Avoiding the Mistakes of History's Worst Ads

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For generations, advertisements have played a significant role in our daily lives. They want to influence us to purchase a specific commodity or service. Sometimes we even look forward to advertisements from our favorite brands, especially during the Super Bowl!

But not all advertisements are made equally. Some advertisements are so awful that they have a long-lasting negative effect on us (maybe you can already think of a few). In this blog, we’ll examine some of the worst advertising ever made and discuss how to avoid making the same errors.

Kendall Jenner’s Pepsi Commercial

Kendall Jenner appears in a Pepsi commercial from 2017 in which she presents a can of soda to a police officer while she is participating in a demonstration. Much criticism was directed at the advertisement for demeaning the Black Lives Matter movement and exploiting social justice issues to promote soda. Later, Pepsi removed the ad and admitted its error.

Lesson: Recognize the delicate concerns surrounding your creative and refrain from exploiting them for financial benefit. Social justice issues shouldn’t ever be exploited for commercial purposes.

Ad by Dan and Dave for Reebok

Two decathletes called Dan and Dave were featured in an advertisement for Reebok leading up to the 1992 Summer Olympics. The advertisements were made to advertise Reebok’s support of the upcoming Olympic games. However, Dan’s failure to qualify for the games caused the marketing plan to backfire, leaving Reebok with a useless advertisement. Reebok spent over $30 million on the ad campaign. Source: Fox Sports

dan and dave ad
Source: Fox Sports

Lesson: Make sure your marketing effort is founded on a firm basis and be ready for anything!

“Where’s Herb?” from Burger King Ad

Burger King started an advertising campaign in 1985 called “Where’s Herb?” in which they made a $5,000 reward offered to anyone who could locate a Herb who has never had a Burger King meal. The campaign was unsuccessful, and the promotion actually caused sales to decline. Source: Mental Floss

Lesson: Ensure that your marketing effort is pertinent to your target demographic. Avoid using gimmicks to promote your product.

Spongmonkeys Ad for Quiznos

A commercial for Quiznos that featured two bizarre-looking creatures singing about the delights of their toasted subs was released in 2004. The advertisement received harsh criticism for being strange and disturbing, and the business had little success.

AKA: Creepy

Lesson: Avoid trying to be overly eccentric or edgy only to stand out. Also, don’t use clip art.

Super Bowl Ads from GoDaddy

GoDaddy has a long history of airing contentious Super Bowl commercials, including ones with suggestive imagery. These advertisements have drawn heavy criticism for being improper and misogynistic.

Lesson: Be careful with your messaging and avoid including insensitive or offensive material in your marketing initiatives. Don’t compromise your brand’s reputation for the shock factor.


The worst commercials of all time have one thing in common: they could not connect with their audience and relied on gimmicks or unsuitable content to promote their company.

Companies should concentrate on producing real, relevant, and exciting content that appeals to their target audience to prevent repeating previous mistakes. By adhering to these principles, businesses can develop marketing strategies that promote their interests and foster favorable brand perception and enduring client loyalty!

Now what about the best strategies? Check out our blogs on Guerilla Marketing, Promotional Products at Disney, and Damn Good Branding by Torchy’s Tacos to see how these companies made a big splash for all the right reasons.

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(Content Marketing Coordinator)

Ashley is the Content Marketing Coordinator at SAGE. She has a true passion for writing and blogging. In her free time, you can find her dancing ballet, cooking up one of her favorite recipes, or spending time with her husband Joe and puppy, named Pickles.

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