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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.

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 Notes:

  1. 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.

  2. This page is specifically about horrible advertisements, not cases where the advertised product is horrible, which should be taken to its respective subpage. A competent ad can sell a bad product or controversial idea, even if they must lie or generate controversy to do so. Also, an ad is not horrible because the product is shown honestly and is not to the audience's tastesnote . The ad must be horrible even by the intended goals of an advertisement to qualify.

  3. An advertisement isn't bad because Saberspark, The Nostalgia Critic, or any other Caustic Critic reviewed it. There needs to be independent evidence, such as actual professional pannings or news articles, to list it. Once it is listed, those critics can provide the detailed review(s).

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

    open/close all folders 

    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 Etikanote  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 the company for organizing such a despicable marketing stunt.
  • Best-lucky-person.xyz is a fake contest winner-type scam site that, while bad enough on its own, thrives on forcibly redirecting mobile users on websites that they buy ad space on to their fake game pages. This redirect also rigs the "Back" button on the browser to redirect to them again so that, in order to continue browsing, the user has to close the tab and re-navigate to whatever page they were on. They even stubbornly keep showing up on this very wiki, which is bad news for anyone on a Wiki Walk.
  • In May 2023, Michigan State shooting survivor Cecelee Max-Brown posted a sponsored TikTok, as part of skin care company Bioré's Strip Away The Stigma campaign on mental health. She gives a nigh-emotionless account of the incident and her trauma at being involved, to unfittingly cheery music, and in the end states that using Bioré skin peels helps to "get it all out". Almost right away, everyone involved came under heavy fire for making such a ghoulish, tactless, and exploitativenote  ad. Max-Brown pulled the post after less than a day, and (along with Bioré) apologized profusely, but it was already too late. FoxAkimbo discusses it here in his video on deleted TikToks.
  • 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 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 belittles the fan-favorite 10-player mode in Saturn Bomberman by claiming that few played itnote , 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 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 entirely 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.
  • The promotional campaign for the 2017 horror film A Cure for Wellness capitalized off the "fake news" conversation by creating false news sites full of politically contentious headlines. None of the stories on the websites were real; clicking a headline redirected you to the movie's website. This was criticized as heavily irresponsible as many of these headlines encouraged misinformation about sensitive subjects related to politics (such as then-president Donald Trump) and social justice movements. The connection to the film was also quite flimsy, with the only real connection being that the psychological thriller is about a fake cure that just causes more illness. 20th Century Fox later apologized, referring to the campaign as "inappropriate on every level."
  • Evony: The King's Return carries on the tradition of inexcusably misleading ads, plagiarizing ads for Hero Wars and Gardenscapes (which the latter was also guilty of, which got it banned in the UK). It didn't help that a few of these ads showed the fake gameplay while also showing a person pretending to be an unnamed lets player commenting on other games' fake ads but saying this game's footage was real or attempting to "Play" the fake gameplay and "failing" at it. Other games have taken a similar approach with unnamed "players" reacting to the footage and occasionally "playing" the game with predictable results.
  • Gibson's "Play Authentic", a (quickly, deleted but re-uploaded by a third party) promotional video uploaded on their YouTube channel. It's basically a thinly-veiled callout video (and legal threat) against any company not affiliated with them producing copies of their guitars, branded, or not, even as props. Gibson spokesperson Mark Agnesi makes all manner of ridiculous claims, from that they they own the rights to guitar shapes to how taping over their logo doesn't void an infringement claim. Guitarists were quick to point out that this was after Gibson lost a trademark infringement suit against rival manufacturer PRS. In fact, most suspected that Gibson was trying to crush rivaling businesses rather than get its own house in order, following a Chapter 11 bankruptcy owing to its own practices. Gibson would Never Live It Down despite admitting the video to be a mistake.
  • Google's Know What's Nearby pre-roll ad campaign from late 2016 (also known as the Google Screaming Ads) 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 obnoxious background music (in this case, a trap remix of a high-pitched man screaming loudly, hence the Fan Nickname). 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.
  • The advertisements for the mobile game Hero Wars are a masterclass in both misleading bullshit and mind-numbing stupidity. The "misleading" part of this equation comes from many of the ads featuring pull-the-pin puzzles, a tower game wherein players are tasked with guiding a numbered character to lower-numbered enemies to defeat them, and other similarly simplistic games that are barely present in the game, if it's even there at all: the actual game is a very simple Pay To Win Idle Game that's not out of place with a fair amount of these mobile games one might find there. The "stupid" part, meanwhile, comes from these rather simple games (key word being "simple") that the hypothetical player keeps failing at, even when the solution is flashing on the screen. This is actually a blatant attempt to annoy viewers into thinking they can do better (especially with dares like "98% fail this!") so they can download the game, even though, as mentioned, the games shown in the ad are barely present at all, just enough to avoid attracting government attention like other similar games have. These ads have gained such notoriety that other creators have created real versions of these games shown in their ads, such as Super Game Studios' Hero Rescue and Monkeycraft's YEAH! YOU WANT "THOSE GAMES," RIGHT? SO HERE YOU GO! NOW, LET'S SEE YOU CLEAR THEM!, just to spite them.
  • 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. invokedGiven 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.
  • Kung Fu Gina is a music video parodying Carl Douglas' "Kung Fu Fighting", meant to advertise Kim Anami's sexual therapy service. It was roundly slammed by viewers and critics alike for using several outdated racist Asian stereotypes (including the Wonton font) and sexualizing Asian women. Not only that, the video and therapy service also promotes Anatomically Impossible Sex and questionable medical practices discredited by most doctors, for instance jade eggs. Here are a few articles tearing the ad apart.
  • 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. The company got a metric ton of outrage over 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, 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 videosnote . Watch it yourself here if you want to, 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. Despite the immense backlash the original ad received, they did it again for the later installment Annabelle Comes Home, only the lead-up is a "staring contest".
  • 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, what was supposedly the blog of a teenager who wanted a PSP for Christmas was so filled with blatant shilling that it fooled absolutely no one. It all amounted to one of the most embarrassing "rap" videos ever filmed, where a clearly adult man brags about the PSP's specs and asks his mom for one ("'fo shizzy"). 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 the various mobile games created by Playrix (such as Gardenscapes, most notably) underwent Memetic Mutation in the late '10s for all the wrong reasons. The ads are often blamed for causing a decline of mobile game advertising in general, thanks to popularizing a number of tropes that quickly became widely hated. These include laughably stupid gameplay (especially in the form of players ignoring blindingly obvious solutions to puzzles in favor of ones that cause an instant "FAIL" condition, most notably taking mallets to cracked aquariums or pouring gasoline on kitchen fires), paper-thin budgets, a bizarre fixation on relationship drama and infidelity and/or skeevy and overly sexualized humor and character designs (Gardenscapes being a particularly glaring case due to the game otherwise completely lacking these sorts of elements), and depicting gameplay that doesn't represent the actual product (all the puzzles and interactive story segments that involve fixing messy houses or getting main characters Austin and/or Katherine out of dangerous situations did not represent any sort of Gardenscape's gameplay in the slightest; the game is a Match-Three Game). These videos compare the ads to the actual product, with nothing but ridicule over the disconnect between game and ad in the comments below. It was such that the Advertising Standards Authority actually spoke up against these ads, deeming them misleading and banning them in the UK. The developers attempted to save face by implementing the infamous interactive story minigames in Gardenscapes as bonus minigames, but by then it was too late for the game's reputation and it's still best known for "😭 WHY IS THIS GAME SO HARD? 😭" and giant red "FAIL" buttons, which other game developers have adopted to even more questionable results.
  • Sometime in 2022, a bizarre and disturbing ad for the mobile phone game Primitive Era: 10,000 B.C. was released. This ad shows a neanderthal male lustfully looking at two cave women, knocking them out with his club, then dragging their unconscious bodies back to a log cabin where he rapes them. When he leaves his home, he sees the tusks of a woolly mammoth sticking out of a bush and believes them to be part of an Amazonian Beauty's outfit, who he once again tries attacking with his club. Instead, the mammoth immediately falls in love with him and drags him into the bushes to have sex with him. None of what happened is considered subtext due to the constant emojis placed throughout the commercial, no actual gameplay is shown, and all of this makes one wonder why anyone thought it would be a good idea to make an advertisement featuring copious amounts of Black Comedy Rape. Vinesauce Vinny took a look at it in his first video where he willingly looked at awful mobile phone games here, and not only was he shocked at the ending of what he deemed "a fucking story" after first comparing it to something from The Flintstones, but he also was unsure whether any actual gameplay was involved there.
  • 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. It's clear the ad company this was farmed out to had no idea who these characters were, took a shot in the dark regarding their characterizations... and missed completely. Screen Rant has more details in their article. Vinesauce Vinny also saw the video here, noting the weird zoom-in transition from Mai's armpit to the game in particular.
  • 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.
  • Sadly, not even this very wiki is safe from horrible ads. 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. Wills.com would eventually shut down in the mid-2000s, and the site would remain blank until a new company brought back the site around 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 
  • Although the 2007 adaptation for Bridge to Terabithia was well-received and successful, its trailer is notorious as perhaps the worst case of Never Trust a Trailer in movie history. The film is 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, Disney had the film's advertising all play up the fantasy stuff like it actually existed, which 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 of The New '10s, but the advertising wasn't much better. Most infamously, they created a parody poster titled "The Emoji's Tale". The problem with this poster was that the show it was based on is about the systematic oppression of women, and is set in a dystopian society where they have no rights and are legally considered the property of men; furthermore, said show is well-known enough that only mass Pop-Cultural Osmosis Failure could explain the poster making it past the initial idea phase. 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 poster received backlash for carelessly invoking a work that was extremely inappropriate for both the subject matter and its target audience, quickly resulting in the tweet being deleted.
  • 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, gratuitous 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, before quietly cancelling the project.
  • The Update 15 / Devotion to Duty trailer for the World War II tactical shooter Hell Let Loose. After Team17 bought out the game, fans noticed a worrying a drift away from historical realism and a decline in polish, but this trailer demonstrated just how badly Team17 didn't get it. Even casual viewers castigated it for its lighthearted tone, as well as poor visuals, audio mixing, voice acting, and animation. To top it all off, the trailer focuses on features that weren't even added. The trailer became not just an instant target of mockery, but also a helpful shorthand to illustrate the issues fans had with Team17. A look at SteamDB's player data reveals that Hell Let Loose went from a weekly average peak of 12,000 concurrent players to under 9,000, despite a concurrent Steam sale. Team17 would issue a public apology for the whole ordeal.
  • The announcement trailer for High Guardian Spice is the worst way Crunchyroll could've handled it. At a runtime of 90 seconds, the trailer features little more than vague details about the show itself, mostly in the form of unfinished concept art. What little art was shown is done in a style similar to Western cartoons at the time, such as Steven Universe, making viewers wonder why the show is being made specifically for Crunchyroll, a site specialized in streaming anime. The trailer 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, it certainly didn't work as a video for an announcement trailer. All it did was taint the public's perception of the show as being more concerned with appearing progressive than making an entertaining work of fiction. A trailer featuring actual footage dropped more than a year after the announcement and after the show's planned 2019 release date, with nothing but radio silence in between, leaving people to either not care about the show or be so set in the initial bad impression they hated it automatically. The show itself eventually premiered on October 26, 2021 with very minimal fanfare; opinions generally range from So Okay, It's Average at best to so bad as the trailer at worst. And then it came out that the initial interviews with the staff were done without the staff's knowledge that it was going to be used in a trailer, meaning Crunchyroll had to trick the showrunners on top of everything else, which drew even more ire towards the company as a whole. With so much bad blood around the announcement, it's nearly universally agreed that the way in which Crunchyroll handled things around High Guardian Spice was absolutely terrible, even by people who thought the show itself was decent. The Mysterious Mr. Enter goes into more detail on the matter here. Mother's Basement also briefly discussed the fiasco as part of his Crunchyroll Originals retrospective.
    Mother's Basement: ...We got a short montage of interview clips that seemed precision designed to specifically piss-off the Anti-SJW crowd without actually providing the opposite side of that with any good ammo to defend it.
  • 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 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, juxtaposed with streamers celebrating. Many of these mechanics are modeled after casino games (a slot machine, pachinko machine, and roulette can be seen in the trailer), which baffled and shocked viewers, as the gambling-like nature of loot boxes and the harmful psychological effects they could have on younger players was a very hot topic at the time. Even though the casino-style games don't actually cost real money to playnote , this is not evident from the footage shown, leading to accusations that the game would teach children to gamble. 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 while giving 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, one of the more outspoken opponents of loot boxes, 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 a blatant case of Fad Super, featuring characters such as an 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. The video sits with a dislike-like ratio of about 48:1 on YouTube. Even after the COVID-19 Pandemic delayed the release date to October 2020, the comic wasn't released, and Marvel has been silent about the comic, indicating that the massive backlash most likely resulted in it being cancelled altogether.
  • Sonic the Hedgehog (2020) started on one hell of a wrong foot with its first trailer. Audiences were repulsed by the terrible design for the iconic hedgehog, which fell into the deepest reaches of the Uncanny Valley. It looked like, to quote John Oliver, "a furry potato with a corpse's face". It became a Memetic Mutation from Sonic turning into Accidental Nightmare Fuel after the first trailer dropped. note  This was along with other strange thematic choices - in particular, using Coolio's "Gangsta's Paradise" in the trailer, a song one would hardly associate with Sonic. The redesign caused such an intense reaction that director Jeff Fowler announced that the animators would be going back to the drawing board, with the film's release being pushed back three months to February 2020. The second trailer featured a more stylized and cartoony Sonic which looked much more in line with his video game appearance (designed by Tyson Hesse) and a more upbeat soundtrack. This trailer was received much better, with a like-dislike ratio of about 99:1, along with comments saying that the Author's Saving Throw in response to the criticism meant that people were now obligated to see the movie. Even so, the very negative reactions to the initial design for Sonic remain a warning of what can happen when Executive Meddling tries to fix what isn't broken. While the new redesign allowed the film to be a solid hit and pave the way for its own franchise, the original Sonic design later showed up as a reoccurring character in the live-action Chip 'n Dale: Rescue Rangers movie, where he is intentionally portrayed as creepy as a Take That!, though also as a very sympathetic character. 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 2019/2020 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 reupload of the whole music video can be found here. A side-by-side comparision of video and the source works (sans audio) 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, with the original upload having since been unlisted. The Quarter Guy went on to declare this to be the 5th worst video game trailer he's ever seen, due to it doing nothing to demonstrate what the premise or tone of TimeSplitters is like, on top of not showing any in-game footage. Tellingly, when Scott The Woz attempted to fix the trailer in one of his early episodesnote , his re-edit got an Approval of God from the game’s project lead.

    Commercials 
In order by product name, company name, or other type of name.

  • In 1984, Apple made history with the beloved "Nineteen Eighty-Four" Super Bowl ad for the Apple Macintosh computer. "Lemmings", their return to the 1985 Super Bowl to advertise the Macintosh Office, had the complete opposite effect. The commercial depicts blindfolded businessmen whistling "Heigh Ho" as they walk in a single-file line off a cliff (once again mocking IBM consumers by depicting them as slaves to the norm, only now they're casually suicidal to boot), until one businessman lifts his blindfold and doesn't jump. The narrator advertises the Mac Office and tells the audience they could "look into it... or go on with business as usual." Audiences found the Suicidal Lemmings imagery too bleak and offensive in contrast to the triumphant last note of "1984", and its premiere at Stanford Stadium received awkward silence rather than cheers. Even worse, the Mac Office wouldn't be fully ready until 1987, meaning there was nothing to "look into". Apple would not return to advertise at the Super Bowl until 1999, which became their first steps forward into not just profitability after many years of struggle from the ad, but also into being the technological juggernaut that they are today. Watch JaguarGator9 talk about Lemmings and why it was such a failure here.
  • 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 (possibly because the system's 2D capabilities were only mildly better than the 16-bit Super Nintendo or Genesis, and its 3D capabilities were worse than the 32-bit 3DO). 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). 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".note 
    • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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. Tech vlogger Nill mercilessly rips the ad apart in this video.
  • The launch ad for the Tiger Electronics Game.com (which has an entry of its own in the section for game 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  Shane Luis had quite the time riffing into that commercial indirectly in his review on the console.
    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.
  • 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 and mocked by Cracked here.
  • 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 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 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.
  • In 2010, Hot Pockets ran an ad as part of a campaign that depicted people who eat Hot Pockets on the street as being openly discriminated against by passersby, in a similar vein to racial minorities in America during the Civil Rights Movement. The ad depicts Hot Pockets consumers as worthy of this treatment because they eat the advertised product without a plate or table. Obviously, this ad and its message landed very poorly.
  • 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 and one dark-skinned woman 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, thus invalidating the whole point of the ad in one fell swoop. 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 though they had the chance to see the spot for themselves before allowing its broadcast. 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, causing many to accuse the whole thing of being a scam. 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". JaguarGator9 calls it the worst Super Bowl advertisement of all time.
  • 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 sung with heavy Auto-Tune. The ads also make no mention of where the money is going to note , confusing viewers as to why and how they should donate their car. 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 (as well as Yankees games on YES) 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. The jingle is also the official song of The Bad Place. Pearls Before Swine ripped into it in the May 23, 2021 strip. By Summer 2021, it even made it onto YouTube as one of the worst ads to annoy viewers with.
    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?!
  • 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 pure capitalistic greed. 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'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 - that is, the person gets calmed by a plate of Meltdowns, the entire reason for the ad in the first place! (It also thusly renders the tagline "Don't have a meltdown. Have a Meltdowns." borderline nonsensical.)
  • 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 trivializing tragedy in the name 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. PhantomStrider and The Nostalgia Critic listed this ad as the tenth most controversial fast food commercial and mocked the ad's poor handling of its subject matter.
  • 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 garage rock music 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 made an equally absurd pro-mayo commercial to prove his 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 disappointment and future regret". But by far their most infamous ad is their ad for a 2008 $20 Liberian "coin-certificate" produced for the seventh anniversary of 9/11. It 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 inanely 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 30 cents, or in face value, six American dollars (in 2024, one Liberian dollar would be half a US 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. GeorgeHarold1 talks about this and other similar ads [https://youtu.be/uXVZpxM4Spg here].
  • Nationwide Insurance's second contribution to the Super Bowl XLIX advertisement lineupnote  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. Funny or Die mercilessly mocked the depressing nature of the ad here.
  • Ouya's animated ad "Sixty bucks for a game?" (serious Squick warning) channels the legendary insufferability of the early '90s Console Wars, and doubles down on the Nausea Fuel, pointless violence, and insults toward the consumerbase. The ad features a stereotypical gamer who, after playing a bad game (with said game being a jab to Medal of Honor and Call of Duty no less), has a meltdown involving gratuitous amounts of vomit and self-inflicted gore. The commercial had little to say about the console itself beyond telling its viewers to "stop wasting cash on crappy games". 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 console itself wasn't very good, but this ad was no less of a contributing factor to the once highly-anticipated product's total failure. Shane Luis of Rerez even made fun of it in his analysis of the console, and Vinny from Vinesauce was equally unkind with his thoughts.
    Shane: So I can either bludgeon myself with my spine in a pool of my own vomit, or play an Ouya? I'll take the spine.
    Vinny: The irony... is as thick as the puke in the commercial.
  • 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 brain 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, white, 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 of 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 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 changing his Twitter handle to "Peloton Husband".
  • 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 known as Live For Now 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. It was notoriously parodied in a Season 3 episode of The Boys (2019), with a shot-for-shot parody starring A-Train mocking the Glurge of the original ad. Pyrocynical also tears into the ad here, and PhantomStrider (along with The Nostalgia Critic) list this as the #1 most controversial fast-food commercial while also showing it little mercy.
  • 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, even though they were the least prioritized group to receive vaccinations at the time. The ad received over 1,600 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 
  • SalesGenie 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 company's CEO at the time, who was Indian, defended the ad by saying that he was used to encountering stereotypes and mockery so he didn't find it offensive.
    • The second, released the following year, ripped on Chinese families by portraying them as fat panda bears who speak broken English in one of the most stereotypical Chinese accents ever.
    • JaguarGator9 rants on these two advertisements here, calling the second ad the most offensive advertisement in Super Bowl history.
  • 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.
  • 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 are 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.
  • The commercial for Waialae Country Club: True Golf Classics on the Nintendo 64 takes the gross-out fad of The '90s to new extremes that are downright unsavory. In it, a man named Gary is playing the game on his N64, while his pregnant wife tries to tell him she's going into labor. Gary callously disregards her, being more invested in the game than he is with her situation, and it eventually results in a Gross-Up Close-Up of the woman's water breaking, and The Stinger implies that she gave birth in the process. The fact that the game is rated E and the commercial aired on daytime television makes it a heavy case of confused advertising, but it also goes the extra step to insult the audience by having a jerkass like Gary be an Audience Surrogate, with the game's tagline in the commercial being "for people who put golf above all else." A shortened version was later made with an alternate ending that skipped the water breaking scene and ended with Gary's reaction when he hears a baby crying, proving that the concept could be done without the gross-out water breaking. When Yo Videogames reacted to the commercial live on stream, everybody involved was visibly disgusted, with Maximilian Dood decreeing it as the "most insensitive and disgusting commercial ever".
  • 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.
  • 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. They also repeated the fatal mistake Nintendo made with the Nintendo GameCube; their advertising was geared entirely towards children and their families, leaving older gamers out in the cold. Nintendo had already spent the last several console generations battling a stigma of being "kiddy", and the Wii U commercials by and large did not help their case. 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 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. It also avoided perpetuating the "kiddy" stigma by featuring young adults playing the Switch in a variety of social settings, without a preteen in sight.
  • "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 the reupload linked here has 80% dislikes and comments almost entirely dedicated to insulting the ad.

    Public Service Announcements and Public Information Films 
PSAs and PIFs are notorious the world over for venturing into dark territory to get their point across, but quite a few have wound up far beyond the pale.

  • The infamous "I Am Autism" commercial from Autism Speaks was an homage to the 1948 "Taming the Crippler" PSA, which was about polio. Aside from the fact that it grossly misrepresents the 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, and 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.
  • 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 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.
  • 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 considered such beings as unworthy of being called "people", with opting out or expressing uncertainty in this case forfeiting one's human rights and the privilege of not being blown up). To make things even scarier, the first scene includes two children at a school getting blown to pieces, all because they were unsure about cutting down their emissions by 10%. This is also ignoring that fact that these people, especially the kids, just need it explained to them more compared to senseless their murders. 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 a la 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 try Playing 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 misled 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.
  • 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. Needless to say, Vinny from Vinesauce was nothing short of horrified when it showed up on stream.
  • 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 and two pictures showing a chick and pig respectively suffering briefly flash on the screen. 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 
Let's face it, tact and taste are quick to fly right out the window when issuing an Attack of the Political Ad, and these examples make it clear that such underheaded mudslinging can backfire spectacularly should triggerhappy politicians take things way too far...

  • 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.
  • 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 (Asian Speekee Engrish with, confusingly, a thick American accent) to its sound design (generic "East Asian" sounding stock music with gongs and a guzheng). 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; on Election Day, Stabenow defeated Hoekstra by 21 points. 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 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, by asking audiences if he is a prime minister and if he is even smart enough to answer questions the ad poses while accompanying the narration with stills of Chrétien's face; asking this sort of question on the basis that the subject made a slightly odd facial expression is incredibly ableist, whether that was the intention or not. The backlash was immediate, 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. Chrétien was able to crack a famous joke about it, saying "It's true that I speak on one side of my mouth; I'm not a Tory, I don't speak on both sides of my mouth." Here is the ad in question, and here is a news report regarding the controversy.

    Print Ads 
Yes, even a still image can count as a horrible ad, as these offenders prove.

  • It's one thing to make ad campaigns that turn viewers off with offensive content, but the 2007 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 possibly illegal - way they went about said marketing: they created a series of posters showing Cuthbert's character Jennifer Tree (who actually survives the events of the film) being abducted, tortured, and murdered; 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 three Razzie nominations, 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.
  • In 2009, the Peruvian company Caribu tried to sell bitter dark chocolate with a pair of print ads called "The Dark Side of Sweetness." One of the ads shows a young girl, made to look as adorable and rosy-cheeked as possible, grinding up a live chick to use the meat in her play kitchen. In the other one, another equally adorable girl is about to poison her sister at their tea party. Besides being so disgusting that it fails to be humorous, even in a Black Comedy or Crosses the Line Twice kind of way, it is also almost totally irrelevant to the product with only a tiny, barely noticeable image of the chocolate in the bottom corner. The ads were roundly and thoroughly condemned, so much that the first things that come up when googling "Caribu chocolate" are articles about the controversy of the Dark Side of Sweetness ad campaign. This person commented that the advert would probably turn people off of buying the chocolate because "nobody's appetite is particularly triggered upon seeing the gruesome insides of a baby animal."
  • Nintendo of America's "This Game Stinks" print campaign for EarthBound (1994) 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, NOA 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.
  • February 2020 saw otherwise-beloved pop-punk/alt-rock band Green Day releasing this billboard in anticipation for their then-latest album Father of All Motherfuckers. With it boldly proclaiming that the record contained "no features, no Swedish songwriters, no trap beats" and "100% pure uncut rock" (and with thick lines of cocaine underlining each point for the sake of a lazy pun, to boot) what was most likely meant as a lighthearted jab at mainstream pop music was instead widely chided for coming across like a textbook case of blaming their audience for falling out of touch, by way of played-out retro rockist snobbery. The ultimate irony of all: the album released to sharply polarized reviews, with even its most forgiving of fans and critics noting FOAMF's strict adherence to every single rock music trope of the past 30 years.
  • In 1994, car manufacturer Fiat (now owned by Stellantis) 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 2006, Todd Davis, CEO of LifeLock, put out an extremely gutsy ad campaign to boast the security company's effectiveness: he publicly posted his real Social Security number on billboards and his personal website and dared people to steal his identity, guaranteeing that LifeLock would make stolen information "useless" to criminals. Needless to say, Davis successfully had his identity stolen - and at least 13 times. To make matters worse, the Federal Trade Commission fined LifeLock not long afterwards for falsely advertising the security of customer data, likening them to "con artists."
  • 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 titular dance troupe's skimpy uniforms are placed front and center on the poster, and the trailer focused mostly on the girls' sexually suggestive dance moves and surface-level similarities to Step Up. This got Netflix accused of promoting pedophilia (despite only being the distributor), with a petition being made for the service to cancel the release and cancellations increasing roughly 800%. 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 the 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, with some reviewers accusing the film of indulging in the sexual content it was criticizing, and outside of France it either got adults-only ratings or banned outright on principle across the board.
  • In 1967, Pacific Air Lines teamed up with Stan Freberg to launch a campaign embracing the public's fear of flying instead of trying to dissuade it. This began with a print ad targeted towards "you with the sweat on your palms," which not only acknowledged the reader's likely fear of flying, but claimed that the pilots were afraid of flying too. This campaign extended to the PAL flights themselves, with flight attendants distributing "survival kits" containing survival blankets, lucky rabbit's feet, and books on positive thinking. While intended to be sympathetic and tongue-in-cheek, it only made passengers less confident about airline safety. Stockholders weren't happy, at least two ad execs lost their jobs over the affair, and PAL ended their relationship with Freberg.
  • In March 2014, Irish bookmaker Paddy Power ran an ad titled "It's Oscar Time" in regards to Paralympic and Olympic 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 guilty.note  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.
  • In 2006, Sony launched a series of billboards in the Netherlands advertising the PSP White that ended up sparking worldwide controversy. In it, the words "PlayStation Portable White is coming" are overlaid atop an image of a white woman aggressively grabbing a black woman by the chin. While the intent of the ad was to show that the PSP White is superior to the older, black PSP models, people were instead quick to point out the racist undertones surrounding the ad, noting that it looked as if it was advocating violence towards black people. The backlash was so severe, it prompted global news coverage from outlets such as CNN and The Guardian, and ultimately did nothing to help the PSP's already-dwindling sales numbers. Sony would eventually respond to the racism allegations by pointing out the intent of showing the contrast between the PSP and PSP White, but they did nothing to address how the ad not only could easily be taken as racist without that knowledge, but also did so in such an abstract fashion that it's hard to tell what the purpose of the ad is.invoked
  • In 2007, the NYU Child Study Center launched the "Ransom Note" campaign to raise awareness of childhood psychiatric disorders, putting up billboards in the form of ransom notes from various mental illnesses holding children hostage - for example, the one for autism said "We have your son. We will make sure he will no longer be able to care for himself or interact socially as long as he lives. This is only the beginning." Although the ads were meant to encourage parents to seek help for their children with mental illnesses, they came across as insulting and demeaning to the people they were trying to speak to, describing a child with depression as "imprisoned in a maze of darkness with no hope of ever getting out", a child with ADHD as "a detriment to himself and those around him," and a child with Asperger’s Syndrome as "doomed to live a life of complete isolation." The backlash was immediate and fierce, with the CSC receiving 3,000 emails and phone calls, 70% of them expressing anger and hurt over the campaign. Advocates for people with disabilities blasted the ads for reinforcing negative stereotypes and increasing stigma around mental illness. The campaign was canceled after two weeks.
  • The initial ad campaign for Red Shoes and the Seven Dwarfs, specifically this poster shown 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 invokedimplied 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, Chloë Grace Moretz, 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; notably, despite an English dub being recorded and available, it wasn't released in English-speaking countries like the U.S. and UK until Lionsgate picked up the distribution rights a year later, presumably due to the controversy. Ironically, the movie's moral is the very 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. Saberspark looked at the ad before doing his review on the film, and noted that after finishing the film, he blamed the failure of their advertising in particular for having it fail more than anything else with the film at hand.
  • In the April 2, 1999 edition of USA Today, World Championship Wrestling ran an inexplicable print ad with a vaguely-spiked silhouette, the logo for the TNT channel, a date, and the phrase "Looks like something a bird left on the hood of my car". It was an ad for WCW Monday Nitro's new set on the April 5 episode, but nobody unfamiliar with the company would know that from the ad's layout. As you can probably guess, it did not win the company any new or returning fans. The ad was so absurd and off-putting that no one believed Dave Meltzer's report about it until a scan of it surfaced several years later.

    Promotions 
  • When legendary Irish rock band U2 released their 13th studio album, Songs of Innocence, on 9 September 2014, Apple saw fit to download the album onto millions of people's iTunes libraries without their consent. This meant that those who had auto-download enabled had the album added to (and later pointlessly taking up space on) the device itself. The stunt was met with widespread public derision as Apple initially offered no real way to delete the album rather than just hiding it; it took Apple almost a week to come up with a solution, which amounted to leading iTunes users to a specially-created link just to remove it. The campaign ultimately ate into the album's commercial and critical reception: Songs of Innocence became the band's lowest debuting album on the UK rock charts in 33 years (peaking at #6 and lasting only nine weeks on the charts) and while the reviews spoke of an album that was decent-at-best for a band of U2's caliber, it'll more than likely be remembered for its incredibly botched marketing campaign.
  • In 2018, Build-A-Bear Workshop 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 (for example, 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. Build-A-Bear quickly reworked the "Pay Your Age" idea by introducing a birthday-specific promotion where kids pay whatever age they're turning, but this came with many more restrictionsnote  to prevent the rush that happened on July 12; this promotion would prove much more successful.
  • 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, Burger King revealed him at the Super Bowl in January 1986... at which point most people didn't care anymore (and those few who still 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 an 11-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.
  • In January 2022, Cryptoland released an infomercial to promote a resort in Fiji for cryptocurrency investors. It caught on for all the wrong reasons; that it was padded out with pitch videos from the very beginning is the least of its problems. The animation is lousy and full of blatant shortcuts, defying the claim that one-time Pixar employees were involved. It's cheap and loaded with stolen assets, from the anthropomorphic cryptocurrency mascot to The Price Is Right's trademark Losing Horns and other stolen sound bytes. Its attempts at a plot are outright baffling, even by industrial stage show standards, with loads of flat characters, Godawful musical numbers (mostly all covers), and outright stupid references to cryptocurrency (not least of all, the BitConnect Memorial Pyramid). And on top of that, most of the features hawked just boil down to working while on an island with non-investors. Cynical Reviews looked at it here in his video about NFTs and NFT cartoons. Thought Slime and Sophie From Mars also reacted to it in this episode of Cringe Corner.
  • A sales promotion that caused a national scandal and killed a 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 overconfident 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 already pissed off the fanbase (and general audiences and critics) 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. Both The Nostalgia Critic and Cinematic Excrement called out the producers for this horrible marketing stunt (while also pointing out how they similarly edited clips of celebrities like Chris Pratt and Dwayne Johnson mentioning Jem out of context) in their reviews 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 Indiansnote  and the Texas Rangers at Cleveland Stadium. The promotion promised cups of beer for only 10 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 occurring 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 a 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. YouTuber Qxir gives a humorous summary of the whole debacle here.
    • 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 Tigers 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 promotion. How it worked was that a customer would get a scratcher ticket for an Olympic sport, and if the U.S. won any medal, the customer would get a free menu item (a Big Mac for Gold, French Fries for Silver, and a Coke for Bronze). The company had earlier used this campaign for the 1976 Olympics in Montreal, to much greater success; however, McDonald's was not expecting the Soviet Union, who were athletic powerhouses at the time, to boycott the 1984 Olympicsnote , leaving the U.S. unopposed in enough events to take home 174 medals, 84 of which were 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 McDonald's.
      Krusty: I, personally, am gonna spit in every 50th burger!
      Homer: I like those odds.
    • In October 2017, McDonald's announced that for one day only they'd be bringing back Szechuan McNugget dipping sauce, which was originally a limited-time promotional tie-in for the movie Mulan in 1998, after the Season 3 premiere of Rick and Morty sparked a huge interest in it. However, there was a series of problems: Not all the restaurants got it, and some locations advertised as having the sauce didn't have it. The ones that did have some got a mere 20 packets apiece, despite crowds of hundreds. Inevitably, stores ran out, sometimes even prior to the restaurants' opening. The backlash was so severe that police had to be called to numerous locations, and others reported riots as pissed-off fans yelled catchphrases from the show outside. This also damaged the reputation of Rick and Morty itself, with its fanbase, once notorious for being very loud and outspoken, becoming more reserved about their enjoyment of the show in order to avoid associating themselves with those who participated in the riots. If the responses to their half-hearted apology on Twitter are any indication, "Where's Herb?" might have some competition. The Double Toasted crew had a field day when discussing the chaos that transpired. RebelTaxi ranked the incident at #5 on his "Top 10 WORST CARTOON News of 2017" list. AniMat's "Pick of the Week" on The Animation Podcast was about the aftermath and called out the fans for taking the meme too seriously and McDonald's for being responsible for the whole thing. Even a second rollout (five years later) didn't save the reputation of the promotion or Rick and Morty fans.
  • 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 one 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 800 billion pesos), so they stated that only the caps with the proper serial code could be claimed and those with 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.
  • 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 universally lambasted, with many groups objecting to 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 white people 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 of a similar 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. PhantomStrider and The Nostalgia Critic list this as the fifth most controversial fast-food commercial (despite the promotion not having an official commercial), and summed up the campaign's problems with a tweet from April Reign:
    @ReignOfApril: Not sure what @Starbucks was thinking. I don't have time to explain 400 years of oppression to you & still make my train. #RaceTogether
  • Shaqtoons was a contest launched in 2019 by Shaquille O'Neal and TNT to promote a new television series airing on the network called Shaq Life and to gain some animated material to use on the show. The contest was announced on television and social media, with a website set up that hosted multiple "story-time" narrations that were each somewhere from 30 seconds to a minute long, all of them recorded by Shaq and to be animated by the participants. After TNT received all the submissions by the deadline of September 20, it would pick a winner for each narration, each of which would be broadcast on the show and whose creator would receive a cash reward. From the very start, the idea was horribly flawed at best and incredibly shady at worst, given that only the winners would receive any payment for their work despite how time-consuming and expensive a process animation would be for all the contestants involved. However, while this was already pretty bad, it turned out that the grand prize for each winner of the contest was an utterly pathetic payout of $500, an amount well beneath the minimum wage for most freelance animators to produce an animation of the same length, especially at television-grade quality. It was such a terrible prize that the ungodly amount of backlash it caused eventually convinced TNT to reluctantly raise the prize to a more palatable $10,000. But the true final nail in the competition's coffin was when a few cautious people interested in the contest did a careful read-through of the participation terms, and discovered that absolutely anything submitted as an entry to the contest became the sole property of Turner Broadcasting. This meant that none of the participants could use their submissions for so much as a personal work portfolio without risking the wrath of Turner and a subsequent lawsuit. To add insult to injury, the audio clips themselves were simply unremarkable and below-par for even a first draft. The resulting criticism and drama over the utterly awful terms was so immense that TNT wound up quietly dropping the contest altogether before any submissions could be made, with Shaq and TNT never so much as mentioning it in passing ever again afterward. Saltydkdan tears apart the whole fiasco here, even going so far as to make his own Parody of a Shaqtoon for the video, and Pam Maz, an animator who had created their own submission for the contest, relate their experience and all the red flags they noticed throughout it here.
  • 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 received 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 (which could be done before or after they had received the OnePlus phone, the latter preventing the "stuck without a phone" situation that the last contest invited).
    • They then followed that up with the Ladies First contest, where women would draw a OnePlus logo on their body, and post it on the official OnePlus forum. The 50 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 entries 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.

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  • 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 10, although this wasn't mentioned before launch), win one token if they win a match (which fortunately includes offline bot games, which don't cost anything to play), and must either purchase a timed subscription, token pack, 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.
  • To promote Virus: The Game, some marketing group created 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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