In many ways, commercials can become very popular. For that reason, many commercials go on to develop storylines, gimmicks, music and catchphrases of their own, and even include the odd celebrity now and again. A perfect commercial needs to snare attention and do so quickly. It needs to be memorable and fasten the product it is selling, like a splinter under the skin, which is why catchy jingles and slogans work so well.
Although more often than not, advertisers and companies have been known to stray a little too far in their endless drive to snatch customers and every so often, someone has to step in and take back the commercial from the airwaves before it can do any more harm. But not before garnering some well-earned, open mouthed shock value among the more buttoned-down viewers.
Here is a rundown of the 15 naughtiest banned TV commercials, taking a glimpse at some of the raunchiest, most misleading and most graphic TV commercials ever to unfold before a camera:
15. Calorie-Crushing Cola
Ads often face the chop for a variety of reasons. Some are well-founded, but others are just downright foolish; going to the extent that the advertising regulators must believe that a TV audience must be lacking more brain cells, or they are too worried about being sued. The reason for banning this UK advert for Coca Cola is as flat as a, well… stale Coke! The UK’s Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) took umbrage to the ad’s apparent implication that the 139 calories contained in a can was able to be eradicated after a 75-second laughing fit. Far from noticing that the advert is promoting going out and living life, it seemed to believe the commercial was attempting to convince people that no matter how much they gorge on the effervescent liquid that is Coca Cola, they are then able to fizz away the calories by bubbling mirthfully with maniacal laughter.
14. Blind Man’s Bluff
The Levi’s brand has been renowned to have edgy ads and even set a trend where a few songs featured on their commercials went on to become #1 singles. In one of their iconic commercials, a guy strips to his boxers in a laundromat as Marvin Gaye’s “Heard It Through The Grapevine” plays and sets female (and non-straight men’s) pulses aflame. However, a gender reversed version didn’t go down so well. Set in a bathroom, a guy holds a blind man’s cane for him. Later, a woman enters and strips to her underwear, mistaking the guy holding the cane as blind. Of course, the ad culminates with the blind man retrieving the cane. Advertising bodies perhaps sensed that the ad was encouraging creepy and perverted behaviour, so they decided to remove this commercial.
13. Shooting Station
Who fancies a shoot ‘em up? Not literally, of course! That’s what gaming consoles are for. They comprise a huge chunk of the game console market, and both PlayStation and Xbox have a whole stable of games revolving around the premise of guns, guns and more guns. Which is okay when it is kept to fantasy, yet this Xbox 360 ad was considered to blur those lines a tad too much. Its depiction of commuters at a subway station playing “Shoot ‘Em Up!” using their fingers as imitation guns and crying bang was found to be ethically unjust. A little too realistic for a commercial supposedly depicting fantasy, you can say they didn’t jump the gun for banning this advertisement.
12. Sticky Business
Safe sex is always a good thing to promote. In recent years, there has been a concerted move to shed the stigma and starchiness around sex, such as initiatives to add a little spice in terms of comedy – at least in advertising. In the following Durex condom advert, featuring a man heading out to a date, when he sees the girl he is meeting, a surge of animated sperm rushes forward to her eagerly. Their charge is sheathed by a giant latex sausage skin (at least, that’s what it appears to be). It was a fairly humorous way to “wrap up” a commercial in an awkwardly romantic way, yet broadcasting regulators failed to raise a smile at the spunky commercial.
UK web hosting company Dreamscape Networks really know how to create the stuff of many men’s (wet) dreams in their advertising. One of their recent commercials starred Baywatch legend and pin up, Pamela Anderson. If that wasn’t enough to highlight the horny aspirations of this ad, Ms. Anderson was donned in a gold bikini whilst cavorting in the “ideal man’s workplace.” This depiction of male employment utopia included Pammie dancing suggestively with other bikini-clad co-workers, each of them dressed in a little more than their bikinis… just whipped cream. What does this have to do with web hosting one may ask? Maybe it implies this company is such a dream for businesses, that it may as well be Pamela Anderson in a gold bikini?
10. Get Your PETA Out!
The Super Bowl is always a place for risqué adverts (as well as some of the most expensive advertising space going), so it is standard that advertisers pull out all the stops… and every so often, they stray across the field line a little too far in their bids to snare attention and get their product into their customer’s heads. So it was a leap of faith for animal charity company PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals) to throw their hat into the Super Bowl advertising arena, with quite a little curveball. In order to promote vegetarianism, the charity featured scantily clad women getting seemingly a bit too friendly with vegetables… don’t they know there’s shops for that kind of thing?
9. Volkswagen Qaeda
Perhaps the audience was supposed to get that this little car is made of tougher stuff than initial exterior appearances would suggest? Yet the advertisers in the UK wanted to prove that this particular brand of Volkswagen car, the Polo, was so durable that it could even withstand the odd little act of terrorism here and there! Depicting a man heading to the diminutive Polo, dressed in paramilitary style gear, the driver heads to a nearby restaurant, planning to explode the car outside… only managing to detonate himself inside the car! Clearly, this was too inflammatory for sensors and deemed too insensitive, so the authorities cut the right wire and left this commercial a dud!
8. Sexy Spectacles?
If someone cannot see straight, then glasses are the way to go. Since their inception, glasses have been a boon to correct people’s vision, so it is vital that potential customers are targeted. But the extent of the level of failure conveyed by this optician company certainly opened the censor’s eyes wide in shock! The commercial depicts a couple getting steamy in a car and the woman leans down to play a tune on her boyfriend’s flute. Prepared for the ecstasy of receiving the ultimate oral love, the pleasure never comes as the woman is intent on pleasing the gear stick! Such a gratuitous act of obscenity was deemed a little too intense for even a comedy ad and censors couldn’t see the point. However, the woman must have issues with taste as well as sight, or practiced on one too many marital aides, because how could she not tell that she was sucking on plastic?
7. It’s Not Brain Surgery, It’s Advertising!
It may take a hell of a lot skill and more than a sprinkling of guts to go kayaking; however, the price comparison website Kayak didn’t bank on this particular commercial turning the guts of viewers. The scene is set where a brain surgeon is operating on a comatose patient and the surgeon, clearly pressed for time, is searching for deals vicariously through the unconscious patient – who has a laptop open on his lap. Tweaking the nerves of the brain, the doctor is forcing the unconscious man’s fingers to type away, until a nurse suggests Kayak. This little surgery skit was considered a little too “distressing and insulting,” thus it never made the cut and came under the surgeon’s scalpel itself, removed from broadcast.
6. Getting Up Westerner’s Noses
Cultural stereotypes can be downright offensive! In the case of the commercial for Japanese airline All Nippon, what is supposed to come across as perhaps nothing more than self-deprecating humor instead was binned because of perceived “western stereotypes” (apparently, all westerners having curved noses and blond hair is offensive). The commercial depicts two Japanese businessmen discussing the destinations that All Nippon fly to. After which, one of them converts to more western enthusiasm, transforming by wearing a blond wig and a pronounced nose. This is enough to seem offensive to western people, who got the advert banned.
5. A Controversial Hangover
Anything can be misconstrued or thought of as misleading nowadays, especially when something can be misinterpreted as encouraging an attitude that shouldn’t be celebrated. (For example, getting drunk because alcohol makes you a better version of yourself.) This was the accusation levied at a brewery advertisement that aired in the UK. A clutch of people bogged down by their First World Problems, as housing alcohol offers the solution to their woes. Yet the Alcohol Concern Youth Alcohol Advertising Council (try saying that drunk) believed it conveyed a negative implication that drinking improves people’s character and chances of success. So the ASA banned it.
4. Skittles! Taste the Rainbow? Do the Rainbow!
Although it is a Spec Ad, made by a filmmaker to showcase their skills, this commercial for Skittles is so raunchy and suggestive that it deserves an honorary place on the list – despite the fact that it was never actually broadcasted! It shows a couple consummating their marriage on their wedding night. Making love in a style popularly referred to as resembling a canine, the husband soon reaches climax, only to launch his shower of… Skittles all over his wife’s face. Certainly grabbing attention as a commercial, this was maybe far too risqué and graphic for a brand of candy that is intended for all the family.
3. Violent Soda!
Promoting the famous British brand of orange soda, Tango, the commercial features a group of friends gathered on the street and unwittingly, a bizarre man painted orange and clad in orange Speedos runs towards the group. He circles the man drinking his can of Tango and takes the drinker by surprise by landing a double-handed slap on both sides of the man’s face. The commercial prompted a raft of copycat incidents among kids, as friends everywhere “Tangoed” their friends, which led to a media outcry when one kid Tangoed his friend and ruptured the friend’s eardrum. The original commercial was “canned” as a result, and replaced with the orange painted man slapping a hand over the man’s mouth – kissing his hand instead.
2. Tug It Off Air!
Protein drink brand For Goodness Shakes didn’t think the double entendre in their adverts would shake people up so much! It was filmed cleverly throughout the commercial, so that the shakes themselves are out of sight on the camera. Therefore, it plays on the dirty minds of the general public when a man’s arm is vigorously gesticulating at something near crotch level, allowing the viewer to put two and two together. This depiction of men seemingly creating another type of protein shake all of their own, didn’t seem to be “swallowed” too well by censors!
1. Bud Dipping
A final commercial that didn’t make the cut during the Super Bowl was an ad for Bud Light. A couple go skinny-dipping in a pool, enjoying the throes of such a raunchy little dose of freedom, and unaware that beneath them is a window that shows every minute detail of the pool. The couple don’t realize until it is too late that they are being watched by hordes of people, taking snaps of the nude bathers. Such an advertisement didn’t float, and sunk like a field goal and was received worse than Janet Jackson’s nip slip at the Super Bowl half-time show by advertising authorities.