Worst Ads and Marketing Campaigns of All Time

Marketing campaigns that fail can be put down to numerous different causes. Bad timing, lack of consumer interest, offensiveness, and cultural insensitivity are some of the many reasons that could contribute to the downfall of a marketing campaign. Here are some marketing campaigns which took a terrific tumble – resulting in financial losses, a tarnished reputation, and more. Through a Marketing degree, keeping up on reading, and common sense – hopefully you will be shielded from creating the worst ads and marketing campaigns in the future…

Groupon – Superbowl 2011

Groupon is a brand who brings deal-of-the-day offers straight to your email inbox. However, during the Superbowl in 2011, Groupon produced a commercial about the Tibetan people and their hardships was broadcast, showing how Westerners “have it easy” in comparison. The advertisement was not popular to say the least, but this commercial was the “talk of the town” for weeks after. Offensive, culturally unsensitive, and crass – this campaign had it all. Fortunately, this Chicago-based company was able to pull through this PR crisis, and today has a multi-million dollar quarterly revenue.

See the ad here

McDonald’s – “I’d Hit It”

McDonald’s released a “street lingo” marketing campaign geared for teenagers – “I’d Hit It”. Leaving the seniors confused with hip lingo that was a bit beyond them, and teenagers getting a laugh about the phrase’s true meaning of “being intimate” with a hamburger, this campaign was a destined disaster. Perhaps not as child friendly as the long-lasting slogan “I’m Loving It”. Soon after, McDonald’s reverted to the popular “I’m Loving It” campaign, which has been running since 2003.


Nandos – “Last Dictator Standing”

In late 2011, the popular restaurant franchise, Nando’s, pushed a very risqué marketing campaign entitled “Last Dictator Standing”. The advert within the campaign depicted Robert Mugabe reminiscing about the great times he had with other dictators, but now that he is the only one left he must dine alone at Christmas with a Nandos banquet.

Needless to say, the campaign was not popular for the Zimbabwean crowd. The advertisement caused such a negative political reaction that threats were made against managers, staff and customers of Nandos all over the country. On top of this, a ‘militant youth group’ who were devoted to Mugabe called for a boycott of Nandos (entwined with other dubious ‘punitive action’s threats). More, in December 2011, Nandos South Africa stated they would no longer air the advert on South African television – which is consequently relayed to tens of thousands of Zimbabweans ….however it was very popular with the rest of the world for obvious reasons.

See the ad here

TESCO – Big Price Drop

January 2012 saw supermarket giant brand TESCO issue a profit warning after its “Big Price Drop” marketing campaign completely failed to gauge the interest of consumers over Christmas. This caused a whopping 15 percent drop in shares. According to TESCO 5 billion pounds were lost on the price cutting campaign, failing to draw enough customers in to justify these lower prices. According to analysts, the campaign failed with consumers nationwide simply because TESCO had failed to ‘capture consumer mood’, and for years have pushed relentlessly one price promotion after another. It is thought perhaps the brand has suffered a big blow, and has to wise up that the average shopper requires more than ‘big and cheap’ – which is perhaps why family orientated Sainsbury’s had a record breaking Christmas financially.

Coca-Cola – White Cans

It’s Christmas 2011. Coca-Cola released white cans to raise awareness and funds to create a safe haven for the polar bear. However, the problem was that these white cans were too similar to the silver diet coke cans. Travesty! Consumer outrage emerged on Twitter from diabetics claiming that they had bought the cans by accident to realise that they were drinking regular coke. The white cans were removed and red cans were immediately bought back in.

In Coca-Cola’s 125 years of existence, the company has never changed its can color; change it to white and you’re going to find a backlash of angry consumers. The fact of the matter is that the consumer had no choice but to accept this change, having no choice in the matter – why should a consumer sacrifice their loving red can of coke just so polar bears can receive more awareness… geeze!

Credit: FoodBev Photos


About the Author: This article was researched and written by the folks at AgencyCentral.co.uk; the online directory for recruitment agencies around the UK.

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