It seems like ages ago that we first asked you to tell us which commercials were getting under your skin. And you responded by the thousands! We “took it seriously” and painstakingly whittled your suggestions down to the final nominees for our first ever Worst Ad In America Awards. And now, with more than 100 000 votes counted in our completely unscientific poll, we have a clear winner (or is it loser?) — Staples’ “Wow! That’s a Low Price!” commercial.
With just over 30% of the vote, the winning ad, featuring the loudest, most enthusiastic, downright spastic Staples shopper ever, edged out Quiznos’ cavalcade of costumed, singing animals (28.6%). It goes to show that the mere presence of kittens will always sway some voters.
Two early front-runners, Honda’s Mr. Opportunity and Progressive Insurance’s Flo campaigns, finished a distant third (18.7%) and fourth (15.5%) respectively. Meanwhile, the least ostensibly offensive ad of the bunch, State Farm’s chummy, raven-haired insurance buddy, brought up the rear with only 7.1% of the vote.
THE OTHER WINNERS
MOST GRATING PERFORMANCE BY A HUMAN
The actor behind McDonald’s “not before I have my coffee” jerk might wish he’d slept in this morning, because he was the clear victor in this category (35%). His closest competition came in the form of another pitchman for a liquid pick-me-up, 5-Hour Energy’s Mr. “Do you know what 2:30 feels like?” Well, we’d like to ask him “Do you know what it’s like to annoy 28.5% of our voters?”
The surprise in this category came from Wendy’s “pico de gallo” loud-mouth, who actually received the highest number of nominations in this category from the initial reader submissions. But with only 9.15% of the final vote, he was — probably to the relief of both him and his agent — at the back of the pack when it came time for people to vote.
MOST ANNOYING ANIMATED SPOKESTHING
This one came as a genuine surprise to us. The General (of the insurance company with the same name) came out of nowhere with 32.7% to beat the heavily favored Charmin Bears with their prickly, toilet paper-snagging butts (25.8%) along with Geico’s squealing pig (25.2%). Michelin’s bizarre commercial featuring animated road kill dancing in the streets came in last (6.8%), but we’d have to wonder how that spot would have fared if it had been placed in the Creepiest Commercial category.
DUO OR GROUP THAT MOST NEEDS TO BE BROKEN UP
The winner of this one — JG Wentworth’s busload of opera singers (24.63%) — wasn’t much of shocker, though we would not have predicted that it would be such a close race, or that the commercial coming in a very close second (the tightest finish of the entire competition) would be the Chase ad (23.35%) featuring the newlyweds who’d rather spend their time depositing checks on their iPhone than, you know, doing honeymoon stuff.
CELEBRITY WHO MUST HAVE LOST THE MOST MONEY IN THE HOUSING CRASH
This was a battle of two men — Ben Stein and Jimmy Johnson — who embarrassed themselves immensely by taking gigs as pitchmen for somewhat eyebrow-raising companies. In the end it was coach-turned-broadcaster-turned-Survivor-star Jimmy’s 32% beating out Nixon-flunky-turned-professor-turned-actor-turned-game-show-host-turned-ex-New-York-Times-columnist Stein’s 29%.
In the end, it looks like readers just didn’t want to imagine helmet-haired Johnson taking pills to enhance his… jimmy.
Speaking of imagery just ruining it for everyone, that’s the best way to explain the runaway victory of Liberator Medical’s catheter commercial. Not only is the word “catheter” enough to make many people cross their legs awkwardly, the ad’s opening line of “I had to reuse catheters for the rest of my life” sent chills down the spines (and up the urethras) of 46.37% of the voters. Liberator’s 20% defeat of second-place Old Navy was by far the largest margin of victory in all of WAIA 2010.
Well folks, that’s it for the first ever Worst Ad In America Awards.
We had a lot of fun; learned a little about each other and most importantly, no one got hurt.
UPDATE: With the help of our dear friends at Consumer Reports, we now present to you the winning ad in all it’s glory — complete with commentary by Bob Markovich, Home & Yard Editor. As you can see, his title should really be “Vice President of Awesome.”
Thanks again to everyone who voted, and to the staff of Consumer Reports for lending a hand and, well, tolerating us.