(I was about to start this post last month when my best friend of 40 years was killed by COVID-19. It then went from the back burner to behind the stove, where it was partially eaten by large rats.)

Here’re are five of the worst ads from a shit-awful year.

KFC (Australia)

Tits. What can’t they sell? Right, Nando’s?

KFC’s response: “We apologise if anyone was offended by our latest commercial. Our intention was not to stereotype women and young boys in a negative light.”

The horny young boy still (barely) alive in me was not offended. But it’s…

Nine ads. They are not “great” ads. I saw zero great ads this year. I also bookmarked about 20 better than average ads, but that’s “better than average” for 2020, which is just not very good. 2020 was the worst year in advertising creativity that I’ve ever seen (and that’s not just because of the Pandemic), and I’ve been doing this ad critiquing shit basically full-time for 15 fucking years. As long as somebody is willing to pay me to keep up with this stupid industry (thank you Resume Magazine, thank you great country of Sweden), I’ll keep doing it…

Lawyers loathe creativity because creativity means “unconventional” even “risky” thinking, going out on a limb. Corporate lawyers hate limbs.

Below are a hypothetical in-house lawyer’s responses to ad creatives in hypothetical internal tagline meetings. The lawyer’s counter-taglines are on the right.

LAWYER: What does “good” mean to you, dipshits? Well, to insurance customers, good means (makes air quotes) “fucking fantastic”. Are you comfortable with saying You’re in (makes air quotes) “fucking fantastic” hands? Didn’t think so…

For about 20 years — late 1930s to late 1950s — disembodied living human heads ruled over American print advertising. For celebrity endorsements, it was a way to get famous faces up big in the layouts. I tried and failed to find the person or agency that started this creepy ad technique. But they most certainly deserve a place in the Advertising Hall Of Fame.

I’ve seen hundreds of these ads in the last 15 years. These are the most disturbing.

“My theoretical lungs are pleased.”

On his way to becoming the 40th President, Reagan starred in a 1951 film where he tried to teach…

Fellow veteran creatives: how many stock photos have you looked at in your career? Tens of thousands? Hundreds of thousands? You know the mental pain of pathetically endlessly scrolling through absolutely awful images for clients who don’t want to pay for photo shoots. When you actually find a usable image, it’s fucking euphoric. These here are far from usable.

WTAF with this photo, “A man with two heads and no arms or legs sits in a chair. One head is asleep, the other stares into the camera.” Ehh, one set of nipples?

Writing good ads is not hard. You do not have to be a good writer to write good ads (See: Me). And yet there are many, many writers — many of them very good writers — writing ads who shouldn’t be writing ads. See below (in no particular order).

  1. Dasani (USA)
No, that’s not me in the reflection.

Water you saying, Dasani? Does the bottle say “water” when you open it? Does “Dasani” mean “water” in a language from another dimension? And anyway, shouldn’t it be “No other water says “Semen” quite like this water”?

2. Dior Sauvage (USA)

“Wild” Depp

Ignoring the tasteless Native American appropriation…

The Incomprehensible Language Of Modern Marketing

Digital Marketers have rejiggered English. Why? Opaqueness. They need to make themselves seem like they know things you don’t (They don’t.). What better way to do that than to invent a sub-language, a language that takes existing words and uses them in new, befuddling “insidery” ways.

L — “I like the plasmic nature of your data modelling” R — “Knowledge is Porridge”

These newspeak-ers— compare to Communications “Guru” Stewart Pearson [above] from the hilarious British political satire show The Thick Of It have a common favorite place to befuddle: the hallowed almighty Whiteboard. …

I watch ads. I watch (or look at) almost every produced (and fake) ad every year, year after motherfucking year. It is not a rewarding experience. This year was especially unrewarding. Creativity is losing the battle against Technology, against digital marketers who don’t know their ads from a hole in the ground, against “collaboration” ads by committee.

But! Every year, I find a few sparkling gems in the massive heap of advertising dung. Let’s celebrate rare wondrous Creativity, while we still can.

Pohjola Insurance (Finland)

Reincarnation is not a new advertising trope. But to use it in life insurance…

Ad creatives — at least the good ones — are always trying to “push the envelope” on their concepts, continually challenging themselves: “It’s good, but could it be better?”

But sometimes creatives, particularly art directors, don’t just push the envelope, they put a letter bomb in it and ram it into their brain’s right hemisphere. The result: Incomprehensible Insanity.

On rare occasions, the result is great senselessness, like the Skittles “Touch” ad (and several subsequent Skittles ads.)

Usually though, the result is inane senselessness, like so…

Aruba Tourism (Colombia)

Headline: You Know It’s Time. Two men in need of a…

Like. Share. Comment. Post. Accept. Confirm. Tweet. Favorite. Retweet. Forward. Reply. Connect. Follow. Heart. Pin. Send. Add. Subscribe. Message…click Click CLICK.


Please, stop.

Why did you do it? Why did you retweet a tweet that moved you not at all in any way whatsoever? Do you want to have sex with the tweeter? That’s quite a passive-aggressive woo-click. Just message him/her: “The reason I favorite all your tweets is because I want to have sex with you.” …

Mark Duffy

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

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