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Embarrassing Ad Gig

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Dotty "Gran" Burns: I don't see why you're making such a big fuss. You have baths at home.
Bertie Burns: Not often. And not on TV!
Dirty Bertie, "Fame!"

Good news, a character's about to be on TV, the cover of a magazine, etc. Bad news, it's an advert which is really embarrassing. Perhaps it's for something sexual (like Viagra) or bathroom-related (like laxatives) or they have to pose naked or in their undies or wearing a Goofy Suit, or they're in the "Before" part of "Before" and "After" Pictures, but either way, it's not something the person wants to be famous for.

The character in question is often a child, since children are often very keen on the idea of being famous, but also embarrass easily, however characters of any age could star in an Embarrassing Ad.

It might be the premise of the whole plot, or just one scene, but either way, it's nearly always Played for Laughs because it's a goldmine for Cringe Comedy.

Compare Embarrassing Slide, Embarrassing Old Photo, Instant Humiliation: Just Add YouTube!, Kitschy Local Commercial, and I Was Young and Needed the Money. Also compare Japandering, for when the commercial is probably innocuous, but it's embarrassing for the celebrity to be seen shilling for something overseas that they would never do in their home market.


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  • Pucca: At the end of "The Ring Ring Touch", Mr. Zoom decides that both Ring Ring and Pucca will be his models in a magazine. Ring Ring is initially overjoyed until she reads a magazine that says Mr. Zoom's beauty cream will turn girls from "drab to fab", and a picture of a filthy Ring Ring is seen in the "drab" part. Ring Ring literally explodes in anger from seeing that.

  • Ben Elton did a routine about how the children of the actress in the Shake&Vac advert reacted to their mother abasing herself in a crappy advert for carpet shampoo. Elton speculated on a houseful of terminally embarrassed offspring shouting, "Mum, we'd rather have starved!" or "You could have done hardcore pornography!" or "What's wrong with prostitution or drug-dealing?" - as any of those would have been preferable, in the eyes of her children, to this.

    Comic Books 
  • Archie Comics: In one comic, Jughead's baby sister Jellybean stars in a baby food commercial. While they're filming, Jellybean is revealed to hate the baby food, so Jughead has to eat it instead. When it's shown on TV, Jughead is shown to not be happy about it.
  • In the Ben 10: Ultimate Alien/Generator Rex crossover issue of Cartoon Network Action Pack, Ben ends up going to Japan to film a Mr. Smoothie commercial, reasoning that it won't hurt his dignity since it won't leave the country. Naturally, the commercial ends up online and everyone in Bellwood ends up watching it, much to his embarrassment.

    Film — Animation 
  • Inverted in Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs. Brent was the mascot of Baby Brent Sardines as an infant, and he's so proud of it that he continues to pose in a diaper as an adult, even after the company has shut down. Most of the townsfolk still somehow find him adorable.
  • Subverted on Monsters, Inc.. When Mike's one shot on the new company ad has his face covered up by the logo, he at first appears shocked and disappointed. But then he shouts enthusiastically "I was on TV!"

    Film — Live-Action 
  • Easter Sunday: Joe is only known to be "the beer ad guy" with the catchphrase "Let's get this party started, baby!", much to his chagrin. Even the antagonist Dev Deluxe thinks the catchphrase is corny to Joe's face.
  • Jack and Jill: The Dunkaccino's musical ad starred by Al Pacino directed by Jack Sadelstein was so terrible that in the preview that he doesn't want to be released.
    Al: Burn this.
    Jack: I'm sorry?
    Al: This must never be seen, by anyone.
  • Zoolander: When Derek and some of his family members are in a bar, they see an Aveda commercial that shows Derek as a mermaidnote  making double entendres involving being wet. Derek's father disowns him on the spot.

  • In Anne of Green Gables, Anne submits a short story to a literary magazine in hopes of becoming a published author, but it gets rejected. Hoping to cheer her up, Diana enters the short story into an advertisement contest for baking powder under Anne's name, with the ending modified to include Product Placement for the company. Anne is mortified when she finds out about the ad, even though everyone in town is proud of her for it.
  • Dear Dumb Diary: In "The Worst Things in Life are Also Free", Isabella advertises her "beauty lemonade" using Jamie and Angeline's photos. Jamie serves as the ugly "before" picture, which naturally upsets her.
  • In a Diary of a Wimpy Kid book, titled "Dog Days", Greg says that he was on the cover of a book a few years ago... but unfortunately, the book was titled Your Child and Constipation.
  • In the Dirty Bertie story "Fame!", Bertie is glad to be in an ad on TV, but becomes embarrassed when he learns it's for bubble bath and he has to pose in the bathtub.
  • In the Jeeves and Wooster short story "The Spot of Art", Bertie's Girl of the Week paints his portrait for him, but Jeeves doesn't approve — it gives Bertie a "hungry" look. Later, Bertie is forced to take the blame for a motor accident, and faces a lawsuit from a man who happens to own a soup manufacturing company. Trusting Jeeves to sort it out, Bertie leaves town. When he gets back, he finds his "hungry" portrait plastered all over the place on soup advertisements — the soup manufacturer agreed to drop the lawsuit in exchange for the portrait. Bertie is aghast at what his snobbish aunt will think, and promptly decides to leave town again.

    Live-Action TV 
  • 30 Rock: Liz admits to doing an embarrassing commercial for a 1-900 sex line early in her career. Liz assures the TGS staff that they'll never find it, but they find it before she's even finished with the sentence.
  • The Big Bang Theory:
    • When Penny finally gets a TV gig, it's in a hemorrhoid cream commercial.
    • Penny (Kaley Cuoco) was in an embarrassing ad for tampons in an episode of the same show. Penny's an aspiring actress, but the closest she came to fame was a bit part on an episode of NCIS, but that was cut for time.
  • Broad City: A variant in "Apartment Hunters." Abbi receives a large royalty check after selling one of her illustrations, which she uses to go apartment hunting with Ilana. When they finally find some nice people with a great apartment to share, the new commercial using Abbi's illustration comes on... and it turns out to be for a white supremacist dating service. Abbi, understandably, is mortified, and the owners of the apartment (who happen to be black) are no longer comfortable with her moving in.
  • Woody from Cheers once appeared in a commercial for a vegetable drink where he simply holds up a bottle of the product and says, "I like it." He's quite proud of the ad...until he tries the product and hates it. Now he can't stand the commercial because he essentially lied in it.
  • The Ferals: After failing to raise any money to repair Robbie and Lenny's flat, Modigliana goes out to try again. She returns with a thousand dollars but refuses to say how she managed to raise such a large sum in such a short time. The end of the episode reveals she took an ad gig for healthier cat food and all the other Ferals burst into uncontrollable laughter when they see it.
  • Friends:
    • Joey models for an ad that turns out to be a public service campaign warning against sexually transmitted diseases. Women keep turning him down when they recognize him and think he really does have an STD.
    • One of the informercials Joey was in was for the Milkmaster, a plastic spout that you attached to milk cartons so you didn't have to open the flaps. His character is unable to open carton flaps without tearing the carton open and spilling milk. That episode was "The One With The Metaphorical Tunnel" and it gets a callback in "The One With The Tiny T-Shirt" when someone recognizes him as "the guy that doesn't know how to pour milk". She even tells other people, who keep asking Joey to open their drinks. And Joey being Joey, he can't always do it.
    • Joey starred in a Japanese commercial plugging lipstick for men. He gives the tape of the commercial to Chandler, who promises to watch it but doesn't. He tells Joey he watched it, but Joey can tell he's lying because otherwise he would have made some kind of joke about it.
  • Genie in the House: Emma spends an entire episode trying to become the cover model for a new advertising campaign for tooth paste. She succeeds but doesn't discover the focus of the advert is on how it completely eliminates bad breath until after its printed and posted all around town.
  • The Golden Girls: In the episode "Older and Wiser," Blanche and Rose model their hands and face for a penny-saver ad. While initially excited, they're upset to learn that the ad copy reads, "Does your face look like this? Do your hands look like this? You need Ponce de Leon Anti-Aging Cream!" To top it off, extra liver spots were added to their face and hands.
  • Hannah Montana: Jackson and Oliver are overjoyed at the idea of being the feature models for a new dating service. It isn't until after the ad comes out they discover they modelled to be the examples of inferior choices people would receive if they didn't sign up for the service and thus become laughing stocks in the community. The episode ends with the same agent offering them another gig for advertising new night classes, specifically as the example of idiots from the before the class. The two start giving an impassioned speech about they represent real people as opposed to the unrealistic promises the advertising offers and how it should be more true to life, only to give up and just go with it when they find out how much the gigs paying.
  • In How I Met Your Mother, Robin was in an ad for adult diapers in order to compete with her popular co-anchor, Becky. The rest of the gang, who don't know about the commercial, assumes she's embarrassed because she slept with Randy while drunk, and she goes along with it to hide the truth. She's later caught in the lie and confesses while believing the commercial will never actually be used. Future Ted then states that it ran for seven years. In a later episode, Sandy shows all of his and Robin's co-workers various embarrassing videos she's been in, including the commercial.
  • Variation on Just Shoot Me!: Elliot dates an actress/model who stars in a hemorrhoid cream commercial. She's never anything less than thrilled, but he's put off, especially since Finch throws every hemorrhoidal pun he can think of at him.
  • In one of Charlie's flashbacks on Lost, he and his band are doing an ad for baby diapers, which includes them dressing up in diapers and singing a reworked version of their song called "You All Every Butties".
  • In one episode of The Mighty Boosh, Howard catches the eye of an avant-garde filmmaker and is cast in his next venture - unfortunately for Howard's dignity, the filmmaker has decided to sell out and make advertisements, and Howard plays "the angry crab of trapped wind" in an ad for anti-gas medicine.
  • My Wife and Kids: When Michael tries to stop Claire from getting a modeling gig, the recruiter notes that Michael would make the perfect hand model for an ad for a hand cream marketed towards men. What the recruiter doesn't tell Michael is that his hands are supposed to represent the effeminate hands of those who don't buy the product. On top of that, Michael acts incredible goofy while filming the ad.
    Announcer: Don't be a pansy. Be a mansy.
  • On Party Down Henry became famous for his role in a beer commercial that spawned the in-universe catchphrase "Are we having fun yet?!". He thinks the role killed his chances of having a real acting career, and he dreads being recognized in public.
  • Supernatural: In "Changing Channels", a reality warping trickster forces Sam and Dean to live out various TV shows, including, to Sam's dismay, an advertisement for herpes medication.
    Sam: [woodenly] I am doing all I can to slightly lessen the spread of... of... genital herpes. [forcing a pained smile] And that's a good thing.
  • One World's Dumbest... clip has cast member Leif Garrett in his younger days doing a dance number in a potato sticks commercial. Fellow commentator Danny Bonaduce reassures him that others have done their own embarrassing commercials; cut to Bonaduce in a fake ad for an aphrodisiac called "Tiger Penis".

  • The Alan Davies Show episode "Mr Strawberry" is about Alan getting cast as a mascot in an advert campaign for a kid's milkshake drink, and having to hide this from his girlfriend out of fear it'll make her lose respect for his integrity as an actor.

    Web Videos 
  • Subverted in the Brandon Rogers video "A Day at the Park", where Donna is revealed to have starred in a hemorrhoid ointment commercial. Apparently, she's not at all ashamed about it and indeed, seems to be proud of it.
  • In Dragon Ball Z Abridged, during a Time Skip perpetual Butt-Monkey Yamcha apparently recorded a song for a cat food commercial that became wildly popular, much to his chagrin. His reaction to hearing it playing is to groan and hang his head, and when asked about it he simply says "I was desperate and needed the money... and no, it wasn't worth it."

    Western Animation 
  • The Amazing World of Gumball: "The Money" is about Gumball defying this trope, refusing to let his family star in a Joyful Burger commercial despite being broke because he doesn't wanna sell out. However, when the family loses so much money that they can't even afford to be animated, a post-it note doodle of Gumball slapped onto the background only gives in after seeing how much he'll be paid, and they do the commercial, which is a cringeworthy Totally Radical ad that turns the Wattersons into caricatures of themselves.
  • The Day My Butt Went Psycho!: Silas Sterne seems to be immune to shame, but his daughter Eleanor is deeply embarrassed by many of the ads her father has appeared in, a lot of which are for products that are potentially lethal, such as a teddy bear covered in sharp spikes.
    Eleanor: My dad has advertised some weird stuff.
  • The Flintstones: In "Before and After", Fred brags about being in a commercial for a diet program, even hosting a viewing party. To his embarrassment, the ad puts him as the "before" in a pair of "Before" and "After" Pictures, when he was expecting to be the "after". He and Wilma go to the TV studio to complain, and that's when the producer suggests that he lose weight in one week as part of a promotion.
  • Get Blake!: In "Get Commercial!", Blake and Mitch try to make a new commercial for the former's father to replace the one that shows footage of Blake as a baby tripping and hurting his knee. However, the Squaliens try their best to prevent him from replacing it in hopes to allow the original commercial to get aired across the world (and, subsequently, the entire galaxy) so that Blake's reputation would be permanently tarnished, preventing him from becoming the space ranger in the future.
  • The Little Rascals: In "Pete's Big Break", after Pete rescues a puppy from drowning, the father of the girl who owns the puppy hires Pete and the kids for a TV dog food commercial. Unfortunately, since Pete ate so much dog food during rehearsal, Alfalfa has to wear a dog costume and take Pete's place. Alfalfa thinks he'll be eating canned chili, but due to Porky's mix-up, he ends up eating actual dog food. Chaos ensues, and the little girl's puppy ends up eating the dog food.
  • The Looney Tunes Show has Bugs Bunny appear in a televised commercial for Pizzarriba, casually stating, "I like it." In-universe Pop-Cultural Osmosis makes this phrase into Bugs Bunny's ad hoc catchphrase, which disturbs him. Even a squad of firefighters trying to quell a fire at Bugs's house pause to ask Bugs to repeat the "I like it" phrase. Viewable here.
  • In The Loud House episode "A Star is Scorned", Lola is humiliated when in an ad for a spa, she is peeking out of a bush while Covered in Mud, and her baby sister Lily is hogging the spotlight.
  • The Simpsons: In "Barting Over", it's revealed that when he was a baby, Bart starred in an ad for anti-halitosis medicine for infants, which Lisa and Nelson embarrass him with (even though initially, he wasn't embarrassed so much as angry that he didn't get any money). At the end of the episode, Homer acts in an advertisement for a product in which Side Effects Include... losing your penis. Fifty years later, his grave features the epitaph "Homer Simpson, Impotency Spokesman". Nelson laughs at this, too.
  • SpongeBob SquarePants: In "Model Sponge", SpongeBob gets a modelling gig after thinking he was fired from the Krusty Krab. The commercial is for a new kitchen sponge, but SpongeBob gets stuck playing the sponge, being forced to strip and getting rubbed on disgusting objects. He quits during the ad and runs back to the Krusty Krab.
  • Totally Spies!: The sub-plot of one episode involves Clover competing against Mandy for a spot in an ad. The role ultimately goes to Mandy, which bums Clover out until she sees it's a picture of Mandy wearing a massive hamburger suit. She even sees Mandy on the phone demanding to have it taken down.

    Real Life 
  • One woman was shown in a Burger King advert resembling fellatio without her permission and was very embarrassed when she found out.
  • Similar to both the above and the Friends examples was a series of promos for KMSP-TV 9, then the Twin Cities ABC affiliatenote , for a series of news reports on venereal disease, or VD, in time for the May 1974 sweeps. However, two women ended up suing the station for various damages caused emotionally (the second woman, a high-school student who had the incredibly unlucky timing of introducing her boyfriend to her parents when the shot of the two appeared in the VD teaser - which a KMSP producer misleadingly said was simply "for a spring special"; followed by her being harassed by classmates and kicked out of her family home).


Video Example(s):



Mandy becomes the next Happy Burger spokesmodel--but NOT in the way she ever expected.

How well does it match the trope?

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Example of:

Main / EmbarrassingAdGig

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