Advertisers are constantly vying for the attention of consumers. In an increasingly competitive world, companies and brands are constantly pushing the limits in order to create the hottest, sexiest and most unforgettable advertisements for their products. Of course, it’s not just about TV anymore: advertisers also try to increase their odds of going viral on the web to reach as many people as possible and attract more recognition for their brand. As advertising campaigns make a huge effort to push the limits as far as they can, some will inevitably fail to get the green light once television networks and national advertising authorities feel they’ve taken things a step too far.
As advertisements have pushed the limits more than ever in the past few years, more advertisements have also been left on the cutting room floor. Some are banned from television because the material is simply deemed too hot for television. Other ads are simply bizarre and blamed for causing emotional distress of audiences. And yet others are simply scrapped by the networks for arbitrary reasons and conflict of interest. Fortunately for curious audiences, most cut advertisements are not banned from the Internet and are available online. Viewers can then decide whether the advertisements really did take things too far.
The following are 10 commercials that have been banned in recent years from television for being too hot, to sexy, too risqué… or simply, in some cases, too unnecessarily distressing to air on television.
An Australian condom commercial
In 2013, Australian television banned an ad featuring a couple having sex in multiple positions in a pharmacy. The couple went to the pharmacy to try on a certain brand of condoms to find what felt the best for them. As they were engaged in sexual activity, the man and woman calmly and matter-of-factly discussed whether the size of condom they were using was right for them. Although the commercial was lighthearted in tone and the couple was artfully obscured behind objects in the aisles and counter of the pharmacy, the ad was deemed way too hot for television. Thanks to the internet, however, the commercial still got lucky with audiences online and became a viral hit.
Kayak.com Brain Surgery Ad
In this advertisement for the travel website, a surgeon is operating on a patient’s brain. As he operates, the euthanized patient holds a computer on his lap. The surgeon is able to manipulate the patient’s arms in order to shop for a vacation on the website. Soon after the advertisement began to air in the United Kingdom in late 2012, hundreds of complaints poured in from individuals who said the material was too distressing for those who had had brain surgery before. Subsequently, the ASA, which is the UK’s advertising standards authority, ruled that the ad breached the advertising code in the UK by causing distress and it was pulled off the air.
GoDaddy’s sexy teacher and other edgy ads
Web domain and hosting service GoDaddy.com’s advertisements have infamously been banned from television numerous times over the years. Its few ads that have managed to slide by typically still remain some of the most risqué commercials on TV. Go Daddy has used its “edgy advertising” approach since 2005. Over the last decade, the ads have consistently featured tall, beautiful models and actresses; some of the female stars of the advertisements over the years have included the WWE’s Candice Michelle and personal trainer Jillian Michaels. A crass 2008 GoDaddy commercial that showed celebrity women arriving on a red carpet with pet beavers was banned from the Superbowl that year. In 2010, a commercial featuring a football player who sells lingerie on his GoDaddy website was also scrapped. One of the most recent GoDaddy commercials to be banned is about a hot and sexy teacher who tells off her male students who are “misbehaving.”
Toyota GT86 Reckless Driving Ad
Late 2012 was apparently a rough time for a lot of commercials in the UK, because another advertisement was pulled by the UK advertising agency, ASA, at that time after it received complaints against a Toyota advertisement. The ad featured a computer game style world where a man gets into a Toyota GT 86 and starts speeding through the streets. In the course of the advertisement, a police helicopter chases him before the car bursts through a glass barrier into the “real” world. Although Toyota argued that the advertisement was clearly set in a fantasy world, the ASA said that the ad glamorized reckless driving and banned the advertisement. An edited, shortened version of the advertisement was eventually shown on television.
Provocative advertisements by Carl’s Jr.
American burger restaurant chain Carl’s Jr. is known for pushing limits with its sexy advertising approach, usually featuring women who are scantily clad and seductively eating hamburgers. A-list celebrities who have appeared in their ads over the years include Heidi Klum, Hannah Ferguson, Kim Kardashian, Paris Hilton and Kate Upton. Of course, the ads haven’t always been favourably received, especially abroad. New Zealand deemed the ads unfit for television in their country, stating that the ads would not be allowed to run on television because the women depicted in them are objectified just like the meat they advertise.
Axe’s objectifying ads
A few years ago, an Axe deodorant ad was banned in South Africa because it was considered degrading to women and offensive to Christians. Axe is no stranger to sexy advertisements, but this one took it a step too far because of the religious undertones. In the advertisement, sexy female angels fall from heaven because they are attracted to a man’s axe deodorant spray. South Africa’s advertising watchdog banned it following numerous complaints against the ad.
Scarlett Johansson’s sultry SodaStream ad
In 2014, Scarlet Johansson starred in an ad for the at-home soft drink maker SodaStream. FOX banned the commercial from airing because the ad included a confrontational line at the end, “Sorry, Coke and Pepsi.” In other words, the company wanted to suggest that users of the SodaStream could make their own healthier, more environmentally friendly fizzy cola drink at home. The network asked SodaStream to cut the line from the ad because they were afraid of upsetting Coke and Pepsi (especially since Pepsi was sponsoring the halftime show). The company cut the televised version but posted the uncensored version online. So SodaStream turned to social media and used the hashtag #sorrycokeandpepsi to promote the full version of the ad, and Johansson also asked her fans to help make the ad go viral. It worked, and over 14 million people have watched the uncensored version.
XXL Sporting Goods zombie commercial
An advertisement for a Scandinavian sporting goods store called XXL was banned in 2012 in Norway for being too disturbing to audiences. The horror-film style advertisement featured zombies chasing and eating innocent people in an otherwise calm and quiet suburb. Some of the zombies’ victims were, conveniently enough, scantily-clad women. After the initial attack of the zombies, the people in the neighborhood began to fight back at the monsters with sports equipment like golf clubs and footballs. Despite the relatively humorous and upbeat tone of the ad, complaints immediately began pouring in to the company because of the scary theme that the advertisement depicted. As a result, the commercial was pulled from primetime television.