It seems like companies will do anything to get our attention when it comes to advertisements and commercials. And sometimes, they go a little too far. They are really pushing things to the limits these days, with the “shock factor” being the method of choice to make people remember their names. And you know what? It’s working. Methods haven’t changed much over the years though – only the times have changed. Even way back many decades, companies were using the same exact methods. But the funny thing is that back then, our cultures were very different. Some of the things they joked about back then are now frowned upon. Their attitudes towards women are especially suspect when we look back.
And some of these advertisements were actually banned. They simply went too far, and were taken down immediately. This could be a result of public outcry, or political differences. But truth be told, it’s pretty rare that advertisements get banned, even when they do go way too far to grab our attention. It seems like governments have a lot of patience when it comes to how much a company can get away with, and most of the time these controversial and questionable advertisements are allowed to stay up.
And most of the time these methods of shock and awe are very effective on the marketing battlefield. What better way to get someone’s attention is there other than shocking them? That’s what a lot of advertisers have learned, and it’s one of the most relied upon techniques. Some people, especially politicians, make their advertisements purposely “bad” and “cheap” looking, for comedic value. This technique is often quite successful as well, and people remember their names. And if there’s one thing that’s sure about these crazy advertisements, it’s that you’ll remember them, no matter what.
15. Ride Me All Day For £3
One of the cheekiest commercials of all time was for a bus service in the UK. Near-nude women holding a sign that said “ride me all day for 3£” were plastered on the back of New Adventure Travel buses in Cardiff, England. This got a huge backlash from many people, including several feminists and outspoken female celebrities. One such celebrity was singer Charlotte Church, who tweeted, “Hey @NAT_Group THIS IS ABHORRENT! You should remove these hugely offensive ads ASAP. Please complain and retweet.” New Adventure Travel removed the advertisements after this huge amount of negativity, saying they were only aiming to “make buses cool.” In a full statement, a representative of the bus company said, “The slogan of ‘ride me all day for £3’ whilst being a little tongue in cheek was in no way intended to cause offence to either men or women and, if the advert has done so then we apologise unreservedly. There has certainly been no intention to objectify either men or women.”
14. Be Stupid
One of the craziest, weirdest, and most inexplicable advertisements was Diesel’s “Be stupid” campaign. The campaign aimed to celebrate stupidity, pointing out that intelligence was lame and only ruined other people’s fun. The advertisements were actually pretty funny though, and they at least did the job of grabbing people’s attention. The main formula for these advertisements was a picture of someone doing something stupid, and then pointing out that this person was somehow victorious when compared to their more intelligent counterparts. In truth, we’re all still trying to figure out why they chose to make ads like this, and who knows what the point of all this was. The advertisement was seen as fairly controversial, due to its sexualization of women. The UK ended up banning these advertisements, due to worries that they would “promote indecent behavior” and the fact that they were indecent. You’d have to be really stupid to copy the things that the people are doing in the ads, but there’s probably someone who would try it.
13. Lose The Blubber
PETA, the animal rights activism group, is famous for making some pretty hard-hitting and controversial advertisements. But when they put this advertisement up on a billboard for all to see, it met with more controversy than any of their other ads. They definitely went too far with this billboard, at least in the eyes of most people. It was labeled a “low blow” by many concerned individuals and was seen as “fat-shaming” by many. It was frowned upon by the mainstream media, and PETA was forced to remove it soon after this controversy. But when it was removed, they left another advertisement that read “GONE: Just like the pounds you lose when you go vegetarian.” This shows that even in defeat, PETA will not give up its struggle against animal cruelty. You’ve got to give them credit for that. One dietitian said, “It’s too bad PETA feels the need to insult and humiliate people in an effort to get them to eat what they define to be an ideal diet.”
12. Cheating Husband Exposed
Okay, so at first glance this billboard may seem pretty lame, but rest assured, there’s an awesome story behind it. You see the woman who paid for this billboard was YaVaughnie Wilkins, a woman who had been having an 8 and a half year long affair with, you guessed it, the guy on the billboard. In a crazy act, she had decided to expose the world to the fact that he was cheating on his wife with her, and she had these billboards put up all over the country. But it gets even better. The guy’s name is Charles E. Phillips, a major high-roller and the Co-President of Oracle, a massive software company, second only to Microsoft in the production of software. And if that wasn’t embarrassing enough for this dude, he was also appointed to the Economic Recovery Advisory Board by President Obama himself back when all this was happening. This just goes to show, never cheat, because women can do some crazy things when they get mad enough.
11. Cocaine For Kids
For some of the craziest advertisements ever, you only have to go back in time. But the crazy thing about this was that back then, these advertisements were seen as normal! That’s right, cocaine was given to people back in the day for a wide range of different ailments, including toothaches, in this case. Even crazier is the fact that there are little kids in the advertisements, suggesting that this product was actually aimed at small children. Super weird. In addition, this advertisement was actually created after the US “cracked down” on Cocaine products in 1906. But this new legislation only forced companies to clearly label cocaine-containing products, it didn’t actually ban them. So that’s why advertisements like these appear, clearly advertising the fact that the product contains cocaine, and following all the laws in place at that time. The fact that it’s labeled as cocaine only adds to our shock today when we see advertisements like this. We’ve come a long way since then, that’s for sure.
10. Punish Your Wife
The 1950’s were an interesting time. You can see that just by looking at this advertisement. Feminists would have a field day if they saw an advertisement like this put up today. It’s just unthinkable. Here you have a man putting his wife over his knee and spanking her for buying the wrong coffee. Who knew coffee was so important? Actually now that I think of it, there are some hardcore coffee addicts today who would probably have a similar reaction. But to spank your wife? That’s just strange. But back then it was seen as hilarious and witty, and people loved this advertisement. It definitely got people’s attention, too, and that’s what all good advertisements should strive for. The shocking truth is that beating your wife back during this era was seen as normal and accepted. It was just something that happened. Women’s rights movements have made major strides since then, and it’s probably a good thing that we will never see advertisements like this again.
9. Women Can’t Open Ketchup Bottles
Another sexist advertisement from the 1950’s era is this ketchup ad. It depicts women as weak and helpless, unable to even open a bottle of ketchup. Finally, the ad promises, we’ve come up with a bottle that even the incapable and incompetent women can open! I can’t believe people used to chuckle at things like this. The advertisement was released by Del Monte, and it was actually quite successful. Things like this would never see the light of day in today’s world of feminism and rampant accusations of misogyny. Today, you’d be more likely to see an advertisement that jokingly depicted men as weak, incompetent individuals. It’s funny how the tables have turned in this way. If we’re being completely honest though, this advertisement is actually pretty innocent compared to other acts of sexism that were happening at this time. We’re glad times have changed, and although hilarious, this advertisement is wrong.
8. The More You Play With It, The Harder It Gets
Can you believe Sega released this print ad for the upcoming Sega Genesis? What were they thinking? I know what most people were thinking when they read the line, “The more you play with it, the harder it gets,” and it most certainly was not a joystick. Was this an accident? Or a conscious effort to grab people’s attention. To think that this somehow slipped through the cracks is pretty much unthinkable, meaning they knew full well the sexual innuendo behind this advertisement. It’s amazing they even got away with it. It’s clear that the audience they were appealing to was the young male demographic, and that group would have definitely chuckled when they saw this. This advertisement was released in the United Kingdom, and amazingly it was never taken down or banned. Sega was famous for creating advertisements like this over the years, but this was definitely the one that really pushed the boundaries.
7. How To Solve Child Obesity
This hilarious ad was released by the organization “BOLD,” (Belgian Association For Obese Patients). It’s an obvious PSA designed to battle a huge problem these days in first world countries – childhood obesity. It’s more aimed at the parents of obese children than the actual kids themselves, and it’s pointedly urging these parents to encourage their kids to get more exercise. The caption reads, “Encourage your kids to do more sport.” But the picture is what makes this ad hilarious. It’s a tree with a video games platform hanging from one of the branches, and a fat kid desperately trying to climb the tree in order to retrieve his precious PlayStation. While this advertisement is hilarious, child obesity most certainly is not. It’s a huge problem, with kids eating worse diets these days and the numbers are growing. Countries like Canada and Belgium that didn’t have a huge child obesity problem in the past are now fighting a losing battle against it. And the fault lies squarely on the shoulders of the parent.
6. Lego Stops People From Killing Themselves
Everyone loves Lego. But what the hell were they thinking with this one? It seems almost unbelievable that this is actually a real Lego ad, but rest assured, it’s genuine. So what’s the story behind this? The ad features a young man pointing a gun at his head, with the caption, “Kids shouldn’t watch so much tv.” What is Lego trying to say? When you look past the shocking image and its implications, it’s actually a very clever ad. It’s telling parents that kids spend way too much time watching tv, and by doing so they’re exposing themselves to violence and all kinds of things that children probably shouldn’t be seeing. The solution? Buy Lego, of course! When kids play with Lego, they are taking a break from the craziness that is happening in the world, and they aren’t exposed to the violence and unsuitable things that happen on tv. So Lego is using a very clever method to convince the parents to buy their kids Lego.
5. Real Men Get Raped
This ad speaks for itself. The shock value is definitely there, but the delivery is a little off. At first it seems almost comical, then you realize that the ad is 100% serious. The point that the advertisement is making is that anyone – even tough rugby players – can get raped. The ad campaign was launched by Survivors UK, an organization that helps male victims of sexual abuse. One of the spokespeople of the organization released a statement that explained the ad, saying, “We’ve chosen to use an alpha male sport in our advertising to challenge assumptions about the type of men who get raped,” he said. “It’s just as likely to be a rugby player as a librarian, a suited city banker as a hooded gang member. And we hope that by challenging our innate assumptions about the identity of male victims, we can make it even fractionally easier for a male rape victim to ask for help.”
4. I’m Running For Parliament
Political advertisements are usually serious, boring affairs that reek of money and the lust for power. But one man did something completely different. His name was Wyatt Scott, and in 2015 he was running for Parliament in Canada. His political campaign ad will go down in history as one of the most awesome ever. It felt more like an Old Spice commercial than a traditional campaign ad, and that just made it even more interesting. It starred a giant Canada goose, an alien, and a dragon. Is this actually an effective political campaign ad? Probably not. But it sure was entertaining, and it got a lot of people talking – not just from within Canada but all around the world. Unfortunately, he didn’t do too well in the election, coming in fifth place. But this ad he released ensures that he will go down in history as an absolute legend, not just in the political arena, but in the entire world.
3. Paulo Batista
If you thought the Wyatt Scott’s political ad was crazy, wait till you see Paulo Batista’s. Or pretty much any of the campaign ads for most Brazilian candidates in the last few decades. You see, in Brazil, it has become somewhat of a trend to run as a “joke candidate” on television. The air time is free, and it’s become the trend to do this, so countless Brazilians have created their own ads. It’s actually a pretty successful way of getting your name out there, with the average Brazilian appreciating humor as a way to get the message across. Paulo Batista was a serious candidate, but he used humor to depict himself as a communist fighting superheroes with eye lasers. In addition, there is also the fact that Brazilians are forced to vote by law. This leads a lot of Brazilians to vote for joke candidates as a means of protest. The crazy thing is that some of these joke candidates, who had no serious interest in politics, actually end up getting elected. One, called “grumpy the clown” is now a member of congress.
What the hell was McDonald’s thinking with this one? Have you ever seen anything less appetizing than this weird depiction of a “Fillet-O-Fish?” It’s a goldfish for god’s sake. Who in the world wants to eat a goldfish burger? But that’s exactly what the massive fast food company is suggesting with this undeniably weird. It’s a well-known fact that the Fillet-O-Fish is one of McDonald’s least popular burgers, so it’s understandable that they would want to release ads that would boost its sales. But this undoubtedly had the exact opposite effect as intended. Something about this image just makes me stomach turn… It actually makes me less hungry. You’d think that a company like McDonald’s, who has a great track record of creating some amazing and compelling ads, would have better instincts when it comes to releasing ads like these. Someone seriously missed the ball when they gave this one the green light.
1. Would You Kiss You?
Another ad that has the effect of making one extremely uneasy is this ad from Schick. The campaign was called “Would you kiss you?” and it featured several sexualized images of bearded women. The whole point of good ads is positive association. You want the audience to associate your product with something positive. But now anyone who saw this ad will only associate Schick with one thing: bearded ladies. And unless you have a strange fetish for bearded women, this is probably not going to be a positive kind of association. The campaign was released as part of the company’s Valentine’s ad campaign, and I guess the message is something like, “If you were a girl, would you want to kiss a guy with a beard?” Strange, because I thought beards were in fashion these days. But that’s obviously something that Schick wants to change, because more beards means less razor sales for them!