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Abusive Advertising

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And fifty-nine issues later, she makes good on that threat.
Wilkins: Care for a cup of Wilkins Coffee?
Wontkins: No, I don't like coffee.
(a hand holding a gun reaches into the frame and shoots Wontkins stone dead)
Wilkins: This has been a public service announcement!
Wilkins Coffee commercial

Most commercials try to sell their product by making it look appealing, desirable, and a must-have. Such commercials try to be friendly and informative, appearing to have your best interests at heart.

Then there's these. With Abusive Advertising, there's no question whether you'll buy this product. You will, and if you don't, there will be dire consequences before you end up buying it anyway. Whether a mascot coming to beat you up or divine misfortune to wreck your day, the customer is promised a nasty end if they don't haul their butt to a store right now.

This type of advertising is usually tongue-in-cheek, as obviously companies can't legally attack people to make them buy their product. So to show it's all just a joke, such ads are deliberately over-the-top so that they won't be taken seriously. The real aim is for the commercials to stick in the customers' minds, even if it depicts them getting beaten to a pulp.

Compare Appeal to Force, Disproportionate Retribution, Public Service Announcement and The Fourth Wall Will Not Protect You. Can occur when an Obsessive Spokesperson takes a particularly harsh approach. Inverted Trope of Our Product Sucks. Often a form of Space Whale Aesop.


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    Comic Books 

  • "Never Say No to Panda", an... odd series for Panda Cheese by Arab Dairy. The theme in each is that some person doesn't want to have any cheese, when a panda appears out of nowhere, looking at them mournfully while Buddy Holly plays... then proceeds to rampage and break to pieces anything the person is using. Whether overturning their grocery cart, smashing a birthday cake, throwing a guy's computer monitor, beating through a car windshield with a wrench, or ripping out a patient's IV, this panda will not stand anyone not eating their cheese. One guy even ends up having to buy two packs just to keep that bear away from him.
  • The Wilkins Coffee ads made by Jim Henson, in which a Muppet named Wilkins offers Wilkins Coffee to another Muppet, Wontkins. Wontkins typically refuses and gets hurt for it - often fatally. One ad has Wilkins shooting Wontkins with a cannon and then turning it towards the camera, essentially threatening the audience into buying their coffee.
  • In the Red's Apple Ale commercials, people who hesitate on their drink orders are suddenly pelted with apples, which inspires them to ask for Red's Apple Ale.
  • A downplayed example is the "Should've had a V-8" campaign for V-8 vegetable juice. People who didn't get their vegetables regularly get a Dope Slap on the forehead, complete with a hollow sound on the head.
  • In a 2007 ad for Burger King tying in with the release of The Simpsons Movie, Krusty the Clown literally begs the viewer to eat at Krusty Burger rather than Burger King.
    Krusty: Please! I'm behind on seven alimonies! I'm wearing paper bags for shoes!
  • There once was an advertisement for coffee that threatened housewives with being beaten up by their husbands if they bought a cheaper brand instead of the advertised one. This was played for laughs.
  • Among the Joseph Schlitz Brewing Company's catalogue of woes in the 1970s was a failed advertising campaign in which a burly outdoorsman threatens an off-screen speaker, visually identified with the viewer, who wants him to switch to a rival beer brand, followed by the slogan "If you don't have Schlitz, you don't have gusto." The campaign was pulled after only ten weeks due to negative reaction from consumers.
  • Used as a double meaning in 1980s ads for the UK breakfast cereal Weetabix. While the point of the ads was that pure wheat biscuits were full of nutrients, there were definite undertones to the Weetabix Gang, in "bovver boy" Doc Martins, saying "Make it neat wheat, mate, if you know what's good for you!"

  • There's the classic "If You Don't Buy This Magazine, We'll Kill This Dog." cover run by National Lampoon, which showed an appealing dog with a large hand-gun pointing at it. note 
  • Mizz, a UK magazine aimed at teenage girls, once ran a Halloween issue that began with an an ad where a witch threatens a girl that, if she doesn't buy the magazine, the witch will take Mizz away and the girl will "Have to read something crappy instead".
  • One Spirou cover shows someone holding a pair of scissors open around the paw of a Billy the Cat plushie, with a Cut-and-Paste Note stating "Buy this magazine or we cut Billy the Cat".
  • The Voodoo Mad gave us this hilariously over-the-top example:
    WARNING!!! If you do not plan to buy The Voodoo Mad, stop looking at this back cover right now!! Stop here! Read no further! Halt! Because this is... THE ALFRED E. NEUMAN VOODOO SIGN! Once you look at it— if you do not buy it for your own— YOU DIE! (Well, we warned you not to look!)

  • Many guests on Caged Heat Radio make jokes at the listener's expense but Kevin Sullivan and Steve Corino in particular threatened bodily harm on those who did not tune in.

    Video Games 
  • Segata Sanshiro, a mascot for the Sega Saturn game console in Japan. He would appear out of nowhere before some fools who weren't playing videogames... beat the hell out of them with martial arts... shout his catchphrase "You must play Sega Saturn!", leave a Saturn console by their unconscious bodies, and walk away. Later commercials turned him into a more heroic figure who did things like coach a soccer team and make sushi, though still with a penchant for solving problems with judo throws. In fact, only two of his commercials have him act in tune of the trope, but his Bragging Theme Tune implies that he's still doing it off-screen.
  • The infamous Daikatana ad campaign, which simply promised in large, bold letters: "John Romero is about to make you his bitch."
  • The console had a commercial in which an abrasive man hypes up the system while insulting the audience, bragging that it "plays more games than you idiots have brain cells". The unpleasantness of the commercial was not the worst issue facing the Game.Com, but it certainly didn't do it any favors.

  • One banner ad for Luci Phurrs Imps shows an imp holding up a cat with the caption "Read Luci Phurr's Imps or we eat the cat!"

    Web Original 
  • This is another aspect of bad advertising - a sort of odious moral blackmail - held up for derisive deconstruction on name-and-shame-those-crap-adverts website Ad Turds.
  • Harry Partridge: One video had him proclaim "Follow me on Twitter, or I'll do terrible things to this cockney orphan!" Oh, he may be animated, but the pain will be more than real...
  • Back in 2006, Chica’s website had been shut down so when you visit it, it says his website has moved, it shows a picture of an anime girl with a reptilian like nose, and then it says but where to? And shows a GIF of a 16 bit anime catgirl searching left and right. And after the link, it says that whoever linked his website in the past needs to update the link or he gets eaten. It shows an alligator close to him.
  • The parody saga Downton Wars was made as part of a fundraiser for the Chilterns MS Centre, so viewers are asked to donate money. At the end of The Evil Butler Strikes Back, the Dowager threatens the audience if they don't donate with a booming "I wouldn't do that if I were you!"

  • In one "Gorilla Glue" ad, a householder is contemplating re-hanging a garden gate, considers what fixings to use, and a very large gorilla walks up and just stands there looking down at him meaningfully. The threat is implicit, and the gorilla is visibly happy to see him using the ape-approved glue on the repair. However, the gorilla isn't always so threatening in other ads; sometimes he just hands them a free can of his glue.
  • Use of Sean Connery Is About to Shoot You posters could be considered a form of this, though it might also just because the gun-toting pose looks cool.
  • For a long time, advertisements for DirectTV all followed the same line of showing, through a line of Insane Troll Logic and Rube Goldberg-esque events, how not having DirectTV would ruin your life entirely (such as being bored with regular cable would make you a deficient juror, which would make the man your judgement put in jail decide to break out and seek revenge...).
  • This commercial for Muppet puppet dolls has Rowlf attempt to shill the product only to become aghast when two Kermit dolls start singing about how they'll bite the viewer and break their arms if they don't buy them.
  • There was this one motor oil brand, Castrol, advert where customers who claimed synthetic oil functioned the same as the name brand (whatever it was called) were roundly whipped by a Violent Glaswegian with a dipstick and berated to “Think wit’ yuir dipstick, Jimmie!
  • Big Bill Hell's has this in spades due to being a Parody Commercial of car dealership ads. It starts with the narrator saying "Fuck you, Baltimore!" and never stops, constantly insulting the viewers, saying they'll fuck their wife, and implying that they will call the police on them twice.
    Only at Big Bill Hell's, the only dealer that tells you to fuck off!
  • Allstate has a series of ads showing a guy wrecking havoc on an unsuspecting victim, closing with the tagline "Get Allstate, and be better protected from mayhem, like me". Allstate being an insurance company, this has overtones of Shame If Something Happened.

In-universe examples:

    Comic Books 
  • In Transmetropolitan the Mafia has apparently become a legitimate company selling cheap Makers. Their ads say "Buy Godti Makers. Or you'll be sleeping with the fishes... And I'll be sleeping with your wife." Spider was given a Godti maker as part of his first staff apartment, the AI wasted a lot of resources making drug simulators for itself and he tried to throw it away. But someone left a severed horse head in his bed.

    Comic Strips 
  • Several Bloom County Sunday Strips had a television set which presses up against viewers' faces while broadcasting commercials berating them for not having bought the product already. When they run away in terror, it chases them down.
    "Wear 'Rambo' brand jeans... or you're SCUM!"
  • In one Dilbert strip, a television advertisement threatens the viewers to make them buy its tires:
    "You've heard the 'other' tire company imply that your child's safety depends on its product... That's nothing. If you don't buy our tires, your whole stinkin' extended family will croak!!! And don't get too attached to the family dog either. HA HA HA HA HA!
  • For two strips in Pearls Before Swine, Rat gets a job writing advertisements for a doorknob maker. His first one says that "God won't love you and you'll probably go to hell" for not buying their doorknobs, and for his second, he gets more direct.
    Rat: "Buy our doorknobs or we'll break your @#$%!*& knees."
    Goat: (scrunches his eyes shut in frustration) That's called extortion.
    Rat: It's a fine line.


    Live-Action TV 
  • The Goodies:
    • The TV pranksters divided the show with parodies of British TV advertising; a classic was their send-up of processed fish manufacturers Bird's Eye, who at the time were advertising via a child-friendly clown character, an avuncular sailor called Captain Birdseye used to harness pester power. The spoof advert followed the same lines of a genial fatherly ship's captain with a crew of clearly happy children who loved being on board ship. But the sinister last lines were:
    Captain Fishface has your children. If you want them back, send two thousand wrappers from Fishface cod pieces... But please hurry.
    Captain Fishface: Because you don’t know what goes into my rissoles.
    • In the same episode ("It Might as Well Be String", parodying the advertising industry), Bill and Graham explain that housewives have finally gotten wise to the Blatant Lies of advertising, so they have to resort to blatant threats instead. In another advert, a housewife refuses to use the advertised cleaning agent, so Bill and a couple of thugs rough her up until she relents.
    London Gangster: Use Low Suds Mold, or we'll send the boys round.
  • On My Name Is Earl, Earl goes to see Didi to make up for Number 86 on his List of Transgressions: "Stole a car from a one-legged girl." It turns out that in between the time Earl slept with Didi and then stole her car (and her prosthetic leg) and the moment he showed up at her door in an attempt to make up for it, Didi had gotten herself a new boyfriend. She starts lobbing coffee mugs at Earl, and her unnamed boyfriend comes out to see what all the commotion is. When he sees that it's Earl, he starts chasing after Earl, picks up a sign that says "Vote!", and starts beating the crap out of him with it. Earl takes this as a sign from Karma that he's not meant to do Number 86, but rather another list item: "Cost Dad the election."

    Video Games 
  • Around election time in Tropico 4, the in-game radio station Tropico News Today sometimes runs the advertisement "People are demanding elections, and El Presidente demands your vote! Vote El Presidente — or else."
  • We Happy Restaurant features a machine that brainwashes people from everywhere across time and space and forces them to come to your restaurant and eat your horrible food.

    Web Original 
  • One skit by Funny or Die that parodies the campaign ads of Dale Peterson during his 2010 run for Alabama Agriculture Commissioner uses this trope. The unhinged parody Peterson proclaims near the end "I'll kill a man! I'll put a gun right in someone's mouth and say 'You need more lead in your diet!' right before I pull the trigger! So give me the Republican nomination for Ag Commissioner or I'll shoot you in the goddamn head."

    Western Animation 
  • Family Guy: In "Road to Rupert", Brian looks at a gorilla doll and says that if you buy one, they save a real gorilla in the wild...and if you don't, they'll kill one. ("Boy, these guys are really playing hardball").
  • On Muppet Babies (1984), the babies play at running for president. Piggy made an election ad about why they should vote for her, ending with "and if you don't... You'll be sorry!"
  • In-Universe on South Park In "Douche and Turd", P. Diddy's "Vote or Die" campaign is taken to its literal extreme—if you don't vote, P. Diddy will hunt you down and kill you. This was based on a real campaign during the 2004 U.S. Presidential Election, although obviously P. Diddy is not known to have pursued anyone with a 9mm. After a whole barrage of miserable moments courtesy of his reluctance to vote between the two titular (equally horribly awful) mascot options, Stan is allowed entrance into the complex of PETA members that began the whole mess... and sure enough, P. Diddy comes looking for him because he never voted. The ensuing massacre of PETA members ends up solving the dilemma (well, kind of).
  • The Simpsons:
    • Nelson Muntz runs for Class President on the platform of "Vote for me or else."
    • In "The Haw-Hawed Couple", Nelson gives his fellow students invitations to his birthday party while saying "Come to my party or die."
    • In "Marge Be Not Proud", an ultra-violent fighting game called Bonestorm is marketed with ads in which a Badass Santa fires the game's cartridge into a console with his BFG, then implores children to tell their parents "Buy me Bonestorm or go to Hell!" Marge is horrified when Bart obliges.
  • Similar to the above, an episode of My Gym Partner's a Monkey has Bull Sharkowski doing this when he runs for student body president.
    Bull Sharkowski: If you vote for me, all your dreams will come true... BECAUSE IF YOU DON'T, YOU'LL NEVER DREAM AGAIN!
  • Invader Zim episode Voting of the Doomed has a characteristically direct example.
  • Robot Chicken
  • The Critic had the titular character's electronic cardboard standie that repeated one phrase over and over. "Buy my book! BUY MY BOOK! BUY MY BOOK!!!" A tad bit too abusive though, as they were removed from stores after a clerk shot himself.
  • Rugrats opened one episode with an ad for Reptar Cereal, in which a child refuses to eat the cereal in question, only to have Reptar smash through the wall and devour it bowl and all in front of the screaming child and mother.
    Eat your Reptar Cereal - before somebody else does!
  • Rick and Morty has two examples, both involving cereal; the first is "Strawberry Squiggles", which has a commercial involving an expy of the Lucky Charms leprechaun being disemboweled and eaten by two creepy children, and "Eyeholes", whose mascot The Eyehole Man will beat the crap out of you if you try to eat the cereal. As Jerry learns the hard way, this one is not just a wacky commercial gimmick.
  • Mutant League: The faux commercial the show begins on has some.
    K.T. Slayer: Hey, kid. Yeah, you! Never wear anything but Spikeys, or I'm coming after ya. For real! (screams and attacks the camera)

  • One Dave Barry column was accompanied by a cartoon of Dave opening his mailbox and finding an offer for snake attack insurance... that was impaled on the fangs of an extremely large snake.


Video Example(s):



What initially appears to be an advertisement for Snuggle Fabric Softener actually turns out to be an ad for 1998's BattleTanx, with the Snuggle Bear getting shot to pieces and set on fire by the tank that decimates the laundry room.

How well does it match the trope?

5 (11 votes)

Example of:

Main / CommercialSwitcheroo

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