• ClickInsights

5 Ads That Backfired Big Time

They say any publicity is good publicity. After all, a little controversy can sometimes be a good thing. But if you are a marketer looking to benefit from a touch of controversy in your latest marketing campaign, you must remember that there’s a fine line between benefiting from controversial ads and having to apologize for a commercial that creates an uproar.


Thankfully, others’ failures can become a learning opportunity for your future marketing. So, here we are with 5 commercials that will help you understand what not to do to prevent your next ad campaign from qualifying for our next list of bad ads.


1. Heineken: Sometimes Lighter Is Better

Heineken’s marketing team decided in 2018 that it was high time to project their brand as racist. It was almost as if they saw the high engagement rates of Nivea’s ‘White is Purity’ campaign and decided to follow in their footsteps.



The ad features a bartender noticing a light-skinned baby at the end of the bar. He slides a beer her way. The beer slides past a few black people before it finally stops at the light-skinned woman. Then the tagline reads “Sometimes lighter is better.”


Seriously? Who gave their approval for such commercials. For a beer that’s popular in almost 200 countries, you’d expect it to be more sensitive.


2. Haribo: Squidgy Baby

“WTF is happening?”- that’s the first question that would come to your mind after watching this ad.



A creepy family bellowing some pretty disturbing lyrics that go like “Oh so smooth; love them soft; squidgy squidgy baby!” Haribo rolled out this disastrous commercial to promote its Super Mix. Thankfully, this cringe-tastic advertisement was pulled down shortly after it was released.


3. Reese Pieces: Love Child

Love Child might be one of the less controversial ads on this list, but it’s definitely more cringy than any other commercial here.



This campaign is just the kind of disaster that you’d want your brand to steer clear of. The video is loud, confusing, and not at all appetizing. Once you’ve watched the ad, you are bound to feel as if the commercial was released with the objective of helping people quit those delicious pieces.


4. Mastercard: World Cup

During the 2018 FIFA World Cup, Mastercard made a statement that it would donate 10,000 meals to children in Latin America and the Caribbean for every goal that Lionel Messi and Neymar Jr scored.



While this seemed like a noble cause, the tactic to gamify starvation didn’t quite sit well with people who condemned the company for its tone-deaf attitude. The company dropped the campaign after a while as the two stars managed to score just three goals between them. Not worth the controversy, eh?


5. Bloomingdales: Christmas Catalogue

The geniuses at Bloomingdales decided in 2015 to sprinkle their Christmas catalog with some festive date rape jokes, which earned them a solid place in the hall of fame for sexist ads.



The ad read “Spike your best friend’s eggnog when they’re not looking”. The ad turned into a PR disaster for the company, which soon issued an apology for this monstrosity.


In the words of Ice Cube – “check yo self before you wreck yo self”, Bloomingdales!


Bottom Line

Controversies can often help brands benefit from the negative publicity building around the brand. But brands must ensure that they don’t get too carried away with their marketing. The trick lies in keeping a balance between ‘controversial’ and ‘witty’.


We’ll be back with more videos. Till then, stay tuned!