In 2012, some of the worst ads aired had a theme: an overwhelming sense of self-importance. Insisting that everyone take you as seriously as you take yourself can be fatal for brands -- as this ranking shows.
Sure, there are a couple of awful local ads, as always. But you'd be surprised at the big brands who dropped stinkers this year, too. Companies that should have known better, like Harvey Nichols, Chanel and Sidney Frank all made our list.
10. Stanley Steemer: "Rock 'n Roll carpet," by The Ron Foth Agency, Columbus, Ohio
Opening your front door to find Twisted Sister's Dee Snyder screaming at you is most consumers' worst nightmare. And Snyder looks less than enthusiastic about it in a closeup at the end of the spot, too. But Stanley Steemer believes it's a selling point. The entire thing stinks of, "who's the most famous person we can get for the least amount of money, regardless of how irrelevant they are to the carpet cleaning business?"
9. Chanel No. 5: "There you are,"
On paper, the concept is wonderful: Brad Pitt looks women in the eye and tells them exactly what they want to hear. The execution, however, was all wrong. Pitt seems distracted by the weird script he's been given. The monologue alone isn't enough to sustain the concept. (In fact the ad was later recut to add a female character). And the entire thing collapses under the weight of the conceit it is supposed to sustain. Luxury brands need to be taken seriously so that you forget that all they're doing is selling ephemera. But take yourself too seriously, and no one else will -- which is why this ad became an SNL parody days after it was aired.
8. Sydney Frank/Jagermeister - "Uncommon Men,"
Jagermeister is the rodeo clown of the drinks world. No one drinks it because they like it, but sometimes it's not really a party until someone yells "Let's all do Jager shots! Whoo!" Jager's challenge, therefore is to solidify it's place as America's premier party drink without acknowledging the fact that no one takes it seriously. Some self-effacement was in order. Instead, the brand made the disastrous decision to use an actual rodeo clown as its brand's hero, and to insist that men can only qualify to drink the stuff if they're as manly as he is. The result: a hot mess of laugh-out-loud pomposity. (And, presumably, the alienation of its female customers).
7. Gevalia: "Johan,"
There's a way to sell European-import coffee in the U.S., and this isn't it. "Johan" begins by insulting America's favorite servant, the humble cup of Joe, and then suggests we'd all be better off receiving a foot massage from a pretentious Euro-trash dude in a private jet. Leaves a bad taste.
6. Society for Abandoned Animals in Hong Kong: "Dead Dogs,"
PETA has much to answer for. When it comes to pro-animal advertising, the new "normal" approach in adland is to shock and disgust. Surely there's a better way? No one is in favor of abandoned dogs, but this ad makes you angry at the SAA's lowball tactics.
5. Carmel Car and Limousine: "The Number 6!"
Congratulations, Carmel: You've made one of the most annoying commercials of all time! Although Carmel only serves the greater New York area, its ad is so terrible it's became nationally famous in its own right, even getting a shout-out on The Daily Show. The company appears to be aware of how awful it is, and has since turned the jingle into a contest (the prize is $6,666.)
4. Roller Kingdom of Reno, N.V.: "Say No to Crack, Say Yes to Roller Skating,"
Rhett & Link are famous for their faux/ironic local advertising. They make ads that appear to mock their own clients' poor taste, but succeed because the results are so memorable. The joke may be wearing thin.
3. Oxy: "Man Sized Problems,"
Promoting an anti-acne cream, this is one of the most disgusting ads of all time. Given the target demo -- teen boys -- it's probably incredibly effective
2. Alibi Bourbon: "Seriously Hard Liquor,"
It's one thing to suggest your brand might have a certain down-at-heel, ne'er-do-well cache. It's another to insult the customers who drink it.
1. Harvey Nichols: "Try To Contain Your Excitement,"
Harvey Nicks made one of the smartest ads of the year March, titled "Walk of Shame" which suggested to women that sneaking home early in the morning after a late-night hookup might be less embarrassing if you were dressed in something that looked good. It followed up with this unpleasant mess, a huge misstep for such a high-end brand.