Thanksgiving has come and gone, and while most people’s thoughts of the holiday revolve around family, flavorsome feasts, and happy, food-induced slumbers, Turkey Day prompted me to start thinking about thankfulness—though not the traditional kind.
The holidays always seem to lull me into a state of seasonal slothfulness: chalk it up to the cold weather or the coziness that’s invariably associated with Thanksgiving and Christmas, but during the November and December months, TV watching with a mug of some hot beverage in hand becomes my go-to after-work activity. While indulging in some ridiculous yet hilarious NBC and FOX comedies last week, I realized just how many bad ad campaigns exist.
The history of television advertising is littered with commercials that we probably would have been better off not seeing. This Thanksgiving, I expressed thankfulness for all of the abysmal ads that met their television termination and now rest in the commercial graveyard.
Here are five ad campaigns I’m thankful now cease to exist.
The Toyota People Person
Toyota aired this commercial featuring a giant person made up of eighteen individual persons in 2011. According to Ad Week, this giant, bizarre amalgamation of limbs was intended to be reminiscent of the artwork of Andre Martins de Barros. While clearly intended to be charming, whimsical, and quirky, the whole thing seems rather unsettling. I place the blame on the freaky facial features: the nose is composed of a person’s derrière and the lips are made of thighs and calves (which the hand proceeds to brush with toothpaste). I give Toyota props for creativity, and the connection between the gigantic heterogeneous creature and the family of distinctive Priuses is apparent, but there’s something unnerving (not to mention unnatural) about the mass of contorted limbs and buried appendages.
One of the most interesting elements is the juxtaposition between the sunny, cartoonish world and the chilling facets like the monstrous feet descending the stairs and swaying hands made of human torsos.
Thankfully, this massive corporeal creature now ceases to exist, just like another flummoxing, freaky character, The Burger King.
The Burger King
The Burger King, often dubbed simply “The King” has gone through several changes over the years. He started out as a chubby royal clad in a red, fur-trimmed robe, pantaloons, and pointy-toed jester shoes, perched atop a burger throne while clutching a giant soda (something he can no longer buy in New York City) with his mitten-like hand.
He eventually transformed from an innocuous, animated little fellow into a creeptastic half man-half mascot. This ruler began appearing in commercials in 2004.
I’m not sure what’s scarier: this mascot’s frozen, immobile face or his utter disregard for the rules of personal space. Words that come to mind when glancing at The King: startling, disquieting, disturbing, wrong.
Also, did anyone else notice the jarring contrast between the manly face and the effeminate hands?
The King deserves some credit though. He knows that the way to a man’s heart is through his stomach; he strikes up an ephemeral bromance with this unsuspecting slumbering man by gifting him with a double Croissan’wich. The King and the man even overlap hands for a brief, simultaneously touching yet disconcerting moment.
This eerie-faced caricature of a mascot reigned over Burger King advertising for seven years. But, he was ultimately dethroned in 2011, the victim of a coup d’état led by healthy foods. Burger King ditched the king and decided to focus on its “fresh” food options.
The King now presumably resides with other retired mascots like the Walmart smiley face, Domino’s The Noid, and the Dell Dude.
Arby’s “Good Mood Food” Campaign
Arby’s launched its “Good Mood Food” campaign in February 2011. The ads intended to emphasize Arby’s wholesome, scrumptious food that not only pleases people’s taste buds, but also lifts their spirits. According to Steve Davis, Arby’s chief marketing officer, the campaign was geared toward individuals who have busy lifestyles and therefore need to eat fast food, but don’t want to feel guilty about it; it shows that the chain provides people with “food they can feel good about eating.” Davis said, “We like to think that stopping by Arby’s makes their day a little brighter.”
How do they convey a sunny disposition induced by roast beef sandwich consumption? Through an ad that tries too hard to be funny, of course. Take a look:
The ad’s cacophony is one thing that stands out: the main character’s unexplainable shouting and the less-than-stellar jingle. But, I think there’s a bigger problem here: can the Angus three cheese and bacon sandwich really put people in a good mood when it’s composed of 33 grams of fat and more than 3/4 of the recommended daily sodium intake?
Arby’s purports that seemingly opposite couples can lay down their proverbial swords and rally around the chain’s foodstuffs, which elevate moods so much that a personal injury lawyer foregoes his litigious nature, behaves amicably, and accepts a cheesy bacon sandwich rather than a cash settlement. It’s hyperbolic and exaggerated, of course, but it’s still unclear how eating food that’s bad for you can cause anyone to act blissfully content.
Maybe the whole concept would be more palatable had the “Good Mood Food” tune not been so terrible. Readers of Consumerist overwhelmingly voted this disastrous ditty the original jingle that should be bunked. Forty-five percent of people voted it the worst advertising jingle, though I think the fact that it beat out that notoriously awful Education Connection song, the runner-up, by twenty-three percentage points is testament enough to the intense dislike people have for it.
I will give props to the ad for channeling one of the best Disney Channel original movies, though. The nod to skiers and boarders inevitably conjures up images of a suave, smooth-haired Johnny Tsunami coasting down a pristine, snow-covered Vermont mountain and leaving those private-school, snobby skiers in his powder.
Arby’s ditched the third-rate tagline and is now focusing its efforts on slinging mud at Subway and singing the praises of its fresh meat, which the chain slices in store.
Taco Bell’s Cheesy Beefy Melt Ads
Like Arby’s, Taco Bell once portrayed opposite individuals drawn together through the power of fast food. The ads for the Cheesy Beefy Melts first appeared in 2007 and featured people looking unattractive with cheese that looks cartoon-like in its stringiness and stretchiness hanging from their mouths.
Taco Bell’s Cheesy Beefy Melt is so delicious that it can unite a preppy girl and a punk-rock boy whose love for processed dairy transcends the typical bounds of teenage infatuation.
The one problem I have with this ad: it effectually ruins a perfectly good song. Modern English’s “I Melt with You” is musical, mellifluous greatness. Why must it be sullied and polluted through association with a cheesy (pun intended) fast-food commercial? Why must Taco Bell ruin the British, 1980s wonderfulness that ended the film Valley Girl in such a memorable way?
Taco Bell abandoned the cheese-centric ads, and now the chain is all about the Cantina Bowl, which is “gourmet-inspired” and crafted by a celebrity chef. Its old melty, meaty, beefy cheesy ways don’t quite gel with the new, fresh, “healthy” dishes it’s trying to serve up. I’ll let you be the judge on whether or not the commercials have seen any improvement:
Luvs “Poop There It Is”
I’ve saved the worst for last. This commercial from the diaper company Luvs was voted the worst ad in America in 2011.
Another song ruined by another terrible commercial, but I think Luvs’ tarnishing of Tag Team’s tune is much worse than Taco Bell’s misuse of Modern English’s single.
Filled with bad puns (“heavy dooty”), a fecal-matter fest, and the premise of judges voting Dancing with the Stars style on the contents of dirty diapers, this ad takes the crown for advertisements I’m thankful have disappeared from the small screen. Oh, and I can’t neglect to mention those animated characters in the front row capturing the crapping contest on their smartphones so they can relive the whole thing later. Luvs really scraped the bottom of the barrel (err…diaper, rather) on this one.