When ads go wrong
Philip Ellison 18 December, 2015
2015 has been a fantastic year for creativity in advertising, with campaigns which challenge stereotypes, encourage social good and warm the heart. There have also been some right clangers, like Bloomingdales’ bizarre Christmas placement which seemed to promote date rape.
But what about the ones in between? Each of the following ads was based in sound strategy, but for one reason or the other, was met with a somewhat mixed reception.
Budweiser USA: #ThisBudsForYou
If your brand is losing market share to craft beer, a Super Bowl ad could be just the ticket. Sadly, Budweiser’s high profile spot, designed to remind consumers how much they love the brand, only served to annoy audiences by mocking tired hipster stereotypes.
McDonald’s: The Hamburglar
Updating classic imagery for a new audience is a good idea, surely? McDonald’s obviously thought so. But reimagining cartoon mascot the Hamburglar as a “suburban dad” was an odd move, and one that the internet branded “obnoxious,” “awkward” and “weird”. So too was the sexist ad which seemed to show the Hamburglar on the run from his nagging wife. (Although in some thirsty corners of Tumblr and Twitter, there were commenters who found the new incarnation of the Hamburglar quite dishy.)
Amazon Prime: The Man In The High Castle
Amazon Prime’s ‘Little Horse’ video is one of the most-loved ads of the year, but another one of its campaigns was less well-received. The alternate history thriller The Man In The High Castle purports a reality where the Nazis won the Second World War and came to power in the United States. The marketing for the show envisioned what it might be like to live in such a world, emblazoning simulated Nazi propaganda and imagery on public transport — however, Amazon eventually pulled the ads after a direct request from New York Mayor Bill de Blasio.
Over the entire year, supermarket group Tesco has been implementing a wide-reaching new strategy, taking the company back to its “Every Little Helps” roots in an effort to strengthen trust in the brand.Tesco Group Brand Director Michelle McEttrick calls Tesco stores themselves “a tremendous piece of owned media,” telling Campaign Magazine; “that’s where people get to experience our service, products, the brand, every day. That is so much bigger than a TV ad, and it should be our biggest brand advertisement… We are really focused on building the brand from the inside out.”
The new Tesco ads themselves aren’t terrible, falling more into the category of “daft but harmless.” The TV ad family is a thing of curious alchemy; while OXO got it just right, other brands have struggled. Tesco introduced its new family this year, starring beloved British comedy actors Ruth Jones and Ben Miller as the matriarch and patriarch respectively. But the character of Freddie, who was supposedly created to reflect the “boomerang generation” of Millennials who end up living with their parents well into their twenties, was ridiculed on social media, with Telegraph journalist Anita Singh describing him as “the worst character ever devised by an ad agency.” But if your goal is to make your fictional family relatable, an annoying relative is probably the quickest and easiest way to do so.