Some Of The Year's Worst Ad Concepts

Suicide—even if it’s performed by a robot, and then only in a robot’s nightmare—just doesn’t move products. People don’t respond to suicide. Or football players acting all grossed out by seeing two straight dudes accidentally touch lips. Or a digitally reanimated zombie Redenbacher with skin so lifeless you’d swear he just climbed out of a casket at the funeral home. These were among the big losers picked by Stuart Elliot at the New York Times this year as he reviewed the advertising world’s more unconventional spots of 2007.

There were some successful campaigns, too, but we’re not AdWeek, so we’re just going to focus on the failures. They’re more fun anyway:

Bad Ideas


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  1. HRHKingFriday says:

    *I* liked the robot suicide from GM. Mostly because of the schadenfreude of the American Car industry tanking. But then again, I’ll never go out and buy a GM, so I guess that’s not what they were going for.

  2. MrsMicah says:

    Zombies can’t get me to buy popcorn. In fact, they’re more likely to make me lose my appetite. I wonder how that ever got off the ground….

    Ghost of Orville Redenbacher might not have been such a turn off.

  3. Dustbunny says:


    I liked the robot ad too, but then I like anything with robots in it.

  4. kepster says:

    I saw one of the Orville Redenbacher ads last night, so he’s still trying to sell us popcorn from beyond the grave…

  5. mk says:

    Has anyone seen the cell phone commercial, US Cellular I think, where a woman talks about how she didn’t want to leave her dad because he never learned how to read his bill or write out checks. But thank god for the US Cellular employee who’s willing to help him. I can’t figure out if this is advocating illiteracy or just laziness. Regardless, it’s a weird commercial.

  6. Sudonum says:

    “the agency responsible for it was fired.”

    Like no one from the company saw the ads and approved them?

  7. Musician78 says:

    I haven’t seen any of these comercials. *sigh*

  8. cerbie says:

    The Orville thing was creepy. If I’m going to be marketed popcorn by a dead guy, I want those fuzzy grainy old clips, not some new CGI garbage.

    My popcorn came from some Amish folk, though, because all that advertisement doesn’t get Orville Redenbacher’s popcorn into any grocery stores near me (I haven’t tried Sam’s, but I’m not sure I need 10lb of it at a time, so…).

    I actually liked the GM one.

  9. Roadkill says:

    The robot GM commercial made me really terribly sad. It’s failure wasn’t that it was bad; it’s that it was too good and you connected to it only to have the robot commit suicide. :(

  10. bluwapadoo says:

    Uh, what about the “Aqua Teen Hunger Force” debacle in Boston. That didn’t exactly turn out as planned.

  11. catskyfire says:

    If you’re seeing an Orville Redenbacher commercial now, with Orville, chances are it’s an old one. I’ve seen one repeatedly lately, and I’d guess it’s from the 80s at best.

  12. Raanne says:

    Put me on record for liking the robot one also

  13. KyleOrton says:

    @bluwapadoo: The “Aqua Teen Hunger Force” debacle deserves an award for “Worst Reaction by a Municipality to an Advertising Campaign.” I think Adult Swim came out way ahead in that situation.

    I agree. I’m assuming its a true story about someone going the extra mile for another human being, but it’s just too strange to draw actual emotion. Up until recently, in my area, US Cellular was sold by the least legitimate and scummiest car audio installers and kiosks. The idea of these slimy dropouts helping a guy read his mail makes me laugh.

  14. LostDog says:

    I love my MythTV setup =)

    Auto Commercial Skip makes TV watchable again (almost). That being said, I’ve seen none of these commercials. I don’t think I’m missing much.

  15. Is “Volkswagon” a subsidiary of Volkswagen?

    And you can thank Crispin Porter + Bogusky for both the horrendous Orville Redenbacher spots and the VW suicide ads.

  16. @Sudonum: Yeah, I wanna know if they were fired.

  17. frogpelt says:

    @Chris Walter

    climed? You forgot the silent ‘b’.

    I know, I know, English is annoying.

  18. frogpelt says:


    And you forgot the ‘s’ at the end of his name.

  19. quail says:

    My stomach churns every time I see one of those Visa commercials, the one where life turns horribly wrong if someone tries to pay with check or cash instead of with their Visa.

  20. @JackieTreehorn and @frogpelt: Corrected and corrected—thanks. (Must remember to turn on spell check…)

  21. keainansen says:

    suicidal robot was genious! the ad wizard who came up with that deserves a raise.

  22. SpdRacer says:

    The Volkswagen suicide bomber commercial is frakin hilarious!

  23. youbastid says:

    I remember seeing the GM ad for the first time and thinking “Jesus, this isn’t gonna go over well.” While it didn’t offend me personally, I do think it was in poor taste. For a mass marketing campaign, it pushed the envelope too far before pulling it back. The VW one, on the other hand, fit well with the rest of the concept for that campaign. Contemplating suicide over something silly like Reality TV is disconnected enough from the average viewer to be funny. Losing your entire reason for being and actually jumping, robot or not, dream or not, is probably gonna hit a little closer to home.

  24. hollerhither says:

    YES. Dennis Quaid telling me I’ve made an error in manners by using cash…everyone in the store glaring at me… Fortunately I don’t shop in stores populated by breakdancers or toys come alive sooo…

  25. youbastid says:

    @SpdRacer: The VW suicide bomber ad was from 2005 and didn’t air in America (I don’t think). The suicide ad they’re referring to can be found here: []

  26. lostalaska says:

    Out of all of those ads I only remember seeing the Orville Redenbacher CGI one, he’s listening to an iPod if I remember correctly. I remember thinking that looks so weird is it CGI or did they stuff his corpse since technically he is the mascot and founder of the chain. Either way it seemed in poor taste, and the super low quality of the CGI effect just made the whole thing that much more jarring.

  27. richcreamerybutter says:

    I love suicide robot! Also agree that the ATHF definitely worked out in Adult wis favor.

    What makes me stabby is that I have to watch 10 jewelry chains advertise the same ugly diamond necklace design that every suburban wife is going to find under the tree this year.

  28. richcreamerybutter says:

    Adult Swim, that is.

  29. Jacquilynne says:

    The robot suicide actually made me tear up. Even seeing it in its non-suicide version since then makes me think of how sad I was when that cute little guy jumped. It may be a terrible commercial, but I don’t think I’ve ever been so emotionally engaged by an ad before.

    In terms of getting the ad out there and talked about, I’d say it was remarkably successful. I don’t know that I’m any more likely to buy a GM because of it, but I’m planning to sell the car I do own in a couple of years and go car share so I wasn’t exactly in their target market anyway.

  30. Trai_Dep says:

    They would have sold me if they had Reddenbacher peel open the skull of the housefrau and devour her mushy brains.

    Yeah, reaching the Gen Y customer is a b*tch, Madison Avenue, isn’t it?

  31. CPC24 says:

    I never realized they actually made a CGI Orville! Talk about tacky. I thought people were just complaining about the remastered 70’s ads that have been showing up lately.

  32. CumaeanSibyl says:

    @Jacquilynne: Oh, thank god I’m not the only one. He was a nice robot, he didn’t have to die. Bastards.

    Also, living in Michigan, I couldn’t help thinking about human plant workers being laid off after thirty years, failing to find good work, going out to a bridge… eek. Too close to reality, guys.

  33. KJones says:

    If you thought the gay-hating Snickers ad was sickening, read this:


    Mars Incorporated (Snicker’s company) profits from child slavery. They also give political donations to politicians trying to eliminate estate taxes (so the rich wouldn’t have to pay their fair share).

    As well, junk food companies like Mars are lobbying the US government to let them use vegetable oil instead of cocoa butter in their “chocolate”. If they had their way, there would be no chocolate in “chocolate”.

    There’s no excuse for buying their products. Stop now.

  34. youbastid says:

    @KJones: Child slavery being used to produce a product that’s distributed globally? You don’t say.

    They’ve been informed about this and are taking it very seriously, as are Wal-Mart, The Gap, Kmart, and um, every other major corporation ever.

  35. drjayphd says:

    @richcreamerybutter: Do the Jared ads make you extra homicidal? Because that’s the effect they have on me. Especially the one where the woman’s texting (except that shouldn’t be the word if photos are involved) her friends… the only thing that ad was good for was ESPN biting the “He went to Jared!” line for the highlight of Jared Allen’s touchdown catch.

  36. BobCoyote says:

    I liked the Conan O’Brien alternate ending to the robot ad: It puts a gun to its head and blows oil and nuts all over the wall.

  37. UpsetPanda says:

    @drjayphd: I got my wedding bands from Jared, hahaha. I actually really like the store near me, the people are always really nice. I had a lot of problems with other jewelry stores because they all looked at me like I was a poverty-stricken college kid with $0 to her name. So I took my business elsewhere and plunked down a load of money at Jared because they were nice, made no preconceptions about me or my fiancee, and every time I go in there, they treat me like an adult, even if they don’t know I spent money there.

    So their commercials still annoy me, but the Zales, Kay and Shaws commercials are worse IMO because they’re all peddling the same circle diamond pendant or squiggly line of diamonds pendant. So boring…but then again, I’m an art deco kind of gal.

  38. failurate says:

    @JackieTreehorn: Congrats to your anus!

  39. ZekeDMS says:

    Come on, that Snickers ad was brilliant. How many commercials openly make fun of homophobia? The super macho responses were great, “Quick, we’re not gay if we do something totally hetero and manly!”

  40. EtherealStrife says:

    Was that orville ad a parody? The people looked seriously creeped out, and at the end there was a hint of zombie/suspense music.

  41. randomizer9 says:

    I liked the robot one and the Snickers ad, but Zombie Orville Reddenbacher was pretty creepy.

  42. the only thing that ad was good for was ESPN biting the “He went to Jared!” line for the highlight of Jared Allen’s touchdown catch.

    @drjayphd: Oh, please be on YouTube!

    But yeah, I hate those ads too.

  43. @quail: I agree. In fact, there were a couple of posts dedicated to how bad the ads are: