Fun with advertising: you’ll laugh, you’ll cry, you’ll be shocked, you’ll be confused

Now that Christmas is out of the way for another year, we can get back to what’s really important: advertising!

It  might not have come across yet, but I take quite a passionate interest in advertising: the good, the bad, the weird…all of it, whether television, print, radio, or any other medium.

So it was with a sense of eager anticipation that I came across Ad Week’s list of The 25 Biggest Brand Fails of 2013 the other day.  And…Oh.  My.  Goodness.  What fails they are.  Technically these are brand failures, rather than simply advertising failures, but they’re close enough concepts that in this case I’m going to stretch it a little bit.  Some of the examples are tasteless, some are just odd, and some have legitimate (albeit dumb) explanations for being so terrible.

If you’re remotely interested in advertising or branding, then it’s well worth the half hour or so it’ll take you to go through the list.  If you’re pressed for time, here are some of my ‘favourites’ (for all of them, to maximize your enjoyment I advise you to watch/read the ad first, before reading the explanation):

Naturally, at some point I saw the link on the right-hand sidebar for The 13 Freakiest Ads of 2013.  And, naturally, I had to click.  And boy am I glad I did.  I especially like how these aren’t all for products; some are for very worthwhile causes:

So apparently there’s this thing called prankvertising, in which you prank a bunch of people as part of your ad and then convince at least a few of them not only to not sue you, but to actually let you use them in your ad.  It’s kind’ve like this, but you’re pushing a product (or idea).

In the Ad Week description for the ad I linked to above for “The Last Exorcism Part II” mentions another ad by the same company (Thinkmodo, who specialize in viral advertising), this time for the Carrie movie remake.

The lesson here is to take note of any new walls that suddenly appear in your favourite coffee shop.

My first thought was, “Damn, I wish I didn’t know that this was an ad”; my second thought was, “It’s a good thing no one went hero in there”; and my third was “Phew, glad I wasn’t in there when it all went down.”

From a couple of the ads in that “freakiest” list, I saw the link to an LG ad that is simultaneously sadistic and impressive:

But from the cruel, we move to the heartwarming, in this WestJet ad that caused my eyes to glass over, ever-so-slightly:

Does this type of thing work?  Well, the YouTube views speak for themselves, but it’s probably illustrative to mention that I first heard about the WestJet ad from American colleagues while at a conference in Miami. For some folks, at least, word of mouth is alive and well.

Now I’m off to enjoy an island-flavoured soft drink and play Street Fighter II.


Lee Brooks is the founder of Cromulent Marketing, a boutique marketing agency specializing in crafting messaging, creating content, and managing public relations for B2B technology companies.

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Posted in Advertising, Marketing

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