9 failed advertising campaigns labeled “Don’t do it like that”

The goal of any marketing activity is to get attention. Of course, interest and positive curiosity are best. But the truth of life is that often this attention is negative. Instead of interest, creatives evoke anger, and instead of curiosity that stimulates purchases, it is an irresistible urge to go to the social network and write everything you think about the brand. And sometimes send a couple of complaints to government agencies.

There won’t be any useful material here today. There will only be scandals around the 9 failed advertising campaigns of recent years, which seemed to us the most remarkable.

We did not take mainstream examples like “Switch from a needle of male approval to a male face.” Everything is already known about them. We have collected less commonplace ad campaigns in the top 9.

Let’s say right away that not all of these examples are unambiguous. We will not express support for either advertisers or their angry audience, but simply tell you what rash steps in modern marketing can lead to. Get your krinjometers ready. We begin.

1. Burger King and beauty in the eye of the beholder

In early 2020, the Burger King campaign made a splash on the Internet. To show that there are no artificial additives in burgers, the company released a video with the slogan The beauty of no artificial preservatives. In the video, the burger got moldy in 34 days.

Perhaps the authors of the advertising campaign really thought it was beautiful, but the users did not agree with them. Many wrote that after this advertisement they had no appetite altogether.

2. Valentino and the East

Cultural symbols and elements of national costumes have probably always been used in the field of haute couture. But they did not always cause negative. This happened, for example, with the Valentino brand. For advertising posters of one of their collections in Japan, a photograph was taken with the Japanese model Koki. In one photo she was sitting on a traditional Japanese obi belt for women, and in the other she was walking on it like on a carpet.

However, such images were unacceptable for the Japanese. The belt is a very important part of the national costume, it is decorated, carries rich symbolism and can cost more than the kimono itself.

In response to complaints, the company initially denied it was an obi and said it was just a similar fabric. And then she resigned herself and admitted that the event would be a lesson for the brand.

3. VANS and yellow helmets

In 2019, the manufacturer of youth casual clothing and footwear VANS decided to hyip on a political topic and received an unexpected result. The company released sneakers with a print that featured highly recognizable symbols of the Hong Kong protests: people wearing yellow helmets, masks, goggles and umbrellas. We wrote so confidently that the brand decided to hyip, because the symbols were already very recognizable and completely unambiguous.

After complaints apparently emanated from the Chinese authorities, VANS removed the shoes from the counters, but received even more negative, this time from the protesters and those who supported them. The disappointed ones even launched themed memes and hashtags on social networks with materials condemning and ridiculing the company.

4. Wix and WordPress

Now it will be difficult, get ready. In 2021, the Wix brand decided to use its competitor WordPress in an ad campaign against it. He sent a package of Bose Noise Canceling 700 headphones, stickers, and a QR code to some members of the competitor’s community. When navigating through the code, a video was opened ostensibly on behalf of a WordPress representative, in which he says that Wix has launched an advertising campaign against them.

If you don’t understand anything, then don’t worry. The addressees of the parcels did not understand either. Why headphones? Why Should They Know About the Wix Campaign? Why did the parcels come to them? But when the fog began to dissipate, people became angry. They considered the action senseless and derisive.

But it’s not over yet. Then there were commercials mocking WordPress with the slogan You deserve better, hinting that WordPress is not very good and you need to move to a competitor, that is, to Wix. Of course, the videos were minus.

The result of the action was not only a drop in Wix’s reputation, but also a direct loss of customers: many platform lovers switched from principle to a competitor.

5. SAS and cultural borrowing

Like the example with the Japanese belt, this one also concerns the characteristics of cultures and countries of the world. The Scandinavian airline SAS decided to show how important interactions between peoples (and travel, of course) are for their development, and expressed this in the form of a monologue that began like this: “What is truly Scandinavian? Absolutely nothing”. The following is a list of many borrowed things that have become Scandinavian: democracy originally from Greece, windmills from Persia, German bicycles, Turkish meatballs, etc. The brand wanted to say that travel develops, allows you to “bring” something new home, thereby becoming yourself yourself.

But such a simplification, noticeable especially at the beginning of the video, angered the users and seemed offensive to them. This video ad on YouTube now has 136,000 dislikes at the time of writing, and the company had to close comments.

6. Nike and fire

In 2020, when wildfires were raging in Australia, a collection of Nike equipment was released, timed to coincide with one of the Grand Slam championships. One of the merchandise texts featured the phrase “… to outduel the fiery conditions” (“… to fight fiery conditions”). Of course, this meant the fight against overheating of the body during the game.

Probably, the texts were prepared in advance and they were simply not rechecked before the launch. However, users noticed the phrase and unleashed a flurry of criticism on the brand. As a result, the phrase was replaced with a more neutral one.

7. Cadillac and the American Dream

The brand’s video featuring Neil McDonough, which aired on NBC, was very straightforward. The hero says that he and all Americans work so hard to have all these luxurious things. And residents of other countries prefer a measured life and rest in August. Of course, the deep message of the video is slightly different. Apparently, the authors wanted to say that Americans are dreamers who believe that anything is possible and do a lot to come to the dream.

The American audience revolted. Many noted that on the surface there is a more primitive meaning: work hard to buy expensive cars. As a result, the company stopped broadcasting the video.

8. Groupon and Tibet

In 2011, Groupon launched a TV spot with actor Timothy Hutton. In the first half, he says that Tibet, one of the most beautiful countries in the world, is in danger. Then there is an abrupt transition to the shot in which he sits in a Tibetan restaurant and says: “But they still make a great fish curry!” And he offers to try it in a restaurant using the Groupon service.

The company was accused of exploiting Tibet’s problems for advertising. She stopped broadcasting the video and for another 3 years since then she did not dare to launch a single video advertisement.

9. M.Video and “We’re sorry, but”

If you’ve read up to this point, you will receive one of the most interesting cases. Companies often use the fear of users to miss out. But the main thing here is not to overdo it. This is exactly what happened to M.Video. In March 2021, the company sent out messages to customers with the text: “We are very sorry that you did not have time to take advantage of the promotion for Samsung smartphones. Therefore, we are giving you a promotional code in the amount of 25,000 for a Galaxy S10 smartphone. “

The FAS responded quickly. She considered that the advertising message misleads the user, without indicating how much the price has changed taking into account the promotion, and violates the 3rd article of the law “On Advertising”.

And this would forever remain only a banal violation, if not for the fact that official decision on the FAS website for Moscow entitled “We’re sorry, but you have violated the Advertising Law.” Now it’s trolling.

3 bonus examples

They are not so big and flop, but very remarkable and fresh.

7-Eleven Pajama Party. In March 2021, the 7-Eleven chain of stores decided to open an all-day breakfast point in Sweden. It was tied to the topic of working from home, where you can have breakfast all day long. The company released a small collection of pajamas for the event. So far, this sounds pretty good, right? Only posters with pajamas were placed at public transport stops and in the subway, where remote workers are now infrequent.

April Fool’s joke and Volkswagen. As part of the news feed, the company decided to post comic news about the renaming of the company to Voltswagen (the name refers to electricity, and the brand is just planning to produce electric vehicles). Only the news came out not on April 1, but on March 29. Users did not understand, the company’s shares soared, and then fell below their previous values.

Intel and someone else’s laptop. Not everything is as obvious here as in other examples. We see a creative on which everything seems to be logical: slogan, model, product. However, technical experts have noticed that the image is not a Windows computer, but a MacBook Pro, which does not have the advertised processor. The device was identified by its general outline and touch-bar, and someone even made out a Magic Mouse.

If you had few examples from the article, take a look at the results of “rewarding” the PalmFace Awards from the MediaNation agency. These are separate, up-to-date lists of the most creepy examples of advertising creativity.

Conclusions we drew on these anti-examples

  1. It is impossible to foresee absolutely everything, but you can, firstly, foresee the most probable, and secondly, prepare to quickly respond to surprises. For example, bring the technical support department of services on alert or prepare checklists for processing objections.

  2. Marketing risk is good, but on a small scale. If the very idea of ​​the campaign is risky, it is better to abandon it.

  3. Always, always, always have to think about context. If you don’t have time to track trends, then at least it is worth reading the morning roundup of world news so that your advertising messages do not inadvertently go against any of them.

  4. Additional proofreading of the text will never be superfluous. This is one of the main principles of copywriters. Click.ruthat help create advertisements for our clients.

If you want, share with us in the comments other examples of marketing failures that you know, or the conclusions you made from the cases we mentioned. Well, share your emotions too. It will be interesting for us!

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