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The 10 dumbest ads of 2011

Some ads in 2011 were just plain stupid. Others were so bad they had severe, negative consequences. Here are the worst on both fronts. Presenting Breaking Copy’s 10 Dumbest Ads of 2011.

Previously: The 10 Smartest Ads of 2011.


10. Woolite, “Torturer”

Featuring the talents of Rob Zombie, this commercial for fabric softener evoked the style of horror films. Result: Viewers gave it comments like: “I am deeply disturbed by the images and my kids were terrified!”
Agency: Euro RSCG New York.
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9. Groupon, “Save the Money”

For its Super Bowl spot, Groupon cast Timothy Huton in a spoof ad that looked like a charity ad to help Tibet, but actually touted coupons for items such as Tibetan food. Result: A humiliating public apology from CEO Andrew Mason. It also marked a sad turning point for both Groupon and ad agency Crispin Porter + Bogusky, neither of which have regained the swagger they had in 2010.
Agency: CP+B


8. Kohl’s “Black Friday”

Borrowing the irritating song “Friday” from Rebecca Black, Kohl’s summoned the annual late-November iconography of people pushing each other out of the way for discounted crap. Result: Once again, there were numerous injuries caused by people pushing each other in stores on Black Friday this year. Also, Kohl’s same-store sales came in down 6.2 percent.
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7. California Milk Processor Board, “Everything I Do Is Wrong”

Working with a report showing that milk can reduce the symptoms of PMS, the milk board released a series of ads suggesting men can help women get through PMS by buying them milk. Result: The campaign was widely denounced for sexism, the ads and a related online component were swiftly pulled, and the men responsible for the ads, including noted adman Jeff Goodby, were reduced to giving wimpy non-apologies to the media.
Agency: Goodby, Silverstein & Partners, San Francisco.
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6. Herman Cain, “Now is the Time For Action!”

What was Cain chief of staff Mark Block thinking when he produced this deeply weird online ad featuring himself smoking a cigarette? Only Block knows. Result: A bruising round of late-night talk-show jokes. Cain later withdrew from the presidential race facing multiple accusations of infidelity and sexual harassment.
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5. Rick Perry, “Strong”

In this spot, Rick Perry brags about how pious he is, while denouncing gay people in the armed forces. Result: This commercial earned an astonishing 697,299 dislikes on YouTube, and was widely perceived as an act of desperation. Perry, who was once tracking in the 30s in the polls for the Republican primary, is currently below 10% in most national polls.
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4. Open Road Auto Group: “I’d Tap That.”

From the “doing it wrong” files: You’re only supposed to imply that the customer have sex with the product, not say it literally. Result: Blogs like this one made fun of the ad.
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3. Amazing Swedish Diet

Those nefarious Swedes… First they fatten us up with Swedish Fish, and then this is their idea of a diet. Result: A general outcry of “WTF?!”
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2. Family Radio, “Judgement Day”

Harold Camping’s Family Radio Network bought billboards across American predicting the end of the world on May 21, 2011. Result: They were wrong!
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And the dumbest ad of 2011:

1. GM College Discount, “Reality Sucks”

In a year when gas prices, oil dependence, and environmental concerns continued to bedevil carmakers, the financing arm of General Motors ran a college newspaper ad that included a photo of a cyclist and the copyline, “Stop pedaling… start driving.” Every evil thing you think you know about General Motors was confirmed in those words. Result: Facing an outcry by cyclists, GM had to pull the campaign and run damage control. With branding like this, it’s easy to understand why nobody’s buying GM’s electric car.
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— By Daryl Lang. Filed under Advertising, Copywriting

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