Rants on all the ads that suck. Updated whenever it tickles my fancy to do so. Now moved to http://adsthatsuck.ca

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Sometimes, focus groups pay off.

Okay, an easy one today, since I'm on vacation. This has made it around the net a few times, but here it is again. Not so much an ad that sucks, but definitely a logo that... ahem... sucks.

Now here's a good example of something extremely obviously bad that just made it in under the radar. To be honest, I don't know how this could have happened. Seems to me, somewhere along the way, someone - a printer, a board member, a casual observer would have said something. But... I guess not.

So here we are.

By the way, do a Google search for Arlington Pediatric Center, and I defy you to find their actual site and not someone referencing their (now old) logo.

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That's hot.

Sometimes, even ads that suck can yield amazing results. A few weeks back, I came across the infamous Paris Hilton Hardee's ad, which features her, half naked on a car for 28 seconds, followed by two seconds of her eating a burger.

Technically, as an ad, it sucks. Paris Hilton has nothing to do with hamburgers, the ad has nothing to do with hamburgers, and the spot spends too much time building up to the "surprise ending" and not enough focusing on the product itself.

However, as a campaign, it was brilliant. Prudish mothers screamed that it was soft-core porn. Horny teenage boys searched for it fervently. Because of the outcry over this ad, the spot generated so much web traffic that it crashed the fast food chain's servers.

During the week directly after the spot first aired, internet searches for Hardee's increased by 802% during the week of May 21.

As much as it pains me to say it... this ad does not suck. Don't get me wrong, I dislike Paris Hilton, as much as the next person, and if it weren't for the internet, this would have fallen flat on its face, but there are a number of lessons here.

1. Creating controversy is the easiest way to get international news coverage
2. If you can manage to make your television spots into internet memes, you are essentially turning television into an interactive medium.
3. Sometimes, it pays to take a ridiculous chance.

Don't worry... I wouldn't leave you hanging. The ad is right here.

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They fixed it!

For those of you who visited last night, my apologies for the failed attempt to make an entry from my cellphone... clearly, I am not nearly enough of a geek to try to pull off something like that.

Anyway, for those of you who have read this entry, you'll be happy to know that they fixed it:

See how easy it is not to suck?

My apologies for my lousy camera phone.

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While we're on the subject...

Seems that the HP people aren't the only ones at a loss for originality. According to an article from Fast Company, CP+B are reviving Coke's 1971 Hilltop ad for a new generation.

The new spot will be renamed "Chilltop" and the lyrics will be changed thusly:

I'd like to teach the world to chill, take time to stop and smile
I'd like to buy the world a Coke and chill with it a while.

Pardon me while I vomit on my advertising degree.

I don't know when this happened, exactly - when it became the norm to just bring back good ideas and revise them rather than coming up with new good ideas. To me, advertising is an art - but good art can't be this derivative. Even Shakespeare got his plots from other playwrights sometimes... A Comedy of Errors was based on Plautus' The Brothers Menaechmus. But to take such a classic spot and capitalize on it, and call it an original idea - there's just something fundamentally wrong with that.

The story behind the ad >

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You can't go home again.

You're right, Thomas Wolfe. You can't. Similarly, you can't resurect a great campaign and expect it to have the impact it did when it first aired.

Everyone remembers (and, would wager, could sing) the old HP steak sauce ad with the lounge-singing cow in a field:

Can you imagine...
How much I love youuuu

You know the only one for me, YEAH!
Could ever be YOU!
My arms won't free you and my heart won't...


The campaign was brilliant, because it was memorable (it aired in the 1994, apparently, so I was no more than 14), and it tied in with HPs slogan "Makes Beef Sing."

However, some people can't let the past stay in the past, so now we have this:

A watered-down, lame version of this spot, which is a shadow of its former self. Those who didn't already know this spot will most likely not remember this one. The cow sings something different in this version, but I'll be damned if I can remember it.

I can only imagine how the creative meeting for this went:
"Hey... you got any good ideas?"
"Not really. You?"
"No... but remember that great one from the 10 years ago? Let's do that."

Jim Carrey said in his stand up act once: "You can always tell how pathetic someone is by how far back they have to reach for glory." This commerical is the media equivalent of the old man in the bar talking about how fast he used to run in highschool.

We ran into the same thing a couple of years ago with the War Amps commercial where they brought back Astar. The difference was, they redid the commercial shot for shot in a computer animated format... and it was lame. Just as it would be lame if I recreated the Mona Lisa. It might look identical, but it wouldn't mean nearly as much as the original.

I'm not saying that you can't use the past for inspiration, but keep things fresh. Don't try to milk success for more than it's worth, or you'll just end up ruining the memory of the success you're copying. This was a spot that deserved a decent burial.

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Brand Mangling

I did a Google search for the term "brand mangling" and wasn't able to find it, so for now, I can't give credit to the person who first said it, so I'm going to take a leap of blind arrogance assume I'm the first to coin the phrase. As such, it is my humble duty to define this concept.

Brand mangling occurs when a brand switches hands, be it to another agency, another creative director or to another company. The new people see the success in the brand, so they want to keep it, but regardless, it changes - either because the person, company, or in this case, client taking it over doesn't get the brand, lacks the skill to keep it fresh, or wants to put their mark on it - usually a move of sheer ego.

What ends up is a campaign that is a shadow of its former self. It's not necessarily worse, it's just different, but it's trying to be the same. Imagine if they recast the voice of Homer on the Simpsons, and you'll know exactly what I mean.

This is the case of Fido, which was recently taken over by Rogers Communications. Fido had built up a great brand, the cornerstone of which was their television campaign featuring the "CEO" of Fido and his group of executive dogs.

Their latest commercial features the same CEO, taking one of his "star executives" out for lunch to reward him for coming up with something like free weekends or free incoming calls from people named Steve, or something like that.

The dog proceeds to eat off of his plate very loudly, embarassing everyone in the five-star restaurant. The end.

There's nothing wrong with this ad, but it's a decidedly different flavour from their old ads, which frankly, took a long time to hit their stride.

There's no point in going on with a campaign just because. I'm a big proponent of extending campaigns over a long period of time to get the most mileage out of them, but if you're not going to keep a forward momentum, then come up with something new. If your new chef can't create your signature dish - take it off the menu.

I should mention at this point... if you do know where the term "brand mangling" came from, feel free to email me.

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Advertising Plagiarism

Answers.com defines 'plagiarism' as "the act of plagiarizing."

Not very helpful, but luckily for us, a more useful definition follows:

Literary theft. Plagiarism occurs when a writer duplicates another writer's language or ideas and then calls the work his or her own.

We don't normally think about plagiarism when it comes to advertising. Copywriters are always borrowing ideas from here and there, making reference to something in popular culture, or completely ripping off another ad campaign (cough, cough TagBodySpray... cough).

However, if we're going to read advertising as a literary vehicle, plagiarism is something that needs to be taken into consideration.

If Mr. Sub was a student, he would most likely be required to withdraw from his course of study at Sandwich University. The Canadian sub chain, which is well-known for having absolutly terrible commercials and no particular marketing savvy whatsoever, recently launched what might be the most blatant case of advertising plagiarism I've ever seen.

If you've seen Napoleon Dynamite, you have to see the total ripoff in this commercial:

Just in case you haven't seen this commercial, there is no mistaking the ripoff... he looks and talk like the character from the movie.

"Do you have green olives?"

Honestly... if you don't have an original idea in your head - DON'T GO INTO ADVERTISING!
If you want Napoleon Dynamite for an ad, pay for it, and get the real guy. This is blatant, pathetic, and to be perfectly honest, it would look good on Mr. Sub if they were to get sued by Fox Searchlight for copyright infringement.

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My triumphant return

Hello, all my little web denizens.

First, I must apologize for not posting anything for the past month. I've been insanely busy at work, and being the perfectionist I am, have had a nagging little problem with the site that I just haven't been able to put my finger on.

In the past month, I've invested in my media-geekiness and now have a way to capture commercials that suck and post stills here - they're very difficult to find online. Also, stay tuned for some fairly major changes. My thinking is that I'm going to make this whole deal a little bit more interactive, and to change my focus slightly to allow for applauding ads that don't suck. It'll probably take a few months for that to happen, however, so don't just sit there hitting refresh. Unless, of course, your life is completely meaningless. I'm not going to tell you what to do with your time.

Anyway... on to the ranting...