Advertising Great Mistakes, Goofs, Blunders, and Missteps

The Many Times Advertising Agencies Have Made Some Serious Gaffes.

Big mistake. Getty Images

Like any business, it’s people that run advertising agencies. And people, as we all know, are fallible. We all have our flaws and weaknesses, and occasionally even the best traffic systems, fool proofing measures and endless meetings cannot stop mistakes from creeping in.

Unfortunately, advertising is meant to be viewed by a lot of people. When mistakes are made, a lot of people see them. Sometimes they can actually help the campaign get more attention than it was ever supposed to get.

On other occasions, it can leads to embarrassment, fines, and even the loss of jobs.

You can chalk it all up to several possible causes for the chaos:

Literal Translations Lead To Bizarre, and Insulting, New Ads
Almost every brand has a tagline. And some brands have multiple taglines for multiple products, including Proctor & Gamble, Pepsi, and Chrysler Jeep. You may not have given this much thought, but what happens when some of America's greatest taglines are put through the translation filter? It's not actually as cut and dry as simply hitting the translate button, due to different cultural references. For instance, in some countries it is common practice to put a picture of the product inside the can on the label. Imagine how they would react to baby food or dog food!

Perhaps the most famous translation error came from Pepsi, which turned “Come Alive With The Pepsi Generation” into “Pepsi Brings Your Ancestors Back From the Dead.”

Read the complete list of poor taglines here.


The Agency Gets Lazy, or Believes Everyone Thinks Like They Do
The old adage – never assume, it makes an ass out of u and me – is right at home in this world. Agencies somehow think that everyone will just instantly get the joke, or understand the thinking behind it.

So when Popchips used Ashton Kutcher in “brown face,” they assumed everyone would think the best of the campaign. How could it be racist? The real question is, how could it be any more racist?

See more major goofs like this right here.


Agencies Get Too “Clever” for Their Own Good
While some say that one name is as good as another, when you’re trying to break through, that Remember, it’s not about being clever, it’s about being relevant and memorable. For instance, Colgate Wisp is a beautiful product name. It conjures just what you want about the product itself. It’s lightweight, it’s gentle, and when coupled with a name like Colgate, you know it’s something portable for your dental needs. That’s how to do it right.

In contrast, here are some product and service names that just completely missed the boat. You have to ask, what were they thinking?

And on the subject of being too clever, agencies can also go too far with their ideas. When that happens, you get a whole lot of consumers scratching their heads and wondering what you’re trying to say.

So, be strategic. Be savvy. But never be too smart for your own good.


The Goal To Be Get Noticed Backfires.
When it comes to the Super Bowl, only two things seem to matter the next day; who won, and which ads stood out?

Sometimes, the ads can be really good. Commercials that have stood the test of time include the masterful Apple spot called 1984 (directed by Ridley Scott), and, for some reason, the Budweiser Clydesdales. On other occasions, the ads can be real stinkers. 

See five of the biggest controversial Super Bowl ads right here.