leaving the audience confused before the ad even finishes its pitch. Chadtronic rated it a 10/10 in terms of cursed commercials, saying it gave him a pounding headache and found it was hard to believe it was a real commercial.
  • An ad for Vuse vape pens that ran on TV Tropes stands out as particularly horrible. It blacks out the entire page with a "rotate phone" warning. Rotating your phone will result in the ad taking up the entire page, on top of the now-unreadable text.
  • In the early 2000s, a small wills-and-trusts website called Wills.com ran a banner ad that stated "Pray for the best, prepare for the worst." It showed a simplistic animation of an airplane crashing into the Twin Towers. After the animation, there's a message that half of their profits will be donated to a victim relief fund, but the presentation is so terribly exploitative and disrespectful towards those very victims that you likely wouldn't even notice that text. The banner ad is long gone, but Vincent Flanders of Web Pages That Suck.com fame did a YouTube video about it. For a while, Wills.com would take you to a completely blank page, but the site is back as of February 2021 with a completely different look to their name in the process.
  • ZoneAlarm Free Firewall launched a grossly-alarmist ad in 2010 for their paid antivirus suite, by sending a pop-up warning users of their free firewall that they may be in danger of attack from a Trojan horse (Zeus Botnet). Except this warning also appeared on computers that didn't have said virus, and the "solution" it presented was to buy the full software. The backlash was fierce, and ZoneAlarm users threatened to or did uninstall the product in retaliation. Let this be a warning that letting the marketing department issue false security warnings may not be a good idea; it didn't help that the warning dialog resembled a "rogue security software" scam.

    Trailers 
  • The trailer for Bridge to Terabithia is notorious as perhaps the worst case of Never Trust a Trailer in movie history. It's an adaptation of the highly-beloved Slice of Life novel about an outcast boy and girl who escape from the troubles of their lives by creating an imaginary fantasy world in the woods, and is quite faithful to that story. But with epic fantasy films becoming big in the wake of The Lord of the Rings, the film's advertising all played up the fantasy stuff like it actually existed, which naturally made the book's fans furious at what seemed to be a disrespectful In Name Only adaptation. The crew themselves (including the original author's son, who was also the inspiration for the main character) were quick to state their own anger about it, and assure everyone it wasn't at all representative of the film. Ultimately, the film was a critical and commercial success, though it has been argued that it would have done much better without the whole scandal. Critics who vouched for the film, in particular, were perplexed by the decision to market the film as a fantasy, finding it deeper than that.
  • The Emoji Movie is already considered one of the worst animated movies in recent memory, but the advertising could not get audiences to look past the Audience-Alienating Premise. Everything The LEGO Movie did right, The Emoji Movie did the exact opposite...
    • The Teaser Trailer features Mel the Meh Emoji speaking in a bored monotone. This may have been the joke, but for something that is supposed to generate interest in the movie, it pretty much did the opposite, and the Emoji's disinterest sounds more like sarcasm. To top it off, it ends with a poop joke.
    • This was followed by a tweet that showed the cluelessness of the marketing team. They made a parody poster titled The Emoji's Tale. The problem with this poster was that the show it was based on is about systematic oppression of women, and is set in a dystopian society where they have no rights and are legally considered the property of men. The poster received backlash for the Unfortunate Implications. Making matters worse, the emoji used in the parody poster is Smiler, who is not only the leader of the Emojis but is also the main villain of the film.
  • The trailer for Gamer Girl, an Interactive Movie game, was lambasted right out of the gate by multiple sources, and it's not hard to see why. The game's creators claimed that it's meant to be an "empowering" game criticizing misogyny against female game streamers... except that the trailer showcases a stereotypical Gamer Chick named Abicake99 who's such an Extreme Doormat that she relies on the player - her "chat moderator" - to tell her who she can hang out with or even whether to answer her own phone. The clips of the game we see feature terrible acting, gratituous Fanservice, approximately two seconds of Abicake actually playing a game (the So Okay, It's Average Coffin Dodgers by the same publisher), and a cheap Jump Scare that just serves to highlight how much of a Damsel in Distress Abicake is... which flies right in the face of how "empowering" this game supposedly is, and makes it feel more like an exploitation game than a serious commentary on the harassment female gamers and streamers receive in the gaming community in real life. Cr1TiKaL had nothing nice to say about it, while PC Gamer and The Mary Sue gave their own takes on it. The backlash was so fierce that the developers, Wales Interactive, pulled the trailer from their own channel and wiped all trace of it off their website. We're unlikely to ever see if this trailer was a case of Never Trust a Trailer, as there's no sign of the game itself ever being released despite a September 2020 launch date.
  • The preview for Gen Zed is likely one of the worst examples of Uncertain Audience ever, having marketed the show as being made by millennials and for millennials whilst simultaneously featuring jokes that a large portion of said target audience would be nothing but outraged by (including a joke about Bill Cosby's date rapes and a trans woman's family being so transphobic to her that it makes her cry - all of which is played for laughs) and a cast of flat stereotypes who feel like they were written as strawmen by a particularly out-of-touch boomer. The trailer also relies heavily on pop culture references of the time, both for humor and simply for the hopes of grabbing the audience's attention; this includes a throwaway reference to the real-life suicide of trans teenager Leelah Alcorn - a suicide that occurred a mere five months before the preview came out, no less - which appears to only be there to remind us that the main character, Shona, is a trans woman. The trailer is also very insistent that Shona's voice actress is "the first trans voice actress to ever play a starring role", which has been noted to be patently false, as the late Maddie Blaustein beat her to it. On top of all these problems, the animation is horrendous, looking like something out of an early amateur Flash cartoon, and features such rookie mistakes as the characters inexplicably appearing outside of the black border bars. The preview faced an overwhelmingly negative reaction from all sides, with even the millennials it claimed to be targeted towards hating it, and while nothing is confirmed yet, many theorize that the preview effectively killed the show's chances of ever being aired, as the pilot episode it was promoting was never released. Mister Metokur made a video lampooning the preview and The Mysterious Mr. Enter gave it an honorable mention in his "Top Ten Worst Animations of the 2010s" video, though it's more so for their cowardice of not sticking with their guns and releasing it properly than anything specifically about said show, noting it likely damaged certain social movements - including trans rights - more than any hater ever could have.
  • DC's Gotham High trailer is a painful case of We're Still Relevant, Dammit!. The comic was already in trouble when its creator, Melissa De La Cruz, admitted to having not read a single DC comic before writing, and the trailer made that even more apparent: apart from its extremely stereotypical depiction of highschoolers, the trailer seems almost proud to show Bruce Wayne, Selina Kyle, and Jack Napier (one variant of the Joker) attending school together. But ignoring the lack of comics knowledge, there's its shamelessly out-of-touch flaunting of apps like Tinder and Instagram as being the core values of high school, and a creepy "seductive" narration by Selina describing herself as "that girl next door", something even teen girls don't describe themselves as. It also ends with the line "a triangle is the greatest shape", advertising a "sexy" love triangle between Napier, Wayne, and Kyle, a love triangle being something proven to be destructive to a teenager's mental health notwithstanding. As of this writing, the trailer currently sits at 3,300 likes vs. 43,000 dislikes, with the comments turned off - and appears to have effectively killed any interest in the graphic novel before its April 2020 release.
  • While the reaction to High Guardian Spice itself was divisive to say the least, the announcement trailer is widely agreed to have been the worst way Crunchyroll could've handled it. At a runtime of 90 seconds, the trailer features little more than extremely vague and non-specific details about the show itself and unfinished concept art (and what little art is shown is done in a very western style similar to Steven Universe, making viewers wonder why the show is being made specifically for Crunchyroll, a site specialized in streaming anime), and instead is mostly focused on the staff talking about their feelings on the production and talking about the "diverse" nature of the series and staff while largely showing only white women. While the video itself could've worked as a behind-the-scenes featurette or even a Kickstarter pitch, what it certainly didn't work as is an announcement trailer, as all it did was taint the public's perception of the show as being more concerned with appearing progressive than actually making an entertaining work of fiction. A trailer featuring actual footage did drop later on... more than a year after the announcement and after the show's planned 2019 release date, with nothing but radio silence in between, causing most people to assume the show had simply been cancelled and giving the bad first impression plenty of time to solidify. The Mysterious Mr. Enter goes into more detail on the matter here, along with Digi-neé here.
  • The notorious "Masterclass" trailer for Mighty No. 9 seemingly attempts to invoke nostalgia for The '90s, but ends up recalling some of the worst "X-Treme!!" ad campaigns from that decade. The trailer relies on an unfunny, neurotic narrator to show off game mechanics rather than letting it speak for itself, and at one point insults a good deal of the game's demographic with the line "make the bad guys cry like an anime fan on prom night" note , which is a juvenile insult to begin with. The video also prominently displays terribly-rendered explosions that several people compared to sloppily-made pizza, and as a whole feels rushed. After being posted on YouTube by publishers Deep Silver, it was roundly mocked by the gaming press and community alike, with a large amount of dislikes and even garnering ire from developer Inti Creates CEO Takaya Aizu, and wound up being another nail in the coffin. Even people who like the game don't like this ad.
  • The MyTeam trailer for NBA 2K20 features surprisingly little footage of basketball, despite being for a basketball game. Instead, the focus is on the game's many luck-based reward mechanics such as player card packs. Bafflingly, many of these mechanics are modeled after casino games (a slot machine, pachinko machine, and roulette game can be seen in the trailer), which is a strange choice considering how 2K Sports games had recently been negatively compared to gambling aimed at children; even though the casino-style games don't actually cost real money to play (the slots and pachinko games are played after matches, while the roulette is a Play Every Day reward system), this is not evident from the footage shown, leading to outraged viewers accusing the game of teaching children to gamble. During most of this, videos of streamers celebrating can be seen in the corner of the screen, presumably as they win lucky pulls. Reception was immensely negative, with a ratio of about 200 likes to over 22,000 dislikes on YouTube before 2K Sports set the video on their channel to private (the linked video, an alternate upload from GameTrailers, also has an extremely bad like-dislike ratio). Even 2K Sports fans couldn't defend the extremely tone-deaf trailer, which made the game look more like a casino simulator than a basketball game and seemed to be specifically trying to draw attention to the series' heavily-criticized Bribing Your Way to Victory feature and give more ammunition to the "loot boxes are gambling" side of the argument by juxtaposing the card packs with gambling imagery. As you'd expect, Jim Sterling jumped onto the trailer in this video.
  • The trailer for the 2020 revival of New Warriors as part of Outlawed went viral mostly for being an especially blatant case of We're Still Relevant, Dammit!, featuring characters such as an overweight indigenous woman called Trailblazer; Screentime, a teenager exposed to "Internet gas" who is said to speak in memes; a vampire goth kid named B-Negative; and, most infamously, Snowflake, a non-binary character who, alongside their twin brother Safespace, had powers and names modeled on bigoted insults often thrown at LGBT people. The trailer was lambasted quickly for the incredibly cringe-inducing choice of wording used to describe the characters, with members of the non-binary community such as Kate Leth speaking out against the patronizing and offensive rationale given for Snowflake's name and design. Likewise, people of the marginalized communities represented by the characters found it more reminiscent of satire of token representation in media than a sincere attempt to create a diverse cast of characters. As of February 2021, the video sits with over 278,000 dislikes to around 5,700 likes. Even after the COVID-19 Pandemic delayed the release date to October 2020, the comic wasn't on sale by then, and Marvel has been silent about the comic, indicating that the massive backlash may have likely resulted in it being cancelled altogether.
  • The otherwise well-received Sonic the Hedgehog (2020) infamously started on one hell of a wrong foot with its first trailer. Audiences and Sonic fans were repulsed by the terrible redesign for the iconic hedgehog , which fell into the deepest reaches of the Uncanny Valley, along with other strange thematic choices, in particular the song chosen for it (Coolio's "Gangsta's Paradise", a song one would hardly associate with the franchise). The redesign by itself caused such an intense reaction that director Jeff Fowler surprised everyone when he announced that the animators would be going back to the drawing board to come up with something that actually looked like Sonic and not, to quote John Oliver, "a furry potato with a corpse's face". This resulted in the film's release being pushed three months once it became clear they'd never get it done in time for the original release even if they rushed, which was a pretty unprecedented move for a major Hollywood film. Thankfully, this criticism was taken into account for the second trailer, featuring a more stylized and cartoony Sonic (designed by Tyson Hesse) and a much more upbeat and fitting soundtrack, released in November 2019 to a much warmer reception than the first and saved the movie’s reputation, as the actual movie was widely declared one of the few aversions of Video Game Movies Suck. Tellingly, Paramount removed their upload of the original trailer from public viewing moments before the new one dropped. The first trailer gained a bevy of reactions to it from both Sonic fans and non-Sonic fans alike: Jim Sterling reacts in horror, as did both Vinny and Joel of Vinesauce, while Arlo spins a theory on whether its horrors were intentional, though TheOdd1sOut disputes this on the basis that Cats made it to release with similarly horrifying character designs intact. AniMat and Jamietud talk about the trailer here. Rob Boor of Cinematic Venom reacts to it here. Korey Coleman, Martin Thomas, and Billy Brooks talk about the trailer on Double Toasted here.
  • The trailer for Sony's PS4 Winter Lineup was taken down almost as soon as it was posted for rampant plagiarism by the lead animator, Kevin Bao, with many of the animated shots being incredibly blatant traces of other works, most notably copied from sources such as Steven Universe: The Movie, FLCL, and the animation school Gobelins. These fragments are strung together within the video incredibly haphazardly, so one second the main character is engaging in a sword fight, and the next they're riding a bullet fired from a giant gun. A re-upload of the whole music video can be found here. Additionally, the animator in question was discovered shortly afterward to have been plagiarizing other animated sequences for trailers and the like for a good while before being caught red-handed with this one, ensuring that no company in their right mind would ever hire him again.
  • The 2017 trailer for the Timesplitters Fan Game Timesplitters Rewind is probably the most lazy, barebones, zero-effort preview to have ever existed. Even ignoring how its claimed release date turned out to be a lie, it consists entirely of time crystals with images of past characters in them. The images are blurry and nearly impossible to make out and there's no indication you're even supposed to be looking for anything, meaning most viewers saw nothing but two minutes of featureless green rocks. Given the game had been announced five years prior with absolutely no footage being shown since, the fans were understandably pissed. The developers apologized for the shitty trailer mere days afterwards, but wouldn't release a real preview until March 2019.

    Commercials 
In order by product name, company name, or other type of name:
  • The marketing campaign for the Atari Jaguar was a humongous misstep, in part responsible for the death of the Jaguar (and by extension, Atari themselves) and its impact on US console development.
    • Its regular ads featured annoying (e.g. shrill and condescending, rambling and overly made-up) narrators, grossout "humor", overly generous estimates at best and Blatant Lies at worst regarding the console's technical specs note , arrogant slogans that channeled the Console Wars of the era, and a general lack of gameplay footage to offer. It's thought to have contributed to the console's catastrophic launch and eventual failure.
    • On top of this, there was an infomercial produced which hammers in the "Do the Math" slogan, repeatedly portrays ownership of a 16-bit console as uncool, and has more blatant lying (the host says "I won't overpromise" before doing just that; the generic "video game sounds" used for the 16-bit console near the beginning seem remarkably similar to those from the early Atari 2600 era). Bear in mind that at this point, the initial wave of popularity Sega had made with their Genesis was starting to settle down, and Nintendo had a firm hold in the market. Sega had learned that attempting to insult their business rival didn't work as well as they thought, but managed to pull ahead and compete just fine. Atari, on the other hand, decided to double down on the insults, which especially looked bad given the Jaguar's poor performance and game lineup compared to the 16-bit systems it deemed "uncool".
    • Following the last in a series of massive price drops, Atari made a two-page magazine ad that, on top of hinging on the aforementioned lies, told buyers of rivaling consoles to "take two smart pills and call us in the morning" for not having bought a Jaguar. Insulting the competition was ineffective enough; whatever could possibly have made Atari think insulting the competition's consumers was going to endear gamers to the Jaguar is a mystery, especially when the PlayStation and Sega Saturn both used CDs, which provided greater storage capacity than cartridges, and Nintendo had announced an actual 64-bit system (even if it mostly played in 32-bit mode because 64-bit was Awesome, but Impractical back then). In the end, Atari had sold 125,000 Jaguar units and withdrew from the console market in 1995, likely due to this advertisement.
  • The earlier commercials for the down-on-your-luck tax service BlueTax were among the worst aired on cable news channels. Start with our spokesman, "Max from BlueTax", who comes off as either very creepy due to the entire advert's terrible CGI (his hair was bitmapped) or as obnoxiousness incarnate for his grating voice and inability to shut up for half a second. The public domain chalkboard fonts, toll-free number spiels said by Max using individual voice clips (much like an automated phone call) were obvious, as a final insult Max closed the ad with a shout that just drove home how unlikable and/or creepy he was. The company's since begun kicking itself hard over them, with Max responding positively in-character to a Most Irritating Animated Actor nomination, and more recent ad campaigns loaded with Self-Deprecation.
  • CNN received a fresh new face in 2002 with former Fox News reporter Paula Zahn, who was given her own morning show. And the commercial they put out for it was a shamelessly lascivious monstrosity calling her "provocative, super smart, and just a little sexy" with the last word freezing on the screen over her lips along with a Record Needle Scratch (although it's easy to mistake it for the sound of a fly being unzipped due to the context). It only took a single weekend for the ad to be pulled in the face of massive outrage, and countless potshots from late night hosts followed. Though it can certainly be argued it technically did its job very well by greatly increasing attention on Zahn, it remains a big stain in the network's history, and is listed as #5 in What Were They Thinking? The 100 Dumbest Events in Television History.
  • DirecTV released a series of ads where they used scenes from movies with the actors reprising their roles with new dialogue to talk about the product. While an interesting concept with (mostly) innocuous content, like with Christopher Lloyd in Back to the Future ([1]) or Sigourney Weaver in Aliens ([2]), two of these commercials that fell into this category used footage from Tommy Boy ([3]) and Poltergeist ([4]). They starred David Spade as Richard Hayden and Craig T. Nelson as David Freeling, respectively, but used footage of the deceased Chris Farley and Heather O'Rourke, the latter of whom died in childhood. There was massive backlash for the company exploiting dead celebrities to sell their product and it was quickly ended. note  Robot Chicken went straight for the jugular when parodying the commercials by setting their sketch in Million Dollar Baby, specifically the Downer Ending where Frankie helps Maggie commit suicide.
  • Though opinions on Dungeons & Dragons 4th Edition vary widely, the most common point of agreement is that its early ad campaigns and community relations were a disaster. Most of them focused on bashing the prior edition to make out 4e as superior (even though the two are radically different games and therefore one didn't seem to be an upgrade of the other), and mocking Straw Fans in a manner that showcased how 4e was removing core races from the game. Add in the change of policy towards third-party companies and Paizo's Pathfinder positioning itself as a true successor, and you had D&D losing its majority marketshare for the first time since the 90s, not reclaiming its crown until the launch of 5th Edition.
  • Dwight the Knight (not to be confused with Mike the Knight), a tax relief agency. For some inexplicable reason, Dwight's voice in this minute-long ad is pitched up, so his voice quickly grates on the eardrums. Then add in the "animation", where the CGI Dwight looks completely stiff and unblinking, and does nothing but vaguely flail his arms back and forth. On the bright side, they learned from their mistakes, as the 2017 version of the ad is narrated by a normal-voiced human and the creepy CGI Dwight only makes two brief appearances.
  • Most of the ads for Farmers Only, a dating website geared toward people in rural areas, are decent or at least good for Narm Charm. The site's Horsing Around ad, however, doesn't even have that going for it, and looks more like an attempt to replicate that. Instead it gives us obvious and badly done greenscreen, awful voice acting, a badly sung jingle at the end, and the two horses cancelling their owner's date for no reason other than to be dicks. Small wonder the company has disabled comments on the video.
  • This ad for Finally Fast (the product's original name). Among other things, it shows a Windows Blue Screen of Death superimposed onto the screen of an Apple iBook (a pre-x86 Mac), a Firefox "can't find the page" warning in Internet Explorer, and countless other baffling errors. There's also the "music" (a generic looping techno beat they probably got from some public-domain music library), the Narmy bad acting of the man at the end, and the whiny teenager complaining about how a bad connection was slowing down his local computer game. You know something's very wrong when the PS2 controller he was playing it with is the least inaccurate aspect of the commercial.
  • The launch ad for the Tiger Electronics Game.com (which has an entry of its own in the section for consoles) falls into many of the traps the Jaguar campaign did - ridiculous mascots, arrogant posturing, and insulting its own demographic's intelligence, with the slogan "It plays more games than you idiots have brain cells!" note  The ad also features several legitimate questions that potential buyers might be asking themselves, such as "What games is it compatible with?" and "How much does it cost?", and dismisses them by having the spokesman yell "MORONS!" in lieu of a real answer.note  Rerez had quite the time riffing into that commercial indirectly in his review on the console here.
    Shane: That's great marketing! Let's insult the potential customers right from the get-go! You know what kids like? Being called stupid!
  • This infamous ad for the GM EV1 sells electric cars via creepy music, ominous shadows (namely, disembodied silhouettes of people that have given many viewers the impression that a nuclear explosion has left outlines of their now-disintegrated bodies on the pavement), and narration that mostly points up the car as unnatural. It failed so miserably that the ad has been used as evidence to accuse General Motors of deliberately sabotaging the car.
  • The Philippine chocolate bar Goya ran this ad in 2018. It consists of a still image of the chocolate bar with the caption "Have you tried the No. 1 Chocolate Bar in the Philippines?" What makes this ad so bad is its audio, a headache-inducing SMPTE tone. Even worse, the tone suddenly gets louder at the last second as the image cuts to a "Please Stand By" message. It's caused the company to receive plenty of negative comments on their Facebook page.
  • Canadians are usually tolerant of poor advertising... when it's worth the point-and-laugh. Such is the key failing of this spot from Grey Power, a discounted car insurance provider for drivers over 50. What makes it so horrible? It was utterly obnoxious, with the unfortunate implication that all middle-aged drivers act like 12-year-olds off their Ritalin, and it was long enough (more than a minute) to run its one major gimmick into the ground many times over, but not short enough that it couldn't be (and it often was) used to hide technical problems. One of the actresses has announced outright that she's ashamed of her appearance in the advert. Mercilessly parodied in this skit from The Rick Mercer Report.
  • "HeadOn: apply directly to the forehead!" The commercial doesn't state exactly what HeadOn is meant to do, much less why you should apply it directly to your forehead (mainly because, as stated in the "Other" page, it's basically homeopathic candle wax, meaning it's borderline illegal for the commercial to explicitly claim it does anything), but the fact remains that the commercial's insistence on repeating itself is the definition of annoying, and will ensure its message sticks in your mind for all the wrong reasons. Later commercials lampshaded their reputation by having customers stop the ad to talk about how annoying the ad is, but always mentioning that they love their product- but of course, they never elaborate on why they love it. The company also used a very similar repetitive approach to advertise their other products like ActivOn and FREEdHEM, though they gave slightly more information on what those products did. The ad was widely parodied on everything from fellow Horrible entry Disaster Movie to The Grim Adventures of Billy & Mandy.
    Rowdy C: How about I apply THIS (grabs baseball bat) directly to your forehead instead?!
  • This abysmal Health Hotline commercial for knee braces. The ad itself is mostly just mind-numbingly boring, but the animation is what makes it horrible: it's almost entirely made up of totally static stock clip art with barely-animated mouths flapping randomly as the characters speak in bored monotones against a blank white background. Additionally, the clip art isn't even consistent, as the grandma character had her model switched at the end to an old lady that barely even looks like her. For some odd reason, they made a second version of this commercial that is literally identical except the girl and her grandma are black. Even their dialogue uses the exact same audio, so it's not even like they're different characters. Svengoolie, of all people, mocked this ad on the April 23, 2016 episode of his show.
  • Hearthstone has a very good track record with its ads, with many possessing the same sense of charm and fun of the game itself, but the same can't be said for the "Take this Inside" commercial. It features poor acting, nonsensical dialogue and presentation, a flimsy connection to Hearthstone itself, and an extremely forced tagline. Even the deliberately crappy costumes come off as more lazy than charming, which is not helped by the fact that Blizzard Entertainment has proven that they can make genuinely good costumes. It didn't take long for the fanbase to tear it apart for being an awkward piece of junk, and Blizzard themselves abandoned it fairly quickly.
  • A group of ads for Hot Pockets (thankfully long gone) depicted people eating a Hot Pocket on the street and being subjected to the same kinds of discrimination and abuse that American minorities suffered prior to and during the Civil Rights Movement - all because they were eating the advertised product without a plate. Obviously, these ads and their message didn't sit well with anybody.
  • In 1999, the fast-growing shoe retailer Just for Feet decided to create an utterly racist commercial for the Super Bowl to tie into a contest where one lucky person who called in during the third quarter during the ad could win a Hummer. The ad depicted a group of white men in a Humvee hunting down a barefoot black runner in the Kenyan savanna, then giving him a cup of drugged water, and forcibly putting sneakers on him while he is unconscious note , followed by him waking up and screaming as he tries to get them off. Needless to say, it launched a major controversy, and was so bad that the company sued their ad agency for showing the ad at the Super Bowl and insisting that it would have a positive reception among the public. Even worse, the ad wound up showing during the fourth quarter, and the website and contest hotline weren't updated to deal with this fact. It led to the company becoming a pariah, despite having a great concept for their stores (and even then, the company was in a huge debt even before the infamous commercial was released, along with running a fraud scheme), and a year later they filed for bankruptcy and were bought out by the also-now-defunct Footstar. It landed the #1 spot on Cracked's 2014 article "The 5 Most Disastrous Marketing Failures of All Time", describing it as "creepy", "racist", and "insulting towards its own product".
  • If you live in one of a handful of major cities in the United States, chances are you've heard the Kars-4-Kids ad on the radio at least once, which is one time too many. The incredibly grating jingle has two versions: one sung out of key by a child who sounds bored out of his skull, and another with a child having an Auto-Tuned voice. The ads make no mention of the fact that the money is donated exclusively to yeshivas and Hasidic causes, understandably frustrating anyone who might need that money and either isn't Jewish or not of that denomination. On top of that, the video version of the ad (featuring precocious kids that seemingly were ripped out of a Life With Mikey-esque casting room miming instrument-playing terribly) is played seemingly every inning during the local SNY broadcasts of Mets games and has as much hate by Mets fans as they have for the team's former owner, Fred Wilpon. A rival car donation charity even used the widespread hatred of the jingle to advertise its own services (which was soon banned from Entercom-owned stations). The jingle is also the official song of The Bad Place.
    John Oliver: Shut up! Shut up! What is this charity? You're kids! You can't fucking drive! What money-laundering scheme are you operating?!
  • Life Alert's initial ad campaigns, starting from the 90's, gained a reputation for being So Bad, It's Good, spawning a variety of jokes about their poor acting and overly silly natures. Worried that this silliness would cost them sales, the company released a new, Darker and Edgier advertisement simply titled "Basement" in 2014... which ended up backfiring and caused public outcry. The advertisement features an elderly woman who fell down the basement stairs feebly crying for help while children frolic outside, rendering it a disturbing experience to many. Several people decried it over its unnecessarily eerie and dark tone, with reports of panic attacks occurring to unsuspecting viewers with anxiety disorders flying about. In addition, Life Alert was also accused of preying on the elderly and those worried about their senior relatives using paranoia-based emotional blackmail. It’s a small wonder the ad was pulled only two months after its initial airing, quickly being replaced with still serious, but much more uplifting commercials. Grim commercials in the same vein still aired until around 2020, but added a Content Warning that the commercial is based off of "real events" and viewers may be "offended".
  • Littlewoods' 2011 Christmas advert attempted to be charming and sweet, but ended up being remembered as one of the worst Christmas adverts ever made. In it, children in a school play sing an ill-conceived song about the one who brings the presents at Christmas time. No, not Father Christmas and his sack of toys, but Mum and her Littlewoods purchases. The ad received a huge backlash from outraged viewers, who accused Littlewoods of ruining the magic of Christmas, and that's without getting into the inherently cynical nature of replacing something so innocent with cold hard cash. The song is also horrendous, but the premise is misguided enough to render this beside the point. Ad Turds gives its take on it (and other Christmas commercials not horrible enough for this page) here, giving it a "Turd rating" of 245,835,585,299,001 out of 5.
  • Locker Room Meltdown is a failure on several levels. The ad shows a middle school coach scolding kids for not putting their dirty towels in the bin, and quickly getting exasperated. Eventually he freaks out, starts throwing balls in the bin, then climbs in himself. It culminates in the nonsense tagline "Don't have a meltdown. Have a Meltdowns." It's badly acted, badly narrated, and barely related to the product (Kraft Meltdowns, a short-lived line of microwavable nachos). The commercial is a spin-off of Principal Wilson's Meltdown, but completely misses the point of the original ad - including the person being calmed by a plate of Meltdowns, the entire reason for the scenario!
  • In 2017, McDonald's released this ad in the United Kingdom. It shows a young boy walking through a town with his mother asking her what his Disappeared Dad was like, sulking as he learns they had nothing in common. But, everything is fixed when he learns that they do have one thing in common: a love for eating a Filet-O-Fish with tartar sauce. The ad was widely decried as exploiting tragedy for the sake of cold hard cash, and plenty of comparisons to the Nationwide ad below were made. Unsurprisingly, the company quickly pulled the ad and issued an apology.
  • Miracle Whip had their "We Will Not Tone It Down" and "Don't Be So Mayo" ad campaigns. Marketing Miracle Whip as a wonderful condiment for Hipsters, playing an Animal Collective rip-off in the background, and attempting to play up the brand as a cool and revolutionary new flavor just didn't work, especially since the Straw Loser who doesn't eat Miracle Whip was the only unique-looking person in the commercial. Stephen Colbert ridiculed the campaign on his show, pointing out that preferring another spread over mayonnaise isn't rebellious or cool, and even made an equally absurd pro-mayo commercial to prove the point. Afterwards, Kraft decided to double down, buying ad time on Colbert's show to rerun their ads and creating this response to Colbert's attack, calling him "so mayo"; while possibly intended to show they were good sports and had a sense of humor about the "rivalry", it instead came off as needlessly whiny and defensive, and the original video (which had a ratio of 10/90-percent likes to dislikes) was deleted from the official Miracle Whip channel.
  • Many of the ads for the National Collector's Mint note  have several things in common: poor writing, obvious stock footage and deceptive tactics, combined with an assortment of author catchphrases such as "Look closely", "History is being made" (or some variant thereof), and "Avoid future disappointment and regret".
    • This ad for a 2008 $20 Liberian "coin-certificate" produced for the seventh anniversary of 9/11, for example, uses cheesy "inspirational" music (which would be used in several of their other ads), clear splices in narration (such as when the announcer says "...of the World Trade Center tragedy") and poor writing such as "the frosted Twin Towers stand out against a mirror-light backdrop, much as they did in the gleaming sunlight of that fateful morning", with an insanely tasteless concept to boot. On top of all this, it is claimed to be "payable like a silver certificate in coin-of-the-realm", implying that it's worth $20 in US dollars. In reality, it's worth $20 in Liberian dollars, meaning that in 2008 (when the commercial was made), the exchange rate for one Liberian dollar was just thirty cents, or in face value, six American dollars (in 2020, one Liberian dollar would be half a cent). Oh, and the ad flat-out admits that, rather than actually being made of silver, it's coated in silver leaf, meaning that it doesn't come even close to face value in US dollars.
    • Other adverts for the company's other coins, such as this bizarre Washington Talking Dollar and a "1964" Morgan Silver Dollar, also show a similar combination of these.
    • Special mention goes to the commercials for the $50 Gold Buffalo "tribute copy". Aside from being the same commercial remade yearly with minor changes, using the same music as the previously-mentioned "9/11 coin-certificate" and "Washington Talking Dollar" ads, and red flags such as "private nonmonetary minting", the ad resorts to Blatant Lies by claiming the U.S. government had to stop producing the real coin "because of a shortage of specially-made gold blanks", along with the text "Ceased Production" with "approx. a year" in small print under it to trick unwitting consumers into buying their clad copy instead of the real thing. This blog deconstructs the ad.
    • Other ads, such as the ad for Morgan Silver Dollars, are also remade yearly with random numbers, again, as a method to trick people into thinking these coins are rare, when they’re still reasonably common.
  • Nationwide Insurance's second contribution to the 2015 Super Bowl advertisement lineup was an ad that attempted to school parents about preventable home accidents, but ended up backfiring spectacularly. The advert starts off with whimsical Imagine Spots, as it shows a young boy lamenting about how he'll never learn to ride a bike, catch cooties, fly, or get married... not because he's intimidated, but because he died in an accident. The advertisement then follows this with a grim montage of an overflowed bathtub, some spilled cleaning supplies, and a fallen-over television. The ad was horribly tasteless in its execution, especially within the context of Super Bowl advertising (which is usually funny at best and uplifting at worst), and came under fire for using dead children to sell insurance. Added Fridge Horror when you consider that plenty of parents whose kids had really died must have been watching certainly did nothing at all to help (the implication that the boy - who looks to be about 10 - died from any of those accidents shown, which are more like things a 2-year-old would die from, doesn't help matters either). Within minutes of the ad's airing, it received tons of backlash on social media networks like Facebook and Twitter, and many were quick to make its Mood Whiplash punchline into a meme (before the game was even over) as well as label it one of the worst advertisements ever. It was small wonder, then, that Nationwide was conspicuously absent from the Super Bowl ad lineup the following year.
  • Ouya's "Sixty bucks for a game?" channels the legendary insufferability of the early '90s Console Wars, depicting a stereotypical pantsless gamer whining about paying sixty bucks for a game he hated, then lapses into typical edgy Nausea Fuel humor as the guy throws up so much that he floods his living room, then rips his spine out and uses it to beat himself to death, and finally lays in his puke, the lower right part of his face just bone, his brain exposed, and his eye floating. The ad hurls insults at consumers of rivaling media, yet has little to say about the console itself. Ouya called No True Scotsman on it, despite it having been featured on their official YouTube channel (before the negative reception had them set it to Private). The ill-fated ad that drove customers away, along with the fact that the console itself wasn't very good, are major reasons why the once-highly-anticipated console wound up flopping badly.
  • Oven Pride: "So easy, a man can do it!" Absolutely abominable because, apart from the suggestion that a woman's place is in the kitchen and equally insulting men, because apparently using basic cleaning products is far too complicated for them (a rare example of a triple standard, no less!), it presents what has to be the world's most miserable married couple - she seems perpetually infuriated, while he seems to have had over half his cerebrum torn out. The man goes on to use said product with an inane, slack-jawed grin on his face. If the roles were switched here, this would've never made it to air... but despite all this, the annoying chuckle at the end still manages to be the worst part. Another product by the same company, this one for cleaning showers and baths, is also widely reviled for giving the same backhanded message.
  • "The Gift That Gives Back" by Peloton features a man giving his wife an exercise bike for Christmas, followed by her documenting using it over the next year. Not a bad concept, but the ad was instantly dog-piled on and mocked for a number of reasons. The actress playing the wife, Monica Ruiz, seems bizarrely terrified throughout the whole thing, and her performance drew comparisons to Black Mirror and Get Out!. Many viewers thought a husband gifting exercise equipment to his wife had unintended implications, and were left with the distinct impression that her husband is forcing her to spend a year doing strenuous workouts because he's unsatisfied with her body. It also embodied a frequent criticism that Peloton's branding only showed its bikes being used by young, already-fit people who can somehow afford to live in ultramodern Big Fancy Houses. The company's stock saw a significant drop shortly after its release, which they rather pathetically insisted was completely unrelated to the one thing about them that everyone had been talking about for days. The company did smugly reply to the criticism, claiming "some have misinterpreted this commercial". Parodies also quickly popped up. A couple weeks after its release, Ruiz appeared in a Ryan Reynolds commercial for his gin company where she shakily keeps drinking as her friends assure her she's in a safe place, and is noticeably not wearing a wedding ring while the other two women are, which she promoted with the hashtag "The Gift That Doesn't Give Back" so there could be no doubt about the reference. Sean Hunter, who played the husband, also naturally took issue with how he was suddenly thrust into the position of a major face of sexism, though he didn’t help himself much by continuing to insist no one could possibly have legit problems with the ad and they’re all just jumping on a bandwagon, and even changing his Twitter handle to "Peloton Husband". The only saving grace is the fact that the ad boosted the brand's name recognition, and sales sky-rocketed in the subsequent months due to people being stuck inside for COVID-19 lockdowns.
  • In what seemed to be an attempt to connect with politically-active millennials during a time of major protests against police brutality, Pepsi released an ill-thought-out ad featuring Kendall Jenner that showed her watching a crowd of protesters holding vague, nondescript signs like "Peace" and "Join the Conversation", and culminated with Jenner walking up to a riot cop and handing him a Pepsi as the protesters cheer her on. Pepsi pulled the ad after fierce backlash, and released a public apology. The damage was done, though, as it was quickly spoofed by a Saturday Night Live skit, a play-by-play commentary on the ad by Stephen Colbert on his show, and an "alternate ending" (Jenner is replaced by a black woman; the cop offered the Pepsi coldly stares her down and then calls for backup) on Late Night with Seth Meyers. Pyrocynical also tears into the ad here.
  • The launch ads for the PlayStation 3 were a mess almost on par with the Atari Jaguar's marketing. Sony evidently figured from the humongous success of the first two PlayStation consoles that the PS3 would easily sell itself, and thus they could afford to produce ads that were unique and eye-catching at the expense of actually saying anything about the system. The results, when they weren't just plain bizarre note , were often outright frightening note . Unfortunately for Sony, the PS3 launched at high prices with few games worth buying, with the rival Xbox 360 already having been on the market for a year and the Wii also just having launched, and said ads didn't do much to persuade people why they should fork out the much higher asking price for the system over its two cheaper rivals, doubtless contributing to its early struggles.
  • The Quietus ads for tinnitus, which attempts to emulate it throughout the whole ad. Lord knows why - if you have tinnitus, you already know what the hell it sounds like; if you don't have it, you're not the one buying Quietus. It doesn't help that while the product's name is an archaic word for something calming, it also happens to be a euphemism for death. Fortunately, it seems like the makers of the drug have learned from this blunder, and produced a version of the ad that lacked that incessant noise altogether. Unsurprisingly, this version is more effective in getting its point across.
  • Many of the ads for RockAuto are often poorly animated (with faces taken straight out of the Uncanny Valley) with dialogue that sounds like it originated from a radio ad. Given the infamy of the business' delivery of cheaply-made auto parts, the quality shouldn't come off as surprising. Some of their most infamous ads include:
    • Their garage sale advert features a man whose car's window got skewed in an impossible way and having to sell his action figures and letting others rent out his dog just to pay for a replacement.
    • Another advert, in addition to having terrible animation (it features talking 3D animation heads, horribly drawn, whose jaws move like cows chewing cud whenever they speak) also tries to present your typical commercial auto parts store as bad because it does not comply to some pretty outlandish requests, such as a woman needing high-technology ceramic brake pads for her Toyota Prius or a Greaser getting angry at the store clerk for not having parts for a Ford car from 1949. It's like a shuttle bus company trying to badmouth the competition by saying they can't drive you to Fiji. It also features a ridiculously stereotypical Frenchman.
  • In January 2021, Ryanair ran a "Jab and Go" campaign, encouraging viewers to book cheap European summer holidays due to the then-current rollout of vaccines during the COVID-19 Pandemic. The ad was immediately criticized for its poor timing and being tone deaf - It aired during a period where several European countries' travel restrictions explicitly banned leisure travel, while the ad focused primarily on young adults, who would likely be the demographic last in line to be vaccinated. The ad received over 1600 complaints in the UK, making it the third most complained-about ad campaign of all time, and was taken off the air shortly after when it was deemed too "misleading and irresponsible" to legally air in the UK.note 
  • Sales Genie released two Super Bowl commercials in the late 2000s that were not only blatantly racist and out of the times, but also soul-suckingly humorless.
    • The first shows an Indian telemarketer using the service to improve sales. This would be funny, if it wasn't for A) him speaking with a stereotypical Indian accent; B) him having to feed a stereotypically large Indian family; and C) the ad insulting Americans who were losing their jobs to outsourcing offices in India and China at the time.
    • The second, released the following year, ripped on Chinese families by portraying them as fat panda bears who speak broken English in possibly one of the most stereotypical Chinese accents ever.
  • The beyond-awful 2011 "Hail to the V" commercials for Summer's Eve douche, featuring women's hands miming talking vaginas, insulting racial stereotypes, and the scorching tagline "show a little love for your vertical smile". The ads were quickly pulled. Watch them lampooned on The Colbert Report here.
  • Toyota CH-R teamed up with Bad Lip Reading for some millennial-targeted Gag Dubs of their commercials. "Ghost School" (the second ad shown in this compilation), in particular, received plenty of airtime in Summer 2017. Unfortunately, the un-dubbed version of this commercial hasn't played as often, if it even exists. Without any concrete confirmation of BLR changing the audio, this ad loses an essential part of their videos' appeal - the humor arising from famous people delivering dialogue and songs that the average viewers wouldn't expect. Instead, it just has a garishly made-up lady spouting complete nonsense, and leaving practically no time for Toyota to show off the car.
  • The notorious 2012 ad for Canadian beer Uptown Girl is one of the most complained-about and ridiculed commercials this side of Grey Power. The commercial is horribly obviously low-budget - there's two pieces of narration throughout (the sole difference between them being the presence of a cringeworthy tagline), and extremely boring techno music accompanies rather creepy shots of girls dancing in slow-motion (with emphasis on boobs) and shots of condensation- and handprint-covered beer bottles. The ads were pulled after a month and it still is routinely recognized as one of the worst Canadian commercials of all time.
  • This ad for a bathroom service named Walk-in-Tubs is of a very low quality. The music is just a looping generic theme from a stock music site, the audio quality (especially when S. Ward gives her opinions, it's very hard to tell what she's saying even at maximum volume) is laughably horrible, and the stock effects and sound are extremely cheap and low-budget. And the number at the bottom changes every time the ad is shown. note  A 30-second version was also made, with bad acting and all of the problems of the full version.
  • Wendy's once came out with an ad about their new chicken sandwich and showing everyone's reaction to how good it is. The problem? The "reactors" are incredibly exaggerated caricatures of people on the internet. For example, the "memer" says "Eats Spicy Goodness LIKE A BOSS" (and yes, the Impact font is actually present) and the "selfiers" being obnoxious valley girls who can't resist taking a selfie of their selfie. But what really pushes this ad into Horrible territory is the last part where they feature the "behind-the-timeser" who uses incredibly outdated slang, which shows that the makers of this ad have no self-awareness about how much they're pandering and how hypocritical they're being.
  • Nintendo's Wii U is one of their least successful consoles, and part of it was due to their marketing campaign on how the system was being presented. The commercials often focus too much on the GamePad rather than the system itself, and combined with the similar name and logo, made people assume the Wii U was just an add-on to or peripheral for the Wii. The original E3 reveal mostly showed New Super Mario Bros. U and Wii Fit U, both of which could be confused as HD ports or the originals. Nintendo didn't put their commercials on TV and made it mostly exclusive to online instead. Even when the ads were on, they often featured bad writing and acting. This video showcases some of them, and the first one refers to the system as an upgrade rather than a whole new console, adding more to the confusion. A discussion video in a five-part series about the system explains what went wrong in the advertising. Thankfully, Nintendo learned from their mistakes, as seen with the Nintendo Switch's reveal trailer. It was made it clear within the first 30 seconds that it was advertising a hybrid home/portable console, as well as some games either being ports or sequels.
  • "The Memesteins", part of a 2018 ad campaign for Comcast's Xfinity internet provider, absolutely embodies the much-hated "How do you do, fellow kids?" style of advertising. The most infamous ad, "Success", uses memes from 2011 (Success Kid) and 2012 (Ain't nobody got time for that), giving the impression that the people behind the ad were five years late on understanding what memes were popular. The ads were made private on Xfinity's YouTube channel, and even the reupload linked here has 80% dislikes and comments almost entirely dedicated to insulting the ad.

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    Public Service Announcements and Public Information Films 
  • Above the Influence were no stranger to courting criticism for their narmy PSAs, but even their defenders considered "Sick" a major misstep. The commercial depicts a presumably-drunk girl stumbling into a bathroom and then vomiting into a toilet, which we hear in all its glory. The camera pans into the toilet several times to show her "vomit" is actually important things from her life, including family pictures and trophies. An interesting concept in theory, but it was executed in a way that people describe to be clumsy and disgusting. Especially since it often aired on television and before YouTube videos, often while people would be eating or relaxing. The complaints that surged online and were posted to Above the Influence's Facebook page (here is an archive of the organization's taken-down YouTube upload) led to the ad not only being pulled from TV, but virtually wiped from the internet altogether. Until the original PSA was uploaded in late 2019, the only copy available was a parodic edit that overlays poop sounds over the puking and plays a very loud version of "California Love" near the end. "Sick" effectively killed the campaign, as this was one of the organization's last TV ads; they eventually dialed back their efforts to schools and the internet instead before being absorbed into Partnership for Drug-Free Kids two years later after "Sick"'s release.
  • The infamous "I Am Autism" commercial from Autism Speaks was an homage to the 1948 "Taming the Crippler" Public Service Announcement, which was about polio. Aside from the fact that it grossly misrepresents this neurological disorder (as most of the company's promotional material does), treating it like an actual deadly disease along the lines of AIDS or cancer, it barely gives any information as to what autism actually is. Instead, it just makes it sound as if it completely reduces a child to nothing more than a source of strife and misery until people "valiantly" promise to fight against it. It's also accompanied by unrelated footage of kids, as if they could potentially be "blighted" by autism, none of which fit the ominous tone of the message. The ad was pulled due to the intense backlash, but a transcript can be read here, and you can watch it here if you dare. The Mysterious Mr. Enter (himself having Asperger's Syndrome) criticizes the ad point by point in essay and video form. Adam Johnston watched the PSA during a livestream and was flabbergasted by how tasteless it was, going as far as to compare it to anti-gay propaganda.
  • FACT (Federation Against Copyright Theft) put an anti-piracy ad on some DVDs and VHS tapes that outright stated that piracy funds terrorism. Apparently, if you pirate a DVD then you're indirectly responsible for 9/11. You couldn't skip this thing, and it insinuates that the people watching it are filthy low-down criminal scum, even though if you were watching the ad, then you must have actually paid for the DVD because the anti-piracy ad would be the first thing pirates would strip off for their counterfeit versions. It also appeared on some child-friendly videos, terrifying several children with its dark and ominous voiceover and music, demonic blacksmith character (whose eyes blaze fire at one point) and loud explosions from the blacksmith destroying piles of videos, DVDs and CDs with his poker.
  • One Greenpeace ad against nuclear power stations shows a family's recording at a beach being interrupted when a plane crashes into a nearby nuclear power station. Not only does the plane seem to crash into the plant for absolutely no reason, the implication that the crash would be followed by a nuclear explosion or mass radioactive contamination is totally unfounded, as nuclear power plants have their walls reinforced specifically to prevent such a thing from occurring, making it blatant scaremongering. The ad is also poorly acted, and the plane is badly chroma-keyed. It was considered bad enough that Greenpeace themselves have disowned it.
  • Groupon had a series of adverts that started off as celebrity PSAs for dire global situations, such as the tenuous relations between China and Tibet or the deforestation of the Amazon, before lapsing into extolling the tangentially-related (at best) glory of Groupon. In short, they trivialized serious issues with global repercussions just to sell an item, hiring celebrities to join in, no less. There was a major backlash from viewers and Groupon customers over this thing. Brilliantly parodied by Conan O'Brien here.
  • The environmentalist short film No Pressure by 10:10 (directed by Richard Curtis, known for his work on Blackadder and Four Weddings and a Funeral ) is perhaps the most catastrophic failure in the history of "edgy" humor. It depicts several groups talking about ways to reduce carbon emission, with those who don't want to participate or are simply uncertain about the whole matter being told "That's okay - no pressure." or a variant thereof. The authority in the group pulls out or is given a small black box with a red button and presses it, causing those who opted out to explode into Ludicrous Gibs. The deaths, and the compliants' reactions, are realistic and played completely straight; said authorities (and, in the next-to-last scene, the compliants as well) carry on as though they didn't just murder people (possibly because they didn't consider said people as actually being people). To make things even scarier, the first clip played includes two children at a school getting blown to pieces, all because they were unsure about cutting down their emmisions by 10%. Even worse is the ending - a voiceover by Gillian Anderson, who herself is blown up for believing the voiceover was her contribution to 10:10. It conveyed such a clear contempt for those who don't toe their line on climate change that, coupled with all of the above and the many similarities to a terrorist bombing, meant not even fellow environmentalist groups were willing to side with 10:10.
  • People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (more commonly known as PETA) has garnered a reputation for using controversial, graphic, or fallacious marketing campaigns about animal rights that grab the public's attention. A few of their campaigns have gone so far that not even people who agree with the message will stand by them.
    • In February 2020, PETA came out with this turned-down Super Bowl PSA intended to end speciesism. note  It shows animals taking the knee to an unintentionally creepy rendition of the US National Anthem ala Colin Kaepernick, who took the knee during the anthem to protest police brutality. Backlash was immediate from all sides of the political spectrum, with liberals despising the comparison of oppressed African Americans to animals, conservatives despising the political stance PETA was taking, and everyone including PETA's own supporters finding the decision to include animals without knees like snakes and fish kneeling rather awkward and narmy. Needless to say, the NFL turned it down and it was not played at the Super Bowl that year, causing PETA to play the victim card as a censorship victim, despite attempting to censor works like Super Mario 3D Land and Toy Story 4 in the past due to finding them cruel against animals for various contrived reasons.
    • In July of that same year, PETA once again faced backlash for a tweet intended as a PSA against animal dissection that was seen as far too gruesome and tasteless to be effective. The tweetnote  references the then-recent meme of cutting items open and revealing them to be cake, by depicting a cat's head being cut open with the caption "Not cake #CutOutDissection". The combination of an innocuous meme with an image of animal torture was considered cringeworthy at best and horribly tasteless at worst, with some declaring that PETA ruined the meme. The depiction of animal gore without any sensitive content warning (which violates Twitter's policy) upset many people, especially animal lovers (the exact people PETA would want on their side), some reporting panic attacks as a result. The message also falls flat; dissecting animals (many of whom already died from natural causes) is an important way to conduct medical research to help sick animals, but the ad and its response misleads the public to believe all animals used in dissection were abducted, or that live animals are used in dissection. In response to the backlash, PETA insisted the gruesome pictures were necessary to get the message across, but instead of sparking conversation about animal dissection, it just sparked anger towards the already-contentious organization.
  • The notorious Piracy: It's a Crime (commonly referred to as "You Wouldn't Steal a Car", based on the first line in the PSA) spot has been used in many DVDs. Besides the choppy editing and excessively dark background music, The commercial also compares stealing several items to stealing movies and other digital material on the Internet, a comparison which is the exact opposite of what anti-piracy lawyers are trying to get the juries to think. You also couldn't skip the ad, making it even more annoying and patronizing. note  But what makes it truly horrible is the rampant hypocrisy on display - while trying to say "piracy is the same as stealing", it used music without the original artist's permission. To compound this even further, said music is Suspiciously Similar to "No Man Army" by The Prodigy. Watch "Commercials I Hate" tear it to shreds here, and Stuart Ashen discussing it here. It was also spoofed by BBC Radio 6 Music's Adam & Joe in the "Song Wars" segment, with a song entitled "The Mind of a Pirate". The IT Crowd also parodied the absurdity of the ads here.
    • The UK's Home Office tweeted a parody of this PSA in early 2021, complete with slogans and imagery relating to the country's COVID-19 restrictions - such as "You Shouldn't Make Your Own Pub" and "You Shouldn't Go To Raves", interspersed with footage of people being arrested for breaking these rules. It did not go down well and was deleted a day or so later, but the video has been preserved for all to see.
  • In 1987, British animal rights charity RSPCA put out an ad which simply focuses on a dog just sitting there for an unusually long time, with a creepy instrumental of "How Much is that Doggie in the Window" playing in the background, before a gun comes into frame pointed at its head (and the dog itself seems quite genuinely unnerved by this) and a narrator intones "Please give us a pound, or we'll have to pull the trigger." Even at a time before the Internet was around to make this kind of thing easier to express, there was so much outrage across the country after its initial airing that the ad was pulled immediately, and replaced by one without the gun and a child singing the song while informing individuals of the average cost of raising a dog, especially if it were to be given as a gift to those who can't afford to care for it. As The Nostalgia Critic pointed out in his 2017 commercials review, the ad seems less like it's for any sort of charitable cause and more like they're holding the poor dog hostage until the viewer gives them money. About the only way to explain it is that it might have been a takeoff on this classic National Lampoon cover, but even if that's the case the charity seems to have missed that the cover was a joke, from a magazine that was already well known as being all about comedy, and reusing the image for a serious purpose just makes it horribly disturbing.
  • German TV channel SWR Fernsehen is well-known for its PSAs encouraging parents to be mindful of their children's viewing habits. This was presumably the intent behind "Amok", released in 2000 shortly after the Columbine shootings, but the PSA's message was botched horribly and instead managed to embody all the worst aspects of the whole Murder Simulators hysteria of the late 1990s and early 2000s. Done in the style of a video game, it starts with a Title Screen and character select screen, before showing actual uncensored footage of the Columbine Massacre, shortly after the disaster, no less. The final tagline is "Do not underestimate the power of video games.", which is particularly insulting as it's now widely known that video games don't brainwash people into being murderous psychopaths. That aside and needless to say, it was extremely disrespectful to the victims for SWR to show uncensored footage of the traumatic event on German television. EmiLightning was so disgusted by it that while she showed clips of other PSAs from SWR in her review, she only showed still images of this one.
  • In late 2019, a PSA from World Animal Protection USA began circulating on YouTube. Beginning with the line “Ever heard the sound of suffering?”, the ad then instructs users to turn their volume up as far as they can as the wondrous sounds of a factory farm play. The ad was heavily criticized for how tasteless its execution was, especially since you couldn’t skip it. It was also accused of preying off of epileptics and people with anxiety disorders, one user even commenting that it caused their friend to break down and have a panic attack.

    Political Ads 
  • This German video for the 2013 election cycle was actually pulled before it was even aired, though if it was because of its quality or for implying to not vote for the big parties remains to be seen. Either way, it displays embarrassing stereotypes of both teenagers and old people trying to be "hip", which backfires on both fronts.
  • David Carlson (the politician) launched an attack ad on Kurt Bills during the 2012 race for Minnesota's senate. Instead of attacking Bills' stance on important issues, it borders on slander and complains about Kurt Bills being "unelectable" just because he's a supporter of Congressman Ron Paul, claiming with exaggerated points that America would become a dystopia if Bills won. The ad also uses gratuitous amounts of Godwin's Law to make a point on why Bills shouldn't be a senator. As a result, it's one of the most disliked political ads of the 2012 election season on YouTube and, unsurprisingly, Carlson lost.
  • Pete Hoekstra's infamous Debbie Spend It Now ad, made for his campaign in 2011. It blamed Michigan senator Debbie Stabenow for every single American job outsourced to China. It featured some of the most outright-racist depictions of the Chinese in this day and age, from its setting (a rice paddy) to its scriptwriting (broken English in a thick, generic Asian accent). The campaigners also built a website around it, one even more offensive than the TV ads - among other things, the coding describes their mascot as "yellowgirl" (apparently, a third party made that mistake, referring to her shirt). After two weeks, the actress apologized for her role in the ad and on Election Day, Hoekstra lost the election by a 20% margin to Stabenow. Furthermore, it was aired during the Super Bowl in Michigan, which meant that it eventually aired nationally when the news did their "what unique local ads aired during the Super Bowl" rundowns. Watch it here, if you dare.
  • In November 2020, infamous conservative Christian organization Alliance Defending Freedom ran a YouTube ad titled Can Schools Keep Parents in the Dark?, discussing trans issues in schools. The ad is a transphobic attack on the decision taken by teachers to keep trans students' gender identities private from parents, calling it unconstitutional, while also accusing teachers of trying to make kids question their identity. The ad also claims, without providing any evidence to back it up, that most children with gender dysphoria outgrow such feelingsnote  . The ad has been heavily panned, with a like-dislike ratio of nearly 600 likes to 8.3K dislikes almost a month after its release. Trans YouTuber Sam Collins has a video debunking the claims made by ADF here.
  • In 1993, the Progressive Conservative Party of Canada note  ran an ad perceived to be mocking Liberal leader Jean Chrétien's facial deformity, caused by Bell's palsy. The backlash was immediate and furious, with the ad being pulled in 24 hours and then-Prime Minister Kim Campbell apologizing for it. Chrétien used the ad to his benefit, referencing his facial deformity and the bullying he had suffered in childhood because of it in speeches that moved the voting audience and caused support to swing to the Liberal party. Chrétien won the election in a landslide, and the Tories were decimated, losing all but two seats and, with it, official party status and all the benefits that come with it. Campbell, who lost her Vancouver riding, resigned soon after the election, to be replaced by future Quebec prime minister Jean Charest, who was in one of the two aforementioned seats. The Tories trundled on for 10 years, utterly unelectable because of the "face ad" among other things, before merging with the Canadian Alliance to form the modern Conservative Party. Here is the ad in question, and here is a news report regarding the controversy.
  • Rick Perry's infamous Strong commercial is a rambling Author Tract regarding Barack Obama's supposed "War on Religion" and "knows there's something wrong when" his kids "can't pray in school and can't openly celebrate Christmas" (absolutely bogus claims in the overwhelmingly Christian nation that is the United States) and yet complains that gays can serve in the military at the same time. It may have been the reason his campaign ended as early as it did. Numerous parodies ensued, and many people noted that not only does the jacket Perry wears in the ad resemble the same jacket featured in Brokeback Mountain (which was about gay cowboys), but the music in the ad is suspiciously similar to that of "Appalachian Spring", originally composed by the late, liberal, and openly-gay Aaron Copland. Watch DarkMatter2525's parody of the ad here.
  • During the extremely contentious 2016 US presidential election, one thing that all sides definitely agreed on was that the anti-Trump ad "Tuck Frump" was a perfect representation of the worst of Trump's opposition. Beginning with a very young girl imploring Trump to "shut the fuck up", the ad proceeds to blast Trump for making statements that could be interpreted as personal attacks... while making plenty of personal attacks against him. The obnoxious and stilted dialogue doesn't help much. The ad on YouTube has about 2,000 likes and about 108,000 dislikes as of May 2019 (less than 1,000 likes and about 65,000 dislikes as of October 2016, for perspective) and the comments (which cannot be viewed as the comment section was eventually disabled) were almost unanimously negative, with even people who don't like Donald Trump expressing dislike for the ad.
  • In October and November of 2020, Trump's campaign team purchased a massive block of advertising on YouTube. While this isn't necessarily bad on its own, the ads took the form of massive banners and autoplaying videos across the top of every page, with the demographic targeting apparently being so off that people under the voting age, and people outside the US reported getting them. They also seemed to get past a lot of ad blockers, and not feature the usual opt-out of "I'm not interested in this ad". Regardless of your political opinions, annoying everyone isn't the best way to win votes.

    Promotions 
  • In January 2007, LED signs began appearing in cities around the US that displayed images of the Mooninites Ignignokt and Err flipping people off at night as a Viral Marketing campaign for Aqua Teen Hunger Force Colon Movie Film For Theaters. On the 31st, the campaign, which had gone without incident in other cities, went completely pear-shaped when a driver spotted one of the lightboards near Sullivan Station and informed a police officer, who called a bomb squad that mistook it for an actual IED, which then led to a terrorism scare in the city as nine other devices were found in other spots, including Fenway Park, leading to the arrest of two people connected to the campaign for an alleged bombing hoax and highways and transit stations across the city being closed for hours until a staffer for the mayor recognized the characters while watching media coverage of the event. Criticism was swift, with Boston's emergency services being mocked for mistaking a botched publicity stunt for a real terrorist attack, and Turner Broadcasting and the agency behind the incident issuing apologies for the hassle as well as paying compensation. The incident led to Cartoon Network CEO Jim Samples resigning and being replaced with Stu Snyder, leading to the channel's Dork Age with the much-maligned push for live-action programming to compete with Nickelodeon and Disney Channel. The event itself became Harsher in Hindsight six years later when an actual bombing occurred at the Boston Marathon in 2013, killing three people and injuring hundreds more.
  • In 2018, Build-A-Bear announced an event called "Pay Your Age" to be held on July 12 where patrons could "build-a-bear" and pay a price equal to their age instead of normal prices (i.e. an eight-year-old child would only have to pay $8 for their new fuzzy pal). It sounded like a novel concept on paper, but when July 12 came the event ended up a complete and utter disaster. Lines of thousands of people and families wanting to take advantage of the deal at Build-A-Bears across the US, Canada, and the UK either filled indoor malls entirely or stretched for blocks on end outside as the hot Summer temperatures (and tempers) began to heat up. Fights broke out among parents and children in lines around stores. Making matters worse was when stores were forced to close up shop due to either running out of materials for the stuffed animals or overcrowding, resulting in distraught customers, having been waiting for up to hours on end to take advantage of the promotion only to be turned away, getting angrier and, in some places, causing riots (with the police being called to mediate the situation around a UK location in Leeds). Build-A-Bear attempted to save face by apologizing and giving out vouchers for free stuffed animals, but the damage had been done, and disgruntled parents and upset children took to the internet in droves to express their disappointment in the beloved toy company. Michael Hann for UK news site The Guardian gives a post-mortem to the heavily botched promotion here and gives out insight for why the promotion failed as spectacularly as it did, criticizing Build-A-Bear for not adequately preparing their stores for the massive crowds the promotion brought. Chadtronic has also given his two cents on the debacle, accusing the promotion of being a scam.
  • The notorious "Where's Herb?" Burger King ads from 1985-86. The gimmick was that Herb was a man who had never eaten a Whopper in his life, and customers were to be on the lookout for Herb at their local Burger King for a chance to win $5,000. In addition, customers could get Whoppers for 99 cents if they told the cashier "I'm not Herb." (or if they were named Herb, that "I'm not the Herb you're looking for."). After initial mass confusion caused by people not being given any hints as to what Herb looked like, he was revealed at a Super Bowl game in January 1986... at which point most people didn't care anymore and those few who did were insulted (especially if they really had never eaten a Whopper or were named Herb) when Herb turned out to be a dorky-looking schlub. Not helping was a controversy stemming from the fact that a 15-year-old boy spotted Herb at a Burger King in Alabama, but as he was underage the prize had to go to a friend of his who was in the restaurant at the same time, which in turn led to the Alabama state senate declaring consumer fraud. The campaign lasted only three months, and Burger King's profits plummeted by 40% as a result. note  What Were They Thinking? The 100 Dumbest Events in Television History lists this campaign at #42.
  • In 2016, Comcast announced its unpopular 1 TB data cap and released a promo video titled What Can You Do With A Terabyte? to try to make it sound more palatable. It did not work at all. It starts off with an explanation of what a byte is and that a terabyte is a trillion bytes, and then lists random facts like "you can upload 60,000 high-resolution photos with a terabyte" and "a terabyte is 1.8 billion tweets" while making no attempt to understand why anyone would actually want more than a terabyte of data note , and failing to realize that most people who'd be unhappy about a data cap are already perfectly aware of what a terabyte is. The video's not even remotely entertaining, either, as the few jokes that the narrator throws are horrendously unfunny. The whole video comes across as a condescending attempt to pass off a restriction as a good thing. As of August 2020, the video has only 567 likes compared to 71,000 dislikes.
  • A sales promotion that caused a national scandal and killed an entire company was the British Hoover "Free Flights" promotion in the 1990s. The company offered free air tickets to anybody who spent over £100 on a Hoover appliance, gambling that the complex redemption procedure would lead to only a minority of the claims being redeemed. This worked until they got over-confident and extended the offer to free air tickets to the USA, a much more generous offer (customers worked out that you could buy a £100 vacuum cleaner and get air tickets worth six times that). The £30 million in extra sales did not measure up to the £50 million worth of air tickets the company had promised to give away, and predictably they tried to weasel out of the offer leading to years of litigation and massive media hostility to the company and its US parent Maytag. In 1995, the much-diminished Hoover brand was sold off to European competitor Candy.
  • In March 2014, the producers of the infamous 2015 film adaptation of Jem and the Holograms announced that fans of the original cartoon would have the opportunity to cameo in the film by just sending in a video that explained why they liked the show and how it impacted their life. While this was a very interesting way to generate interest in the film, it turned into a slap in the face when it was revealed that the videos were edited into the film's ending to make it look like the fans were praising the character of Jem in the movie instead of the original show, not helped by the fact that the movie was an extremely In Name Only adaptation that had pissed off the fanbase by the time it was released in theaters. As a result, some of these cameos make no sense in context because the fans show off merch and wear cosplay from the original show, and in at least one video you can see the cartoon playing in the background. Unlike many of the other examples on this page, which were caused by cluelessness, the people behind this publicity stunt knew exactly what they were doing and were willing to exploit fans just to promote their product. Cinematic Excrement called out the producers for this horrible marketing stunt (while also pointing how they similarly edited clips of celebrities like Chris Pratt and Dwayne Johnson mentioning Jem out of context) in his review of the film.
  • Major League Baseball isn't always immune to promotions going awry:
    • "This is absolute tragedy", said sports commentator Joseph Tait of the Ten Cent Beer Night, the name of a promotion for a 1974 baseball game between the Cleveland Indians and the Texas Rangers at Cleveland Stadium. The promotion promised cups of beer for only ten cents, something that drew massive crowds to the stadium (more than even anticipated, one of the first red flags). Previous beer discount promotions had gone without incident, but a combination of security and personnel being unprepared for the massive crowds, no limit on how many beer purchases could be made during the game, and tension between Indians and Rangers fans created the perfect storm of events that eventually resulted in alcohol-induced chaos. There were already incidents occuring before the final innings of the game (mostly from drunk people flashing or mooning the spectators, fans throwing food or firecrackers onto the field at players, in one instance throwing an empty gallon jug of Thunderbird wine, and one man streaking to second base). When the game was tied up in the bottom of the ninth inning, the straw that broke the camel's back was the Rangers' teammates thinking that their outfielder had been attacked by a drunk fan who ran out onto the field and running out to intervene. This didn't sit well with the drunk crowd, who either stormed the field en masse wielding blunt objects or flung everything from food to broken chairs from the stands onto the field. Several players, umpires, referees, and other fans were injured before both the Rangers and Indians teams could flee the field and the Cleveland police arrived to diffuse the mess. The game ended on a forfeit with the score stuck at a 5-5 tie. Future events of this sort would put a hard limit on how much beer fans were allowed to purchase.
    • 1979's Disco Demolition Night would go down in history as not only one of the most infamous ball game promotions in history and being credited for killing disco stone dead for decades afterward, but as a mismanaged promotion Gone Horribly Wrong to boot. In the late 70s, anti-disco sentiment was reaching a fever pitch. In response to this, Chicago Shock Jock Steve Dahl and the Chicago White Sox arranged for this event, wherein a ton of disco records donated by his listeners would be blown up, to happen between games at a double-header between the White Sox and the Detroit Tigers in Chicago's Comiskey Park as a publicity stunt. Things were already shaping up to go wrong from the start when nearly 50,000 people who wanted to see disco get what they thought was coming to it loaded up the stadium when the personnel were only prepared for only just over half that many. Security was overwhelmed; if they didn't watch the stadium entrance, people would hop the fences or start record disc bonfires outside the stadium, and if they didn't watch the playfield, fans would throw their records into the field like razor sharp frisbees. Because most of security was instructed to watch the stadium entrances, nobody was still at the field to prevent what happened after the end of the game when an army-fatigue-clad Dahl rode out into the baseball field on a jeep and blew up the donated disco records (leaving a massive crater in the middle of the field in the process). The worked-up and by now severely inebriated anti-disco fans stormed past security onto the field and either danced around the area of the explosion and burning debris or began destroying the parts of the field and stadium that hadn't already been destroyed by the explosion. While Dahl, his companions in the jeep, and the White Sox and Tiger players escaped the chaos unharmed, the fans who didn't want any part in the mayhem going on in the stadium and field weren't as lucky, as all but one of the gates were padlocked due to the people jumping the gates and sneaking in. It took the Chicago police arriving in riot gear to get the crowd to knock it off, but by this point the baseball field was such a mess between the initial explosion and subsequent riot that the White Sox could not play on it and had to forfeit the next game to the Tigers. The event has been examined in the years since for its impact on disco and American music culture as a whole and what it might have said about music fans at the time, but due to the immediate repercussions of the promotion, events of this sort have pointedly never been held at sporting events again.
  • McDonald's has a few poorly-thought-out promotions to its name:
    • During the 1984 Olympics, McDonald's launched the U.S. Wins, You Win promo. How it worked was that a customer would get a scratcher ticket for an Olympic Sport, and if the U.S. won any medal, a customer would get a free menu item (a Big Mac for Gold, French Fries for Silver, and a Coke for Bronze). What the company wasn't expecting was the Soviet Union, who were athletic powerhouses at the time, to boycott the games that yearnote , leaving the U.S. unopposed in enough events to take home 174 medals, 84 of them being Gold. This led to millions getting free meals (with some even being able to sustain their families with the winning tickets they had) and 6,600 restaurants running out of the items being offered, and the blunder cost McDonald's millions. The incident would be parodied in The Simpsons episode "Lisa's First Word", with Krusty Burger taking the role of McDonalds.
    Krusty: I, personally, am gonna spit in every fiftieth burger!
    Homer: I like those odds.
  • Pepsi Number Fever was a 1992 promotion exclusive to the Philippines where the bottle caps of various Pepsi products had 3-digit numbers printed on them, with certain numbers being redeemable for cash prizes which were announced nightly, and two grand prize winners of 1 million pesos (equal to roughly 23 years of working at minimum wage). The promotion went swimmingly... until an error led to 800,000 bottles having that night's grand prize number printed on them, as opposed to the mere two bottles that were supposed to have them. Pepsi couldn't afford to give everyone who had the number the grand prize (which would have totaled to 800 billion pesos), so they stated that only the caps with the proper serial code could be claimed and those without incorrect serial codes could claim a compensation prize of a mere 500 pesos. As you could imagine, many people refused this offer and boycotted Pepsi products with peaceful protests. However, these protests quickly turned into violent riots, with over 30 Pepsi trucks being stoned or pushed over and at least two instances involving a grenade being thrown. In the end, Pepsi lost around 190 million pesos, 22,000 people took legal action against Pepsi, and at least 5 people were killed in the riots.
  • The launch of the Pontiac G6 in 2004 was accompanied by a publicity stunt in partnership with The Oprah Winfrey Show, where it was arranged to fill the audience for one episode with people in financial straits who badly needed a new car, with Oprah giving a surprise announcement that the entire audience would be getting a G6, no strings attached. Well, except for one: the increase the cars brought to the people's income was enough to bump them into a higher tax bracket, meaning their next taxes were suddenly $6,000 higher. And, of course, virtually none of them were in any position to handle that increase (given the circumstances that put them in the audience in the first place). Many of the cars had to be sold in order to cover their own cost, and along with the poor reception of the Aztek, Pontiac was sent into a tailspin that ultimately drove them out of business in 2010. As for Oprah, she learned from the disaster of a promotion and has done the same "gift for the whole audience" several times since, now making sure to include a check to cover the tax. At least we got a good catchphrase out of it.
  • In January 2015, the then-CEO of Starbucks Howard Schultz started a campaign called "Race Together": Starbucks employees would write that phrase on coffee cups and when a customer asked what it meant, the customer and employee would start a conversation about race issues in America. While this was an interesting idea, there was a bit of a problem: there's a time and place for a discussion like this, and that place is most certainly not a crowded coffee shop full of impatient customers running late for work. Unsurprisingly, this campaign was pretty much universally lambasted, with many groups objecting how blatantly out-of-touch Schultz had to be to even propose this. The actual questionnaires that were given to the customers weren't much better, as several of the questions were variants of "how many friends of a different race do you or someone close to you have?". It didn't stop there: Fast-forward to March when photos of Starbucks' higher-ups surfaced, and press photos endorsing the pro-diversity campaign featured a certain race almost exclusively. These images only served to further the already negative impression of the campaign. Backlash was quick and severe - the initiative was cancelled after less than a week, with Schultz learning absolutely nothing. If you want to learn more, check out this NY Times article, this interview with Schultz for Business Insider, and this lovely video of John Oliver bashing this campaign on a segment of Last Week Tonight while Saturday Night Live parodied this with their fake commercial showing a similar failed campaign launched by Pep Boys (an automotive repair shop and car parts store) called "Genderflect", where auto mechanics try to discuss sexuality and gender identity issues with their customers.
  • To hype up their first note  smartphone, OnePlus decided to release the aptly titled OnePlus One, under an invite system. Most of these invites were given out via contests. While the phone itself was a major success and established OnePlus as a serious player in the market, some of these contests wound up being major PR disasters that could've easily tanked them beforehand:
    • The first one, the Smash the Past contest, granted the winner an invite for them and three others of their choosing to buy the phone for just $1...as long as afterward, they then posted a video of them destroying their current phone. This recieved immediate backlash and criticism, with the first reason being that it was incredibly wasteful to be encouraging people to destroy their perfectly good phones - especially considering the list of devices that could be accepted for it consisted largely of then-current flagship phones - instead of selling them or giving them away. Secondly, it was extremely dangerous, as the lithium batteries that are found in smartphones are effectively Made of Explodium and do not take kindly to being smashed. Third, unless they had a backup device, the winner would be presumably stuck without a phone for around the two weeks it would take to ship. Fourth, and most infamously, many who didn't fully understand the rules of the contest promptly took to destroying their phones without being picked and before the contest had even actually started. OnePlus hurriedly renamed the contest to "Donate the Past" and changed the rules so that they would merely have to donate the phones to a charity. This could also to be done after they had recieved the OnePlus phone, to prevent the "stuck without a phone" situation that the last contest invited.
    • They then followed that up the with the Ladies First contest, where women would draw a OnePlus logo on their body, and post it on the official OnePlus forum. The fifty women that got the most thumbs up on the forum would then get an invite for buying the phone (at full price, unlike "Smash the Past") and a free T-Shirt. This was met with immediate backlash for being degrading to women, and many of the entires were blatantly just fake submissions from men photoshopping OnePlus logos onto women's bodies, and others were women who protested the contest by holding up a sign calling out the contest for being sexist or just flat-out them Flipping the Bird. The contest was pulled after a few hours and OnePlus issued an apology, with the promotion being replaced by a "Summer Shots" photography contest.

    Other Ad Forms 
  • It's one thing to make ad campaigns that turn viewers off with offensive content, but the ad campaign for Captivity took things even further. The film itself is a survival thriller about a model (Elisha Cuthbert) who's abducted and tries to escape from her captors. Bad enough that the distributor mandated the shooting of several gorn-filled scenes just so they could market it as Torture Porn, but what really sends the ad campaign into Horrible territory is the blatantly NSFW—and quite possibly illegal—way they went about said marketing: they created a series of posters showing Cuthbert's character being abducted, tortured, and murdered (it should be noted that Cuthbert's character actually survives the events of the film), and when the MPAA rejected the campaign they went ahead with it anyway, even putting it in public places where it could be easily seen by children. The outrage was so great, the MPAA outright refused to rate the film until the ad campaign was dropped completely, resulting in a two-month delay. Even with the threat of a nationwide ban averted, the ad campaign still lingered in the minds of those who had to put up with it, resulting in a miserable performance at the box office, complete with two nominations for a Razzie, and the ad campaign has gone on to be seen as the beginning of the end for the torture porn genre as a whole, as afterwards only Saw continued to see new theatrical installments in the years that followed before Paranormal Activity completely changed the direction of horror, finishing the work this ad campaign had started.
  • The Culling, despite having a solid start as one of the earliest entries in the Battle Royale Game genre, went on to have a rocky historynote . Despite having to shut down the game twice, developer Xaviant decided to bring the game back a third time. However, the dev diary making the announcement was immediately hit with fierce backlash and killed off whatever goodwill people still had following The Culling 2's failure before the reboot even launched. In the video, Xaviant's director of operations, Josh Van Veld, announces that not only will the new version of the game not be free to playnote , it will also require additional payment for every individual match played - players were originally planned to get one free match token per day (later increased to ten, although this wasn't mentioned before launch), win one token if they win a match (which fortunately includes offline bot games, that don't cost anything to play), and must either purchase a timed subscription, token packs, or wait until the next day to keep playing after that, forcing players to pay for the right to keep playing the game they already paid for. Josh tries to justify this system by pointing out that the game's older iterations did not make enough money to pay the server bills, but, as many comments point out, this double paywall will just alienate whatever few fans the game still had after the failure of The Culling 2 (especially with the existence of more popular and polished BR games that don't charge you per round) and result in even less money coming their way. The video garnered a 1:50 like/dislike ratio, with most comments calling Xaviant out for their greedy monetization and pointing out that it makes even the worst Allegedly Free Games seem reasonable in comparison. Xaviant would later regret how they handled the announcement, although they insisted they had no plans to change the token system. YongYea comments on the history of the series and the announcement in this video. Jim Sterling also tears into the affair here.
  • Nintendo of America's "This Game Stinks" print campaign for EarthBound was a failure. It tried to emphasize Toilet Humour as a selling point, which is a fundamental misrepresentation of 99% of the game's content and failed to appeal to the young adult audience they were going for. While Toilet Humour was considered a hallmark of The '90s, Nintendo took it too far by putting scratch 'n' sniff cards into gaming magazines, which were intentionally made to smell bad. This didn't win any laughs from anyone. The ad is cited to be a contributing factor to the game's commercial failure in North America; GamePro, who ran ads for the game in its magazine, reported that readers hated the ad campaign. The campaign is remembered as an embarrassing chapter in the series' history, one of the worst video game ad campaigns of all time, and a possible reason why the Mother series never did better than Cult Classic status in the West.
  • In 1994, car manufacturer Fiat (now known as Fiat Chrysler) came up with a marketing campaign for their Fiat Cinquecento model, aimed towards "the independent, working woman" in Spain. 50,000 Spanish women received an anonymous "love letter" which addressed them by name, claiming that they "passed each other in the streets the other day", that the woman "glanced interestedly in my direction", then inviting her on a "little adventure". Rather than coming across as charming, most of the women who received those letters were scared shitless at the prospect of being targeted by a Stalker with a Crush and locked themselves into their homes or refused to go out without someone to protect them; there are also reports of the letters leading to arguments between spouses. A few days later, another letter would reveal that it was all an ad for Fiat, but since the first letter lacked any indication that it wasn't from a real secret admirer, the damage was already done at this point. The auto maker was met with severe backlash from consumer protection groups and Spain's Minister of Social Affairs, and one Zaragoza woman successfully sued Fiat. Cracked discusses the marketing blunder, along with others, in this article.
  • In March 2014, Irish bookmaker Paddy Power ran an ad titled "It's Oscar Time" in regards to sprinter Oscar Pistorius, who was on trial at the time for the murder of his girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp. The ad featured an Academy Award statuette edited to show Oscar's head, alongside a promise to refund all losing bets if he were found not guiltynote . The ad was condemned right off the bat, resulting in a record 5,525 complaints being made to the Advertising Standards Authority, and the ad was taken down not shortly after. Adam Hill from The Last Leg ranted about the ad in one episode.
  • Back when FACT was known as FAST (Federation Against Software Theft), they ran a series of ads titled "Piracy is Theft" in an attempt to combat the computer software piracy that was prominent in the UK in the mid-80s and 90s. The ads themselves had bizarre threats, like claiming that copying games is breaking the law and can get you arrested by the police and, most infamously, promising a £1000 reward to a person who called a phone number and provided information about piracy, which led to a prosecution and conviction. There were several problems with this; at the time, theft was considered different than copyright infringement, which software piracy falls under, the police didn't get involved with software piracy because it wasn't as big of a problem as theft, and there are no known reports of anyone calling FAST's phone number. Needless to say, the ads were rather ineffective and widely mocked by many people. See Stuart Ashen discussing the ads here.
  • Netflix's promotion of their release of Cuties immediately tainted the movie's name in the public eye due to a case of Misaimed Marketing. The film set out to make a statement about child exploitation through sexual and female-objectifying media—the original poster and trailer made it out to be exactly what it decried. The dance troupe's skimpy uniforms are placed front and center on the poster, and the trailer focused mostly on the girls' sexually suggestively dance moves and surface-level similarities to Step Up. This got Netflix and the studio accused of promoting pedophilia, with a petition being made for Netflix to cancel the release. The director wound up being chased off of Twitter, and some Image Boards strictly banned the movie as a topic of discussion. Even politicians from both sides of the political spectrum expressed their disgust towards Netflix's promotion of the film, wanting to discuss the film before Congress to see if Netflix had violated any laws regarding production and distribution of child pornography. Netflix quickly apologized once the backlash started (though they were not quick to say who was to blame) and started making efforts to try and correct it, down to the on-site description, but by then the film had already been criticized worldwide.
  • The initial ad campaign for Red Shoes and the Seven Dwarfs, specifically this poster showed at Con-Can Movie Festival in 2017, depicting the heavyset Snow White and her thinner self caused by her magic shoes alongside the slogan "What if Snow White was no longer beautiful, and the 7 Dwarfs not so short?". The poster garnered loads of criticism the moment it hit the internet, as it implied the fatter Snow White was inherently ugly because of her weight, turning many off from the movie; the poster even hit the news due to the backlash. The English voice actress for Snow White stated she was appalled that the advertising team thought the poster was a good idea, while the movie's team apologized and pulled the entire campaign. The movie itself was delayed from its original 2018 release date to July 2019, and released only in South Korea, with releases in other countries coming a few months later — except in English speaking countries like the U.S. and UK despite an English dub being recorded and available, until Lionsgate picked up the distribution rights a year later, presumably due to the controversy. Ironically, the movie's moral is the opposite of what the poster implied, being about loving your body and not treating people differently just because they aren't conventionally beautiful — a poignant Aesop especially in South Korea — but most don't think of it as anything but the "fat-shaming Snow White movie" due to its terrible ad campaign.
  • In June 2000, Regal Cinemas commissioned a new policy trailer for its theaters starring Hallie Kate Eisenberg, reprising her role from Pepsi commercials. At the time, Pepsi was the preferred soft drink provider for Regal. The policy trailer is essentially a Western where Eisenberg's voice is replaced by that of a man trying too hard to sound like Jack Palance. The novelty of a young girl sounding like a gruff cowboy quickly outstays its welcome with its 2-minute runtime, and the blatant Product Placement for Pepsi products looks very out of place in the wild west. note  The trailer had a universally negative reaction, and there's a good chance that it played a role in Regal's bankruptcy (at the time, Regal was already losing money from the failure of its Funscape gimmick at some locations) and merger with the also-bankrupt United Artists Theatres and Edwards Theatres - many self-respecting moviegoers stayed away from Regal locations in the months that followed its introduction, and at least one Regal theater was picketed over it. Those that did continue going to Regal locations (mainly because there weren't any other theaters nearby) would audibly boo, groan, or (if YouTube comments are to be believed) throw their trash or popcorn at the screen whenever it came on and took to online forums to vent their frustrations. Regal eventually listened to fan complaints and pulled the policy trailer in favor of their more popular Rollercoaster policy trailer, but the damage had been done - as mentioned before, Regal went into bankruptcy before the year was out, and was consolidated with the Edwards and United Artists theater chains in 2002 to create the current Regal Cinemas chain, and Pepsi's reputation was also tarnished to the point where the only major theater chain today that offers Pepsi products is the current Regal Cinemas chain, which switched from Coca-Cola products in January 2020, after nearly two decades with the company, with all other major theater chains instead offering stuff from Coca-Cola.
  • To promote Virus: The Game, some marketing group created a scareware called "Russ", which imitates your computer being affected by a file-deleting virus. By the time you're completely in panic mode, the ad says "Thank god this is only a game." and shills the product. While this was a neat idea in theory (the concept of Virus: The Game takes advantage of your files without doing any real damage to your computer), people were understandably pissed about this stunt. As for the game itself... let's just say there's a reason why nobody really talks about it much, if at all.

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