Foote Cone & Belding, Chicago
The chicken-flavored donuts these people sell are tasty. They're also pretty much death on a drumstick. So imagine the world's surprise to discover fried chicken equated with healthy eating. "Remember how we talked about eating better?" says the wife to her hubby. "Well, it starts today." Whereupon she presents... a 12-wad bucket of KFC. This finger-extendin'-bad disinformation gambit was denounced by some, ridiculed by others and targeted by the FTC. KFC then quickly killed the ads - amid still more fat lies that the campaign had run its course.
2 Miller Lite
Ogilvy & Mather, New York
Speaking of cynical and desperate acts, Miller Brewing determined to use advertising to revive the brand that advertising had destroyed, decided to go for the gonads: Two hooterrific women cement wrestling in their bras, with an apparent lesbian aftermath. To the insufficiently evolved-i.e., all men-it had its appeal; in the end we are all animals. But the target audience's primal urges are no excuse. Civilization is all about subordinating our baser instincts in order to live together in peace, order and mutual respect. And beer advertising should be about selling beer, which this outrage certainly did not.
3 Dodge Ram
And speaking of sparing no adolescent vulgarity to pander to the male target, Dodge's idea of breaking through was showing one man choking to death before getting "Heimliched" by sudden-braking truck, and-in a later spot-two guys standing at urinals talking about extra length. O, the wit! Or, at least, half of it. The puerile thinking behind these junior-high-school pranks has no place in advertising. Let's put aside for the moment that this nonsense doesn't sell trucks. Have these people not one shred of respect for the public, or for themselves? Answer: no.
Cliff Freeman & Partners, New York
And speaking of the class clown making a fool of himself trying to impress the other kids, Cliff Freeman is the kid making the fake fart sounds and winning no friends doing it. Quizno's has one of the more compelling USPs in the category. But it is eschewed in favor of a recycled unfunny and irrelevant joke (the expert so "focused" he forgets to wear pants) from a 2000 Sutter Home wines spot. Then, maybe because that was insufficiently irrational, it gave us an image of a man sucking on a wolf teat. Let's say that again. Sucking on a wolf teat. Hungry yet?
Arnell Group, New York
And speaking of using the client's money to make people laugh, the quintessential example would have to be Terry Tate, office linebacker, a wet-your-pants funny Super Bowl spot about a fictional office enforcer who will knock you sideways if you don't have your reports filed on time. Of course, it had not a single thing to do with Reebok sneakers, but it did turn the brand around. Wait. No it didn't. (Although the rapper lines of footwear fronted by Jay-Z and 50 Cent did juice sales). What Terry Tate did was get downloaded, like Paris Hilton's hotel-snack video, and about as good for sneaker sales.
6 Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Association
R&R Advertising, Las Vegas
And speaking of getting carried away with the gag, did you hear the one about the Shriner who goes to Vegas for a wild weekend and turns up missing, leaving behind only his dentures? That was an actual commercial advertising Las Vegas as a destination. OK, the Disney of the Desert positioning didn't work too well. We get that. And debauchery has its allure. A spot about a young woman who winds up married to a hot young Latin man is charming and provocative. But the chance to vanish in thin air is not a come-on. It is an invitation to stay home.
Mendelsohn/Zien, Los Angeles
And speaking of using your valuable advertising time to repulse customers, a 30-second spot from Hardee's focused on the chain's longstanding problems with-we swear to God-nauseating stench. The spot shows an 18-year-old ex-customer who recalls, with pained facial expressions, his total disgust over his last Hardee's meal. "The whole place just smells like fried chicken," he says, with disgust. So Hardee's dumped fried chicken from the menu. How the chain could turn its back on such a healthful entree is a mystery. Associating its restaurants with chicken stink is bizarre.
8 General Motors Corp.
McCann-Erickson Worldwide, Troy, Mich.
And speaking of overdosing on truth serum, "Thirty years ago, GM quality was the best in the world," said the subheadline in one magazine spread. "Twenty years ago it wasn't." Duh. Now they want credit for turning things around? Having spent decades and billions achieving quality parity, GM is unable in its ordinary divisional promotion to communicate that. And despite priceless brands containing unimaginable reserves of equity-the owners can't seem to find the combination to the vault. So now they're telling us this isn't your father's General Motors? We don't believe them.
9 Chrysler Pacifica
Arnell Group, New York
And speaking of trying to influence the market instead of vice versa, here comes a very nearly perfect car for the times-a near-luxury minivan/SUV hybrid-and the manufacturer prices it too high and declines in its ads to reveal the goods. What it reveals is many glimpses of middle-brow singer, Celine Dion looking all ethereal and stuff. And of course, as the first woman ever to give birth, uniquely credible. Does Peter Arnell know how to sell celebrities to clients? Oh yes, he surely does. Do these celebrities ever move any merchandise? Hmmm, let's think.... ummm, no.
Heye & Partner, Munich, Germany
This advertiser will tell you that this campaign has turned the business around. Baloney. (Or would that be "Canadian bacon?") The dinner salads-which served the public's desire to have a low-fat option- turned things around. That trend had taken hold just before this brand campaign broke, whereupon the sudden enormous media weight also had its effect. But "I 'm Lovin'It" is not the youth magnet the client imagines it to be. The first spot was atrocious. The subsequent ones have been mainly just lame. It's the Mentos campaign, basically, with mayonnaise.