Previous “Bad Ads” posts

Drive to the Sweet Spot 

Wednesday, February 13th, 2019

This post about AI-written spoof ads is from last May, but because the goofy Matthew McConaughey Lincoln ads have continued unabated, it remains relevant.1


  1. A copy of the embedded video is archived here. ↩︎

Freedom! Horrible, Horrible Freedom!

Monday, December 17th, 2018

For the 2018 holiday season, Macy’s created an ad called “Space Station”, featuring an astronaut in space who’s missing both her daughter and Christmas.1 The astronaut video chats to stay in touch with her family. Her doleful daughter asks if she’ll be home for Christmas, but alas, she will not. The mother does have a cardboard snowman named “Sunny” her daughter likely made to take up with her.

This ad was featured prominently during the Thanksgiving Day parade, which included a new floating balloon for “Sunny the Snowpal”2.

Sunny in real life

While I’m sure it was expensive to produce, it is also a very bad ad. When Christmas arrives and the astronaut is still up in space, her family video calls her. On the call, her daughter instructs her to get Sunny and “open it, open it, open it”. That’s perturbing, but she gamely rips open the poor snowpal’s guts, and plucks out a snow globe. Alright, I guess. The bigger problem is this:

Houston, we’re about to have hundreds of small problems.

Apparently, the snow globe was surrounded by tiny styrofoam pellets, which are now floating in the space station’s microgravity. In the ad, the astronaut cheerily feels like she’s enjoying snow. In reality, that would simply have to cause some issues, in the same way that crumbs would:

Koren: Which foods are the most difficult to prepare for space?

Kloeris: Anything that creates a lot of crumbs. Crumbs are very difficult to deal with in microgravity because they’re just messy. When they get loose, they can make it into the air filtration system. You have to find a way to clean them up, and that usually involves a vacuum cleaner.

But hey, maybe Macy’s can make a Gravity inspired follow-up, where the mother comes crashing back to Earth and ultimately reunites with her daughter just in time for Thanksgiving 2019.


  1. As always, the relevant video is archived here.↩︎

  2. Here’s what the Macy’s parade web site lists as a “Fun Fact” about the balloon: “Sunny is an original character created for Macy’s 2018 holiday campaign”. Gosh, that is fun. ↩︎

Not-So-Massive Verbal Persuasion 

Tuesday, February 6th, 2018

During the Super Bowl, RAM trucks aired an ad featuring a speech by Martin Luther King, Jr. There was heavy criticism for the attempt at using King’s words in an effort to sell trucks, but apparently, it’s even worse than it originally seemed.

What’s even worse, King was an outspoken critic of capitalism—and actually decried car advertisers later in the very same speech used in the commercial.

Yikes, indeed.

One Singular Days

Thursday, January 4th, 2018

Come on, Macy’s!

One Day Sale, Friday December 29th through Saturday, December 30th

I’ve seen this nonsense before, but the extra day has always been referred to as a “preview day”. That’s idiotic, but it’s not as bad as this.

One Day Sale, Friday December 29th through Saturday, December 30th

I’m so rationally angry right now.

Previously in things being right in the name: It’s Right in the Name

Lettuce Reflect

Thursday, June 29th, 2017

I recently spotted a billboard around Boston which was apparently advertising, well, leafy greens. I was driving on the highway when I first saw it, so I couldn’t snap a picture, but it later popped up within walking distance of my home. I made sure to grab a photo, so that you too could see Foxy’s “House of Chards” billboard:

A billboard from Foxy Organic, showing a picture of chard, with a 'House of Chards' logo.

Many readers will understand that this is a rather bizarre spoof of the Netflix series “House of Cards”. The otherwise-clumsy “Vegflix” logo on the right side really drives the idea home. Here’s a comparison shot from the actual television series, with Kevin Spacey looking none too pleased at being parodied:

“Foxy did what?!”

Setting aside the sheer pointlessness of advertising chard, I’m left to wonder why on earth Foxy would wish to associate themselves with the only show that makes the Trump presidency seem halfway palatable. I’ve found myself with no desire to watch the newest season of “House of Cards”, because I feel like I’m living it every single goddamned day. The biggest difference is that reality is even more vindictive, and also far stupider. Why would a produce company make this ad? The wordplay involved really isn’t that good, if it’s even good at all.

The ad’s biggest fault, however, is a bit more subtle. It hews closer to the original than might be advisable. You see, the official “House of Cards” logo contains a simplified inverted American flag, a subtle nod to the distress the fictionalized America faces due to the machinations of Frank Underwood. The spoof “House of Chards” logo replicates this. Without this imagery, the imitation might not be successful. With it, however, the billboard is sending a very dire message indeed.

A simplified upside down American flag

Then again, perhaps it’s an intentional cry for help.

Bad Ads: Clickbait

Tuesday, April 4th, 2017

If you’ve spent any time on this here web without an ad blocker, you’ve undoubtedly seen some lousy advertising. While reading a tech site which shall remain unnamed, I was recently stunned by the tremendously low quality of the following ad block:

Let’s take a look at each of the parts of this triptych of terrible.

The first block shows a photograph of actress Rebel Wilson on the left, and a caption proclaiming that she’s lost a tremendous amount of weight. While a quick search indicates Ms. Wilson may indeed have slimmed down some, the photo on the right is simply a disturbingly photoshopped version of Ms. Wilson. Classy!

The second block again shows two photos. On the left is actress Laura Dern in perhaps her most famous role, as khaki shorts-wearing, Triceratops poop-sifting Dr. Ellie Sattler from the movie “Jurassic Park”. On the right is what looks to be a mugshot of some sort. While it’s plausible that this could be Ms. Dern in some sad fall from grace, that’s not the reality. In fact, this is simply some other poor woman entirely. Since her part in the blockbuster hit of 1993, Ms. Dern’s career has continued with parts both big and small, and nary an arrest to be found.

Oddly, this third block is entirely truthful. The former Mr. Heidi Klum, “Kiss from a Rose” singer Seal, is not just a lupus sufferer.1 He’s also a tremendous marksman, and using his techniques can increase the quality of your shooting tremendously.


  1. While it’s very rare, sometimes it is in fact lupus.↩︎

Bad Ads: Logic? Whatever.

Tuesday, March 24th, 2015

Last month, I linked to a piece describing Budweiser’s Hypocrisy. Today, I’ve got a Bud Light ad in my crosshairs. The brand has been focused on the concept of being “up for whatever”, showcasing things like life-sized Pac-Man and ping-pong against Arnold Schwarzenegger alongside their beer. These ads doesn’t make me want a Bud Light, but they aren’t terrible, which is frankly some of the highest praise I can give a commercial.

However, the 15 second version of a recent Bud Light ad for their “Whatever, USA” campaign contains these words1:

  • This once-in-a-lifetime town is happening again.

I just…I mean…it’s right there. They didn’t call it “once-in-a-lifetime” and then thirty seconds later said it was “happening again”. That would be stupid enough, but here, they put it in the same breath! Is this town built for people who were alive for the first version last year, but are dead now? Or perhaps it’s for babies born since the last iteration?

Look, I think I’m a relatively carefree kind of guy. I can be up for most things, and I strive to say “Yes” to new experiences. If you want to run a marathon dressed as the Village People (did it) or take a one-day trip to Iceland (almost did it), I’m in. But I draw the line at logically invalid sentences. I am not up for that.


  1. As usual, the video is archived here. ↩︎

I Hope They Offer Divorce Insurance 

Tuesday, March 10th, 2015

Perhaps you’ve seen the State Farm’s sickly-sweet ad entitled “Never”.1 In it, a man vows to never do several things, such as get married or have kids, then ultimately caves on each promise. Not to worry, as State Farm is there to insure him along the way.

Over at BoingBoing, Heather Johanssen raises a great point. Given that man’s track record, his poor family is about to be abandoned.


  1. Archived here. ↩︎

Budweiser’s Hypocrisy 

Wednesday, February 25th, 2015

I recently saw Budweiser’s atrocious “Brewed the Hard Way” ad1 again, after first viewing it during the Super Bowl. It hasn’t gotten any better with age. Over at Paste, Jim Vorel had an elegant takedown of the whole piece of nonsense.


  1. Archived here. ↩︎

So Pumped for Christmas

Wednesday, December 25th, 2013

This year, Home Depot has been airing a commercial entitled “Holiday Decorations”, and by Melchior’s myrrh it’s got me in the Christmas spirit.1 Watch it and just try not to get some yule in your log.

The basic concept is that your ordinary decorating just doesn’t cut it anymore, so you’d better get your ass to Home Depot, tout suite.

A Real Garbage Display
This is garbage, people, just real garbage.

Let’s follow along with the ad’s incredible “rally the troops” pump-up speech:

  • Let’s decorate. No, let’s dominate.

YES! Finally someone is saying it! There is a literal war on Christmas, and we are going to win it!

  • Let’s throw Christmas…a curveball.

Hell, let’s throw it a goddamned beanball!

  • Let’s do fresh, and wow, and never seen that before.

    Let’s do 100 count, make it 1000.

Your old crap is old and crappy! Buy Buy BUY!

  • Let’s get the season going.

The day after Halloween is not soon enough!

  • Let’s add this, and keep this, so we can have more of this.

Get a box of giant Martha Stewart-branded ornaments, save $6, and your family might finally love you.

  • Tradition? We just made some new ones.

Like the tradition of not being able to see out your windows because you covered them with giant light-up snowflakes!

An Obvious Improvement

  • Let’s do this!


God bless us, everyone.


  1. As usual, the ad is archived here. ↩︎