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The Worst Adverts of the 2010s
As voted for by the Great British Public, the worst of the worst from the Tweenies.
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Remember the Tweenies? That decade of utter disaster from which we’re all still reeling? And I’m not even talking about all the dreadful politics and hatred and suffering; I’m talking about Haribo, Confused.com and Halifax.
This was the decade I really got into my stride and the Adturds website went stratospheric. People really hated a lot of adverts. Not only that, they wanted to read about other people who hated them too; to share their pain and take solace that they weren’t the only ones.
Every year I asked for nominations for a long list of the worst adverts of the year, whittled then down into ten or so and let the public choose the worst. Then I’d write up my thoughts, which are presented here for the first time (in some cases) for over a decade. The following list is what thousands - possibly up to a cumulative 10,000 people – thought were the absolute nadir of television advertising year by year.
Reel in horror at Wonga; sick in your mouth at Sun Bingo; and void your bowels at the abject misery of Isa Isa Baby. For the first time ever: the worst adverts of the 2010s.
2019 - Oral B
Is there a more gratuitous use of a jiggling lady arse and crotch than this advert for… toothpaste? Following painstaking study of this actress’s backside over multiple freeze-frames, it even appears her leggings are translucent – revealing a pretty skimpy thong. Eh?
Stick some of these shots into a 70s sitcom and it would appear on one of those You Won’t Believe This Cleavage And Racism! programmes that litter the festive airwaves on the less-visited Freeview channels. It’s only a surprise we don’t get a gasped “Boobs!” as she works her breasts in some wholly dentally-relevant exercise that involves a close-up of her bristols wobbling up and down.
I think what annoys people most in this Oral B advert is the baffling claim that the lady in question “didn’t even know Oral B made a toothpaste”. Toothpaste being pretty much their entire raison d’etre, this seems akin to claiming you didn’t know the Nazis did fascism, The Daily Mail peddles hatred or Piers Morgan is responsible for more flatulence than a medium-sized dairy herd.
Over ten years of writing this blog I’ve come to realise that some of the things that annoy people most of all are dishonesty, treating the audience as if they’re idiots or what amounts to a kind of trolling via absurd claims. The Oral B advert ticks all three boxes: a dismal trifecta of advertising detritus more irritating than a lump of gristle between your teeth.
2018 - Sun Bingo
If fairness the couplet ‘got fake tits? / but are you gonna bingo’? is perhaps the most on-point bit of work ever seen in an advert. And what an advert it is. It’s worth bearing in mind that this is an advert for playing online bingo – on your own, in your bedroom on a fucking mobile phone – on The Sun’s website. The tragedy of that mental image.
Sun. Bingo. Is it hard to imagine a more disastrous confluence than those two words? Chernobyl McDonalds? Jacob Rees-Trump? Liz Truss? An appalling meeting of minds between the mindless: a profoundly, proudly stupid newspaper publishing content halfway between The Beano, Pornhub and Mein Kampf; a pastime that requires the mental faculties of a Krispy Kreme doughnut.
To be fair, as a proud Northerner, I don’t really have a problem with bingo. It’s that S** bit. Stick that word in front in front of anything and it conjures up a Coldwar Steve world of terrifying awfulness.
Sun Orgasm. Sun Holidays. Sun Heaven. See? Even if you can’t really discern what they might involve you just know it will be awful: a warm-lager, faded-seaside, racist-by-instinct, smartphone-nudes, fast-food, homophobic, GMTV, zero-hours, Primark version of anything you can imagine – with a guffawing cockney soundtrack.
Like walking in on Richard Keys wanking, it can’t be unseen and we will never be free of it.
2017 - Tui: Ain’t Nobody
To me the Tui advert is simply a bad advert – it reeks of undeserved smugness, entitlement and there’s more than a whiff of the Brits Abroad stereotype of us lot swanning around the world expecting the natives to bow and scrape as if we still own a third of it.
And the execution is somehow… off. It’s cringe-inducing not only because it’s just so pleased with itself, but also because there’s something not quite right about it, like watching a stand-up comedian die a death on stage. So simply a bad advert then – until you get to the soundtrack.
Advertising sucks up everything you like and turns it into something you hate. Memorable, see? And so it goes with this rendition of Chaka Khan’s Ain’t Nobody.
But it’s not just a bad version of a song people tend to like. Bound up in its breathy, winsome delivery is a self-satisfaction so antagonising it couldn’t be worse if Toby Young kept flicking your ear and mouthing his tiresome cunting-for-money controversies while you’re trying to reach orgasm.
What is this posh-not-posh, twat-next-door timbre of Brit-school banality, popularised by Kate Nash and Lily Allen? Is its lightweight, trilly delivery supposed to evoke some sort of relatability? Like ‘we know this sounds awful but you could probably sound like this too’? A sort of non-threatening lilt for people who might be intimidated by actually good singing?
Whatever it is I want no more of it. In the Tui advert it’s reached its apotheosis. In this advert Tui has kicked us in the the Ts, crossed our eyes and put a U (for unbearable) in the middle.
2016 - MoneySupermarket: Strutters
Well. I didn’t see that coming. You can add the victory of the MoneySupermarket Strutters in the poll to find the worst advert of 2016 to Brexit and Trump. Somehow the advert has ended up feeling the worst of that shitty triumvirate, though arguably it’s less likely to cause the end of human existence as we know it.
The meerkats have settled into a sort of low-level ‘it’s-never-going-away-deal-with-it’ humadruzz; GoCompare regenerates every month or so in an effort to find a new non-lethal weapon; Confused.com has thrown its no-inconsiderable weight behind the not-inconsiderable weight of James Corden.
They’re all annoying, but none of them wear it so badly as the MoneySupermarket adverts, which also display a wholly undeserved smugness. The freak hit of the EpicStrut advert (I didn’t mind it, but lots of people hated it) has spawned a series of total duds, carpet-bombing the airwaves like the pitiful follow-up singles of an already-forgotten X-Factor winner. It’s a zombie that’s still alive even though all its limbs have been hacked off.
That the MoneySupermarket strutters managed to destroy a field full of debilitating, quite appalling adverts speaks of a deep loathing among the public that outpaces even faeces-packed nutribullets such as James Corden’s Mr Greenlight advert. The #epicwars – with strutters, builders and accountants – may have combined to create the worst advert of 2016, but it feels like Corden will abide for many, many decades.
2015 - Tesco: The Boy
Tesco was the runaway winner of the poll to find the worst advert of 2015. By such a long way that it garnered almost four times as many votes as its closest rival, Clean Bandit’s quite hideous Cortana advert.
This is by far the biggest win of any terrible advert over the last seven years, but I’m going out on a limb to suggest that Tesco’s ubiquity around the time the poll has somewhat skewed the results. Was it really worse than the Clean Bandit Cortana advert? The godawful Haribo ad where they talk in children’s voices? Or the utterly vile Andrex ‘gold pants’ ad? For my money no, but there’s certainly something interesting going on here.
The rather swaggering way that Tesco went into this ad campaign – believing it had ‘permission to be funny‘ and that there was a ‘latent love of the brand’ – only to be met with a wall of visceral hatred – reminded me of the grisly way the Ceaușescus went to their doom in 1989. Waving and smiling to a crowd one minute; machine-gunned up against a wall the next. Hyperbole? Just one look at the comments on the relevant Facebook post, which contains just one image of actor Will Close (the annoying son to Ruth Jones and Ben Miller in the Tesco adverts) and nothing more, shows nothing less than a calvacade of hatred.
20 years ago Tesco had Prunella Scales and Jane Horrocks doing the exact same thing as Miller, Jones and Close. And it was seen as part of Tesco’s undeniable elevation to the king of the edgeland-megastore; the vanguard of a movement that killed off our limping town centres. Skip forward to today and Tesco is struggling and a set of adverts that do exactly the same thing are utterly despised.
Something has changed. The question for agencies, brands, business – for all of us – is what?
2014 - Sainsbury’s: WWI
What is beyond the pale, exactly? Is WWII beyond the pale? The Holocaust? Vietnam? The Troubles? Vietnam? First Gulf War? Second Gulf War? 9/11?
If the vast, mechanised slaughter of WWI is considered a reasonable hook – on which to sell your Paxo, crates of Carling and onesies – then what is unreasonable? Is it the passage of time that makes a vicious, brutal, cruel war appropriate source material to advertise a greengrocer? Or is it something about the way we romanticise wars, as if millions or people being cut up into little bits by hot metal or gassed like rabbits is merely to be used as the set-up to the latest griefporn warsploitation novel?
What if this advert was for Nescafe, Go Compare or Toys R Us? Where does that notional bad-taste barrier reside? Over 15m people died in WW1; a relatively miniscule 2,606 perished when the Twin Towers were struck. Would we base an advert around that?
The get-out-of-jail card in this instance is the British Legion’s blessing and a charity element, but fundamentally this remains an advert. It only exists because Sainsbury’s wants you to do your Christmas shopping with them, as opposed to Tesco, Morrison’s, Asda or – God forbid – Lidl or Aldi. That’s what the function of those people – those real people who took part in this actual event, many of whom probably died violent, pathetic deaths before the end of the war – amounts to in this advert.
The Christmas Truce remains a poignant flicker of humanity amid unimaginable barbarity and suffering. 100 years later it is being leveraged to sell more Sainsbury’s Taste The Difference Mince Pies to a misty-eyed audience waiting for the next segment of X-Factor. Shameful.
2013 - Wonga: Puppets
Wonga got into trouble for making adverts deemed too flippant to sell an eye-wateringly high money-lending service, so what did it come back with? Three grotesque hyperannuated puppets, gurning and twitching around, explaining various ‘payday loan’ scenarios.
Adverts to give you nightmares: if not for the crippling APR, then the disturbing mannequins – like marionette corpses given life once more in the pursuit of selling ill-advised loans.
Enough to make one pray for the second coming just so Christ can twat the money-lenders again.
2012 - Confused.com: Cara Confused
The motherload. A series of adverts pulling every trick out of the bag to make you sad, angry or possibly even dead. Cara Confused may have amused small portions of the interweb by pulling enormous objects from her vagina, but she enraged the rest of the country with her ubiquitous appearances.
The CIA used to blast horrible noises – rabbits being tortured and the like – at South American socialists; understanding that hideous, repetitive noises can be useful in driving people legitimately out of their minds. It revived that trick when torturing Guantanamo detainees, using a mindless nursery rhyme to send prisoners round the bend until they started babbling a load of made-up nonsense just to make it stop.
That’s what Confused.com does with its adverts, only there is no end to it. If you use their service the adverts do not stop. Imagine being tortured. Imagine that, in an effort to make the torture stop, you complied with the wishes of those inflicting pain on you. And then imagine that they keep torturing you anyway.
That’s what Confused.com does with its adverts. They may be non-lethal weapons. But have you ever taken a Taser hit? They’re non-lethal too.
2011 - Haribo: Squidgy, Squidgy Baby
I’m still not exactly sure what happened here? Is this the confused result of an ad simply gone very wrong? Or, more likely, an attempt at a deliberately bad advert? A bad advert so bad that it made Halifax and Go Compare look like an indoor firework compared to Haribo’s Tunguska?
Can you image if you actually, in real life, saw the events in this ad take place? The utter horror of that – your world turned totally upside down. Either you had lost your mind or, or…
The alternative is too hideous to contemplate. But I feel sure the Haribo family would start moving towards you. No smiles, dancing or singing now. Just pure, unfettered blood lust. The horrifyingly blank eyes, the hungry mouths, the chittering noise as they gnash their teeth…
2010 - Halifax: Isa Isa Baby
It’s easy to see why these Halifax ads have irritated people so. Their very raison d’etre is to annoy anyone who sees or hears them. You know it. They know that you know it. You know that they know that you know it. It’s like a restless tween asking you the same question over and over again simply to get on your wick.
Halifax is pretty much alone in the banking industry in deploying these tactics in its advertising, which have been widely adopted by price comparison sites; a kind of carpet-bombing of your consciousness with concentrated naff. These weapons are not laser-guided, they have no precision. They are the advertising equivalent of daisy cutters and there will be collateral damage.
There’s little customer loyalty in these most volatile of markets or much to differentiate one offering from another, which is why they must resort to pester power when it comes to putting their brands out there.
Banks have normally eschewed these tactics, with most preferring to put themselves over as rather stiff, slightly dour but eminently trustworthy places to keep your hard-earned: think of the old-fashioned image of the stuffed shirt bank manager. NatWest sticks out in my mind as attempting to engender some sort of affection among potential customers with ads decrying the transition of bank buildings into trendy winebars. TSB liked to be the bank that said yes; Lloyds had its black horse; Santander has Wild Beasts and Lewis Hamilton; HSBC has those Gambon-voiced efforts that place it firmly as a global banking behemoth, which it is.
But Halifax has thrown off any attempt to make it look respectable, trustworthy, serious or even worthy of affection. It’s going out of its way to annoy customers and potentials alike; displaying its staff as blithering twats and incompetents as if they were working in a shit leisure centre in a sitcom.
This is our reward for bailing out the banking sector. Something that’s beamed into your home on a daily basis with the express intention of putting you in a bad mood. The alternative to saving the banks may have been unthinkable, but the idea of societal apocalypse seems almost preferable when viewing the Halifax adverts.
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NB. Because Substack is dumb the only way to vote is to click on the caption for the image below. This takes you to a (totally legit) third-party site where you can vote.
NB. Because Substack is dumb the only way to vote is to click on the caption for the image above. This takes you to a (totally legit) third-party site where you can vote.
Like that? I hope so. Normal service will be resumed next week. Thanks for reading AdTurds! Please subscribe for free to support my work. Don’t forget to follow me on Facebook and let me know which advert has reduced you to a pathetic, dribbling mess this week. Or, conceivably, one you liked.