15 Years Of The Worst Ads On The NYC Subway

Mark Duffy
4 min readSep 5, 2019

Ride the subway long enough and you see a lot of shit you’d rather not, including actual shit. But if you don’t close your eyes, you have to stare at something: the floor, your hands, your phone, or often, the ads. Being talked at by an ad while in a New York City subway car is a different experience from being talked at by an ad anywhere else. My fellow New Yorkers know what I mean.

I’ve been riding the subway since 1984, but only the last 15 years as an “ad blogger” with a camera. Apologies, many of these of photos were taken quickly with a shitty cheap camera or a shitty early iPhone.


100,000 Americans die every year from air pollution. Many of them live and die right here in New York. More than a couple of them read this Depressing As Fuck ad before dying. 600,000 die from heart disease every year. More than a couple of them eat at least one fat-filled 7-Eleven muffin in their lives.

New York Organ Donor Network

New Yorkers do hate lines. And New Yorkers waiting for an organ probably do very likely hate to die. (Most) New Yorkers also hate the very real possibility of seeing a corpse on their daily commute — real, fake, toe-tagged or otherwise.

Street Easy

NOTE: This ad was snapped in a station, but the campaign also ran inside cars.

“Haha, look at my loser college EX-girlfriend, frumpy poor bitch. This Hedgie is headed to the edgiest nabe with models and bottles and sleazy gay bars (not there anymore) and bikers (nope) and pigs’ blood on the sidewalks (no), motherfuckers. I’m the Millennial American Psycho.”

NOTE: math equation type ads are always terrible. It’s a lazy overused unoriginal execution linchpin.

NYC Office Of Emergency Management

This was put up after the 2003 blackout. Good one, assholes. 2nd ad in the campaign: “In Case Of Terrorist Attack, Die Then Say Your Prayers. Just Not In That Order.”


This drivel copy reads like it was written by an AI Bot with a 4th-grade brain. What makes the ad even more embarrassing is that Håagen-Dazs was founded in Brooklyn in 1961.

Michelob Ultra

A fucking beer. Commanding me not to sit. On the subway. Carpe my ass and eat shit, piss-water “Ultra”.


You know who doesn’t need money for facelifts? Every single retired corrupt lazy-ass MTA executive raking in multi-six-figure pension salaries. Fuck you inept MTA and your idiotic ageist “joke”.


Way back in 2010, DIESEL invited New Yorkers to BE STUPID (campaign by Anomaly New York). The subway campaign included these tagline standalone posters. A smart tagger who understands irony added a shot of the price tag for the Italian brand’s “Rokket” women’s jeans.

City of New York

I don’t remember which City government agency was responsible for this depressing PSA, but I do remember staring dumbly at the stock photo baby’s face during my commutes and contemplating Dystopia and Death.


The NYPD overloaded transit advertising with some unhelpful scare tactics, post-9-11. Nice poster hijacking by a seasoned NYCer.

AIDS Healthcare Foundation

Again, this poster was snapped in-station but also ran in cars.

Judging by the artwork, this sexually explosive campaign was specifically targeting promiscuous Scientologists.


Taste a Cumulus? Aren’t clouds filled with dirt and dust and shit (and yes, some water)? And couldn’t they find a more appealing cloud? That’s a fucking ugly-ass cloud.




Mark Duffy

Copywriter/Copyranter. My hockey wrist shot is better than yours.