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Misaimed Fandom / Advertising

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Examples of misaimed fandom in advertising.

  • Apple:
    • Many people didn't like "I'm a Mac, I'm a PC" ads for the following reasons:
      • Many thought that the Mac came across as an arrogant hipster jerk, whereas the PC was a cute, lovable loser. This was particularly notable in the UK, where the localized advertisements featured comedic duo Mitchell and Webb, who played a lovable loser and an arrogant jerk, respectively, in Peep Show. This is especially ironic since the Mac character is pretty close to what a Brit parody might seem like.
      • A good number of people dislike the commercial series because it was all about making the PC look bad. And they chose John Hodgman to play the PC as a whiny, oversized Bill Gates caricature. Problem is, Bill Gates and John Hodgman's PC are personally more charming and affable than Justin Long's Mac.
      • The ads reinforced the stereotype that Mac users were snobbish elitists.
      • Even Microsoft noticed this, and started making "I'm a PC" ads showing satisfied customers in a Take That! to Apple.
    • Advertisement:
    • Another series of Mac commercials tried to play up how specialized a Mac could be. It contrasted a "typical" Mac user (read: artist) saying he would use a Mac for editing his pictures/music/what have you, with a "typical" PC user saying "boring" things like how he could use his PC for documents, and spreadsheets. The message was clearly intended to be "Buy a Mac and be a hip, unique artist!" The message that actually came across to viewers was, "Buy a PC, it has the stuff you're actually going to use." PC commercials used this by showing all the practical uses/features their tablet has that the iPad doesn't.
  • A series of anti-pot radio commercials in the 1990s featured a mock game show with people trying to answer simple questions when high. The moral is supposed to be "Only Dopes Smoke Dope", but comes across more as "Pot will TOTALLY fuck you up (in a good way)!", which pot-smokers were already well aware of.
  • Advertisement:
  • The Mercedes-Benz car company has used Janis Joplin's anti-consumerist hippie-era song "Mercedes Benz" in a staggeringly large number of ads. That song is most definitely not in favor of Mercedes-Benzes.
  • Mattel used Scandinavian pop band Aqua's popular song "Barbie Girl", a satire of the culture surrounding Barbies (read: showing girls as spoiled, shallow slaves to fashion and money), to sell Barbie dolls. Bizarrely, Mattel had earlier tried to sue Aqua's record label for tarnishing the Barbie brand.
  • Bruce Springsteen's "Born in the USA," a song full of highly ambiguous and quite critical message about the unfulfilled promise of the American Dream and certainly not of uncritical super-patriotic themes, was adopted by political ads for many American right-wing politicians, including, most notably, Ronald Reagan's 1984 reelection campaign. Springsteen was notably annoyed by this development.
    • Donald Trump did the same thing during the 2016 campaign, resulting in a cease and desist order from Bruce.
  • This happened to Neil Young with his song "Rockin' in the Free World", which is about homeless people, drug addiction, babies stuffed into trash cans, and George H. W. Bush ineffective rhetoric. Only the last verse, which references Rev. Jesse Jackson's "Keep Hope Alive" Presidential campaign, is hopeful. When Donald Trump tried to use it for his campaign, Young reacted with angry invective.
  • The Trix Rabbit is one of the quintessential examples. In 1976, General Mills had a contest where kids were able to vote on the question "Should the Rabbit be able to eat some Trix?" The majority of the responses were "Yes". They had a similar contest in 1990, with the same results. In the latter, however, it turned out to be All Just a Dream.
    • Seth MacFarlane says that he came up with this parody of the ads for Family Guy out of his sympathy for the rabbit: "I mean, they were his Trix".
  • The Apple from the Apple Jacks commercial used to be a Designated Villain, but the makers of the ads changed it due to feedback so that he and "Cinni-Mon" are friendly enemies now.
  • Meth, ooh meth! One of the best commercial jingles of all time. Yeah, it's supposed to make meth seem awful, but these commercials just make it sound way, way more useful than coffee.
  • Axe:
    • The commercials where a guy puts some body spray on, and becomes attractive to women. They have many people who keep thinking they're supposed to be serious in any way.note  Presumably, if most Axe brands didn't smell like rubbing alcohol and aerosol, or made their elements of satire clearer like in "The Man Your Man Could Smell Like" Old Spice ads, there'd be fewer problems.
    • They might not be people who take the ads seriously but rather Axe wearers who do seem to take the ads too much to heart and consequently drench themselves in the reeking stuff.
    • This ad has a billboard chastising Old Spice, saying Axe is for men who would rather be with a woman than on a horse.
    • The designers of the Axe commercials seem to have been watching the old Hai Karate after-shave commercials from the 1960s. Be careful how you use it!
  • Nazi Germany once made a propaganda spot, Liese und Miese.note  Liese was the good, pro-Nazi German woman; Miese, meaning "the bad one" in German, would be lazy, talk with spies, listen to foreign radio broadcasts, be unpatriotic and so on. However, Miese's actresses, Brigitte Mira, made her character more likable.note  The series was cancelled for being counter-productive.
  • In the '80s, there was an anti-drugs campaign in the UK called "Heroin Screws You Up." It was eventually pulled when the actor who played a heroin addict in the TV and poster ads became an unexpected pin-up boy with teen audiences - partly because of the "heroin chic" look that was in fashion at the time.
  • Insurance price comparison website pulled an ad using a cover of Queen's "Somebody to Love" when it was revealed that an increasing number of people who had seen the commercial thought was actually an online dating site.
  • An episode of The Gruen Transfer (a show about ads) mentioned how there was a serious problem with drug addicts stealing anti-drug posters to hang up on their wall because they thought they looked awesome and reminded them of drugs. In addition, Todd Sampson (an ad executive on the panel) once told a story about how he and some other ad people were doing surveys and talking to drug addicts as part of their research into anti-drug ad campaigns, and he said that the ice addicts thought the ads against ice were actually really cool and just made them want to take more ice.
  • The commercial for the racing game Blur did a Take That! reminiscent to a '90s Sega ad, making a shallow jab at Mario Kart and other kart-racing games. However, the cutesy characters on the ad have gotten many fans, and some fan art too.
  • The soft drink Sprite's "Obey Your Thirst" ad campaign in The '90s was famous for its sendup of advertising tropes, and helped Sprite carve out a niche in that decade. However, some ads from it worked better than others. One of the less successful examples was a TV campaign that poked fun at a fictional soft drink called "Jooky", intended to represent Sprite's competitors that relied more on flashy advertising gimmicks than taste. Even with The Reveal at the end that the people actually drinking Jooky were layabout slackers, audiences decided that Jooky looked like it would be more fun to drink than Sprite, and so the ads were withdrawn.
  • Christmas 2011's Best Buy ads have women buying presents and using them to compete against Santa's gifts. The ads are supposed to show off how Best Buy truly has the gifts your family wants. However, almost all of the ads have the women acting like total bitches and mocking Santa in the process. You know, Santa, the most generous man in modern culture that is beloved by all. Guess who people side with?
  • A commercial for the PlayStation 4 features Lou Reed's "Perfect Day" being boisterously sung by two friends playing against each other while portraying various video game characters. "Perfect Day" is about heroin addiction. As such, it could be unwittingly sending a message about how many people play video games for the same reason some drug addicts use heroin, out of loneliness and desperation and seeking escapism...
  • Many PSA ads that try to show how eating disorders are bad can backfire among those who have such eating disorders. Showing anorexic women who have been reduced to skeletons with a layer of skin might freak out most people, but to girls so obsessed with losing weight to the point where they have an eating disorder, they see the women in the ads as role models, someone they should strive to be. It's called thinspiration. Or, alternatively, they use the commercials and the fact that they themselves aren't skeletons with a layer of skin to prove to themselves that they don't have an eating disorder, or at least have it under control.
  • TV commercials for the anti-depressant Abilify feature a cartoon personification of a woman's depression, which is basically a pair of droopy eyes on a shapeshifting gray blob. It's the cutest depression ever. Later on, the Abilify depression blob was replaced with an equally as cute depression pill.
  • Zoloft ads featured a cute, depressed blob. This one was even parodied in a MADtv sketch.
  • The Hunger Games:
    • When the film The Hunger Games: Catching Fire came out, a number of companies tried to capitalize on the popularity of the franchise, including Subway ("Where victors eat!") and Covergirl with their Hunger Games makeup line ("Soon, you can look a little bit more like Katniss or your fave Capitol citizen!"). Remember that in the books and films, Katniss was made famous because she killed other teenagers in a sadistic gladiatorial game for the entertainment of a corrupt upper class. Ironically, the in-universe Capitol might have put out ads just like these, given the amount of popularity the victors had.
      • The Hunger Games makeup line from Covergirl was especially misaimed, given that Katniss never wore makeup on her own and hated wearing it in the Capitol since it was another opulent luxury (in her homeland of District 12, the people could barely afford food). Plus, Catching Fire was about Katniss helping to start a rebellion against the society wearing this sort of makeup.
      • Subway's "Where Victors eat!" tagline sounds cool out of context, but consider who the Victors are. The first we're introduced to is Haymitch, a man whose experiences in the arena and afterwardsnote  have led to alcoholism. The Victors we meet in Catching Fire, including Katniss herself, are all not only similarly traumatized but also resentful of their continued use as propaganda tools. They are people deserving of sympathy, not ones whose lives we're meant to aspire to.
    • There was at least one line of chocolate bars, which had twelve different flavors, one for each District. As in, the same Districts that are suffering from severe poverty and for the most part can barely feed themselves.
  • NASA have an annual publication, Spinoff, intended to show the general public "that 0.4% of your (American) tax dollar isn't wasted and is instead used to improve your life." The problem with this campaign is that almost no one outside of the space community knows about it (as evident by the writing style they aren't the target audience). On the off chance that the general public do reads a little bit, expect universal negative reactions regarding "NASA's waste of money". In addition, even during the Apollo Era, where tens of thousands of dollars were tossed into advertising, the public notion to abolish NASA has always been the majority — over half.
  • A New Zealand road safety PSA showed a bunch of guys in Halloween costumes going out to a party, but the driver is speeding and crashes into a wall, killing all his friends. It was pulled when campaign response showed that viewers overwhelmingly remembered it as an anti-drink-driving ad because of the costumes and night-time setting - despite the ad making it clear that the message was about speed, and no one being shown to drink.
  • The advertising onslaught for The Lord of the Rings included Burger King cups with the characters on them, and the slogan "Collect them all to unleash the power of the One Ring!" It's unknown whether Tolkien fans were headdesking harder at this or at the beautifully designed bookmarks that turned up everywhere with heavy, well-made, authentic-looking copies of the One Ring attached to them. What was forgotten in the ad is that The Lord of the Rings was the bad guy.
  • This PSA. The message presented in the video is, "You wouldn't get away with it here. You shouldn't get away with it at home." However, a distressing number of commenters seem to sympathize with the man and admonish the waitress for apparently disrespecting him and his coffee (mind, this is a YouTube comment section we're talking about).
  • Jägermeister made a fake competitor ad in Germany, calling it Kein Jägermeister (Not Jägermeister) and tried to show what squares people are who don't drink Jäger. Thanks to a wave of square chic, people tried to get their hands on the stuff.
  • One anti-domestic violence campaign featured an ad with a male and female child. The boy says, "One day, I'll grow up to beat my wife", while the girl says, "One day, my husband will beat me to death." The ad was almost immediately latched onto by advocates of male domestic violence victims as a clear example of how the very existence male victims — who make up between 48% and 52% of all domestic violence victims according to the Centers for Disease Control — was regularly swept under the rug, much less the fact that they make up half of all domestic violence victims, and that there are many female domestic violence perpetrators. The ad was yanked from billboards across the U.S. within two weeks of the beginning of the campaign it was meant for.
  • The Scarecrow is often interpreted as a pro-veganism and anti-meat short. However, it's a stealth advertisement for Chipotle, which isn't a vegetarian-only restaurant chain. The ad is against the inhumane treatment of animals, not eating animals period.
  • Back in 2007, Visa ran an adnote  featuring a lot of New Orleans Saints fans getting ready for a game by buying gear and food (distinctive New Orleans crayfish), getting the team's logo shaved into their hair and other things, all of course paid for with their Visa cards. Near the end one guy at a sporting goods store, wearing a pink shirt with a sweater tied around his neck, pays cash for some tennis balls. Everyone scowls and the jaunty recording of Louis Armstrong playing "When the Saints Go Marching In" stops temporarily.

    That scene was later taken out after gay groups complained about the implied homophobia, but even without that the ad is reprehensible since it suggests that you're a loser if you pay for things in cash.note 
  • A Subaru commercial pulled a Commercial Switcheroo by first advertising a "Lap 'n' Snack," a snack bowl with a groove that fits over your knee, before destroying the television, switching to an outdoor scene with the car, and telling the audience to get out more. Judging by the comments on a YouTube upload of the commercial, many people find the Lap 'n' Snack convenient and would prefer it over the car.
  • The North American house hippo is the subject of a beloved Canadian Public Service Announcement, done in the style of a nature documentary explaining its habits, followed by a voice pointing out that although it seems "really... real", the house hippo obviously doesn't exist, and the same can be said about a lot of what's shown on TV. It was meant to teach kids critical thinking and to not blindly trust everything they see on television, but some younger viewers who were captivated by the fun "documentary" part stopped paying attention once it got to the boring part explaining the message, and completely missed the point of the PSA as a result. Many Canadian kids grew up actually believing house hippos were real because of this, with some of them even staying up late to look for them or leaving offerings of peanut butter toast and bits of string.
  • In March 2021, Burger King tweeted, "Women belong in the kitchen." before adding another tweet saying, "If they want to, of course." and advertising their new scholarship fund to support underrepresented female chefs. Unfortunately, many people just read the first tweet and assumed Burger King was unironically telling women to Stay in the Kitchen, and many accounts retweeted the first tweet without context to either praise or bash Burger King for supporting "traditional values." This led to backlash even from people who knew what Burger King was trying to do, but though the Bait-and-Switch Comment was poorly executed.


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