It was a simpler time, back then … before the rise of DVRs and streaming video services.
Back then, when people said they were “watching TV,” they meant that they were actually watching TV -- a.k.a. watching the programming that the TV stations were broadcasting.
During those early days of TV watching, viewers had no choice but to sit through the advertisements that played during their favorite shows. You just had to sit there and let the interruptive gloating of businesses wash over you, like a giant wave. A giant, loud, annoying wave.
Of course, not all TV ads were, or are, completely awful. (And yes, by “are” I’m reminding you that companies still pay for TV ads.)
Despite their interruptive nature, some TV ads actually do a good job of reaching a target audience and encouraging folks to engage with companies online. In our new guide, Inboundy Outbound: How to Do Traditional Marketing the Inbound Way, I dive a little deeper into how marketers can use TV to supplement their inbound strategies.
But before exploring the right way to do TV ads, I highly recommend watching the ads below, as they’ll give you a greater understanding of what not to do.
In no particular order ...
Ready for the best haircut ever? "Simply connect the Flowbee to your home canister vacuum" and you'll be good to go!
Alright, let's try to ignore the fact that this ad is promoting a vacuum attachment ... for your head. There's another problem here: no discernible target audience. Old or young, man or woman, if you have hair (and access to a canister vacuum), Flowbee seems to think you'd be a great fit for this product.
But given its yellow, power tool-like look, and its propensity for making 90s-style hairdos look even 90s-er, I can picture one person using this device on the reg: Tim "the tool man" Taylor.
Easy-Off Bam (Bam!)
This (this) TV ad (ad) gets old (old), ruh-really fast.
In what I can only describe as an attempt to keyword-stuff a TV ad -- and, presumably, drive viewers to the brink of madness -- this cleaning solution commercial relies on repetition and loud noises (bam!) instead of delivering a coherent message.
Here's another ad that focuses on theatrics instead of value, loud noises instead of coherence, and break dancing instead of ... not breaking dancing. Why is everybody dancing? And how does the product or service advertised here actually work? Are they going to come to my house and buy my car, or do I have to drive my car somewhere? I remember hearing something about a VIN number, but then I got distracted by this dude's fancy footwork.
There's really nothing I can say about this Facebook ad that this (NSFW) parody video didn't already cover. I'll let you enjoy. :)
Kmart: Giffing Out
I totally know how this one went down.
Someone came into the office with a brilliant idea: “Hey, GIFs are a thing on the internet … let’s force them awkwardly into a commercial about Christmas shopping at Kmart. Cause, you know, it’s an internet thing!”
If an online trend or meme doesn't fit naturally within the scope of what you're offering, you may want to rethink your approach. In this case, buying a car-load of Christmas presents has precisely zero to do with GIFs. And yet, the two get mashed together in the ad (with less than stellar results).
Cadillac ELR: Poolside
Yeah, America! We're hardworking and tough! And Europeans are lazy. Vroom vroom!
(Also, real Americans buy Cadillacs, so you better get on that.)
To me, the messaging of this ad comes across as divisive. Or, as an anonymous colleague of mine put it, "Car ads are largely aspirational. This one is for guys who aspire to be overly patriotic, xenophobic, workaholic materialists who have an asynchronous interest in conservation. Not sure that's a very large demographic."
Dr. Pepper Ten: It's Not For Women
Alright already, we get it: You want to market a low-calorie soft drink to men. But using the catchphrase "It's not for women"... really?
I can't confirm it, but I'm pretty sure this ad idea came out of one of the world's most celebrated think tanks: the He-Man Women Haters Club.
(That's a Little Rascals reference, for those of you who aren't familiar with Alfalfa and the gang.)
GoDaddy: Perfect Match
Bruce Horovitz from USA TODAY nailed the explanation for why this ad was so ill-received. And it had nothing to do with the perceived attractiveness of either party involved.
"The issue is the utterly forced nature of this marathon kiss," noted Horovitz. "It looks and sounds yucky."
Safestyle Window Man
This ad definitely dances along the border of "so bad, it's good" territory. The shouting, the outfit, the awkward, extended pause at the very end -- there is definitely something strange going on here.
What really stuck out to me though was the knocking over of all the window frames. Why was he doing that? Was he demonstrating how strong they were? Because it seemed like he was just damaging his inventory. Yikes.
Know any other awful TV ads that you'd like to share? Sound off in the comments section below.
Originally published Jul 30, 2014 8:00:00 AM, updated July 28 2017