Staff Reporters
Dec 20, 2016

Year in review: The 10 ads that made us rant

Our year-in-review celebration continues with the much-anticipated list of lamentable ads.

Year in review: The 10 ads that made us rant

See all our 2016 year-in-review features: Brand crises; major appointments and departures; big launches; the best, worst and strangest ads; and more.

Today's list: Our staff's most detested ads of the year. As always, we don't call these the "worst" ads, because surely the worst ads are by definition ads that no one notices. These got our attention, but for all the wrong reasons.

1. Diaper brand claims messages on wet nappies prevent postpartum depression
In an example of a brand reaching way too far in an effort to seem like it's doing good in the world, diaper brand Hello Angel made the rather ridiculous claim that its product, plus baby urine, could help new mothers avoid postpartum depression. And neither the brand nor the agency, Cheil Hong Kong, provided satisfactory backup for the claim when we asked.

2. Special award to Gudang Garam for two particularly horrible ads:

2a. A tobacco company's ode to Indonesian independence rings false
Gudang Garam, via Dentsu One, celebrates Indonesia's independence day with a gorgeous film. But its true intent, and our industry's complicity, deserve examination.

2b. 'The Birds': An exercise in self-indulgence by a tobacco brand
A laughable short film from Indonesia for Gudang Garam by Dentsu Strat is heavy on cheese, 'mild' on anything vaguely interesting.

3. Cathay Pacific's Rugby Sevens promo heaped with well-deserved scorn
A "delightfully awful travesty" that we at first felt had to be a joke, this ad featured the immortal lyrics, "Unbuckle those belts boys, let it all out; it's a party, so scream and shout!" 

4. Sapporo City's Allergy-checking tattoos

This effort from J. Walter Thompson appeared in the parade of pre-awards 'purpose' campaigns compiled by our friend Ad Nut, who wrote that it was surely one of the most oddly specific initiatives ever undertaken. The cause? The safety of foreign visitors to Sapporo who may not be aware of the risk of allergic reaction to buckwheat noodles.

According to the agency, soba restaurants near the popular Niseko ski resort were quite concerned about keeping tourists safe from the menace of soba-noodle allergy. (And who among us isn't?) But rather than, say, posting some signs, the group and the agency instead created the Soba Allergy Tattoo Checker.

Was that a high-tech test kit of some kind? No. It was a sticker decorated with a Japanese tattoo motif. The recipient of said sticker was expected to first apply to the sticker some water that soba noodles had been simmered in, and then attach the sticker to the skin to see if redness indicative of a reaction developed.

Left unexplained: Why one couldn't just apply soba water directly to the skin. Anyway, an initial 200 Soba Allergy Tattoo Checkers were handed out. And thankfully, you'll be relieved to hear that nobody was found to be allergic. So, tragedy not really averted! Phew.

5. Tiger Beer turns (a tiny amount of) air pollution into art
As Tiger debuted its ‘Air-Ink’ initiative in Hong Kong to apparently tackle air pollution and get people enjoying the outdoors again, the campaign left a small impression and less of an impact than hoped.

6. Makeup shaming on a train: Etiquette ad provokes reactions in Japan
Though we felt it was needlessly harsh toward women who apply makeup on trains, we admit that this Tokyu Corp video showed that offending people can be effective.

7. Toyota yanks on heartstrings for seatbelt message
A campaign by TYA Singapore used all the usual tricks to deliver a safety message. Sigh.

8. Webe's Dengue-fighting umbrellas
Another video that appeared in Ad Nut's parade of pre-awards 'purpose' campaigns, this one by Grey Malaysia drew hearty guffaws around the office. We suppose it could work—if millions of umbrellas were outfitted with the admittedly cute attachments. But we have our doubts whether the effort actually had any impact, and we believe that surely it would have been better to spend the budget on more scientifically proven Dengue-fighting initiatives. 

9. Singapore's Kindness Campaign misses the target, again
We found it odd that the persuasion here, as in a past campaign, was being directed toward innocent citizens who were apparently expected to intervene in a tense situation—rather than the colossal asshole who was causing the whole commotion in the first place.

10. Tesco Thailand shows a maid being slapped
Tesco Lotus removed a widely shared video after it was slammed for a scene where a woman slapped her domestic helper. We'll allow that the video might not be offensive in the market for which it was intended, but still found it disturbingly callous.


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