The seven most gloriously bad Rivers ads of all time

rivers logoWhile most brands that create a bad ad will learn from their mistakes, there is one company where making crap commercials is on brand.

So notoriously terrible is the ‘creative’ work of Rivers department store, they have an online hate group in the I Hate Rivers Ads Facebook page which has over 150,000 fans.

But could so many haters be wrong? We think so. Here at Mumbrella House these ads are a guilty pleasure.

They gain cut-through using a death metal soundtrack vs the muzac of more vasoline-lensed ads.

They are the 15-second equivalent of so-bad-its-good films like Sharktopus or The English Patient. As the snobby art critic said of ‘The Kramer’ painting in Seinfeld: “He’s a loathsome offensive brute, yet I can’t look away!”

With that in mind, here are seven magnificent Rivers commercials:

7. Hyphy was a musical sub-genre derived from the Bay Area of San Francisco. To ‘get Hyphy’ is to get crazy. Perhaps the exact opposite of these generic men’s Tees.


6. Similar to The Ponds Institute, Rivers has ‘one of the most comprehensive testing sets in the southern hemisphere to simulate the act of walking. They also use moving images in this ad, as opposed to the others, which play like a ani-gif.


5. Rivers shows its delicate side by speaking to the inner Goddess in all of us, offering style advice via Cleopatra and Aphrodites but at the same time war-mongering Mongol Genghis Khan’s mistresses – sexy and classy.


4. Remember when cyclones took out Australia’s banana crops and suddenly bananas were really expensive? What many people don’t realize is our denim crops were also decimated. Hence Rivers using the scarcity tactic in the copy: ’14 and a half ounces of the best denim we could buy’.


3. These pants are so lazy, they’re not even worth… oh just watch the clip.


2. While Bonds opted for model and media personality Sarah Murdoch to advertise its delicates, Rivers decided an assault from death metal best sold the strength of its socks.


1. But of course, the final ad is so special, we’ve already featured it on Mumbrella. The butt-ugly rubber clog, sue-ably similar to the Croc, sensibly attacked itself before others could. “Even for $4.90 we wouldn’t be seen dead in our butt ugly clogs.” Simple, effective but most of all, honest. If only all advertising could be like that.

(With thanks to Ebiquity.)

Colin Delaney


  1. Simon
    29 Nov 12
    8:54 am

  2. I have never been able to fathom who they think they’re appealing to with these adverts. Whoever it is, every time I walk past the Rivers store in Brisbane, it’s like a ghost town.

    And the tag line: ‘your local shop might have loads, or none’ makes me think ‘well, I might shop there, or I might not.’ Normally, the latter.


  3. Wayde Christie
    29 Nov 12
    9:09 am

  4. I think these are the smartest ads on Australian TV. No bullshit, quirky, and as the article said, completely on brand. I’ll take a Rivers ad over any big budget ad any day.

  5. Me
    29 Nov 12
    9:34 am

  6. Love Rivers, they’re the Robocop of advertising – so bad it’s awesome to watch.

    And they work.

    Makes you wonder about all the big-budget near-misses that make Banksy’s point for him.

  7. Fabrice Dike
    29 Nov 12
    9:44 am

  8. Can you buy ‘Rivers’ branded clothes “AT LOWES!”?

  9. derrick
    29 Nov 12
    9:48 am

  10. i love the rivers ads too –

    its like anti-advertising

    the fact that everyone talks about how bad they are makes them good

    the music they chose cracks me up too!

  11. Caitlin
    29 Nov 12
    10:01 am

  12. Trust me, when you’re reincarnated as a penny-pinching, curvy women with size 10 feet, you’ll love Rivers too. Viva la Crocs!

  13. Rocky
    29 Nov 12
    11:57 am

  14. Well said. The savings are passed on to the consumers unlike many of the retailers that pass on their advertising expense.

  15. Simon J Green
    29 Nov 12
    12:21 pm

  16. Ah! Yes! Every time we see a new Rivers ad, it completely fascinates us. Bad on purpose? Group of three pre-grad film students having a great old time? Someone’s niece or nephew? Or genius?

  17. Anthony Bull
    29 Nov 12
    12:21 pm

  18. Remember these ads are for sales that last a weekend and usually air 1 to 2 days before the sale. It definitely catches attention and the prices are pretty low, so it really doesn’t need create a motivation to buy (If i see an add for 5 dollar shirts, I will probably have a look.)

  19. LB
    29 Nov 12
    12:29 pm

  20. Horseshit!! Rivers used to have wearable clothes. I have several of their shirts. As their advertising has declined, so has the quality of their clothing. Stupidly enticed by their advertising, I recently ventured into a Rivers store. I was shocked to see how the quality of their clothing has deteriorated. Not surprisingly, I was the only person in the store. Lift your game, Rivers – both in clothing and advertising.

  21. Rob
    29 Nov 12
    12:45 pm

  22. Simon, I’ve been pasted plenty of packed Rivers stores. I even got seduced while on holidays at Port Douglas once… I worn the socks but the rest of the stuff I bought is on a Sy Vinnies rack now. One type of Rivers ad missed above was the ones where they list the features to make them sound like quality. “It has a collar, 8 sewn on buttons, it’s made of fabric and has a fully stitched on pocket”… Gold.

  23. Rob
    29 Nov 12
    12:46 pm

  24. “past” even… Not sure if that was my dylexia kicking in, spell check or the fact I’m pissed..

  25. Rusdie
    29 Nov 12
    1:15 pm

  26. somebody had to break the spell of the polished retail voice over –and Rivers did it.
    I’m guessing they were looking at a rough cut with a temporary VO by the editor. And decided ti stick with it. I once worked on Hyundai retail. The dickhead client would scrutinse every word for “retail energy.” He seriously believed it made a difference to sales.

  27. Rosscoe
    29 Nov 12
    1:18 pm

  28. Truly horrific creative agreed but not a patch on Frank Walker, National Tiles.
    What’s the go there?
    I’ve been in the ad game since “Where Do Ya Get It” and I still don’t subscribe to the bad ads are good ads philosophy.

  29. Bronwyn
    29 Nov 12
    1:28 pm

  30. I also consider these ads a guilty pleasure – my favourites are for the shoes – it’s as if they’ve had reject hush puppies stored in a shipping container for the past 15 years.

  31. Murrumbidgee
    29 Nov 12
    1:37 pm

  32. Actually really like the lazy pants and clogs ones. The VO delivery cracks me up.

    How else could you sell them?

  33. Joe Talcott
    29 Nov 12
    1:38 pm

  34. I just watched all five. I did not see one asterisk!!

    Many retail ads have more copy in the disclaimers than in the claims themselves. Well done Rivers.

  35. Robbie
    29 Nov 12
    1:43 pm

  36. I intensely loathe these ads so much that I didn’t even take notice of the brand that it was advertising when I mute the screen for the 30secs. Judge a book by it’s cover and judge a label by these rubbish advertisements. Clearly I am not the target market, but then again who is?

  37. Jayce
    29 Nov 12
    1:43 pm

  38. If they weren’t working they wouldn’t keep making them… So someone must think it’s alright… Also, Caitlin – you’re awesome!!

  39. Tbone
    29 Nov 12
    1:45 pm

  40. It’s high-low advertising as its best. This is about communicating the product benefit and reinforcing the cheap/price point value proposition with deliberately low production values, cheesy fonts, graphics and music. Judge it on its ability to drive sales, not win awards.

  41. Daniel
    29 Nov 12
    1:45 pm

  42. I actually buy from Rivers. Their shoes are the most comfortable with my broad feet and I never ever get blisters with news hoes. Shirts that I wear ti work only cost $15. T-shirts that I ear at home and in bed only $5-$10. Socks and belts are also cheap. Although, I would avoid their jeans as they’re not that comfy.

  43. Philip Bateman
    29 Nov 12
    1:50 pm

  44. Now that’s some awesome commercial creation. Props to Rivers. Look at what everyone else is doing and do something completely different.

  45. Um
    29 Nov 12
    1:52 pm

  46. @LB their advertising can’t be that bad if you went in.

  47. Surry Hills
    29 Nov 12
    1:53 pm

  48. HAHAHAHAHA “now the whole family can be Ugly together” at least they are not lying to us…love their quirky ads.

  49. Winstan
    29 Nov 12
    1:55 pm

  50. All of my “golden boy” T shirts (another Seinfeld reference) have been purchased from Rivers in the past fifteen years. A cheap pair of sneakers lasted twice as long as a more expensive, high end brand pair I purchased from a sports store.

    The ads are more annoying on radio than on TV but I don’t think I’ve ever made a point of visiting a store after hearing or seeing one. Will often have a quick browse when I pass by one.

  51. Winstan
    29 Nov 12
    1:58 pm

  52. Forgot to mention those in store promotional sign with little tales about Rivers employees in the factory or administration. Brilliant marketing. Always a feel good moment to know you’re supporting an Australian clothing manufacturer.

  53. Myles
    29 Nov 12
    2:00 pm

  54. “Your store may have stock or have none”

    because that’s what I really want as a shopper, going store to store seeing if the product I saw on TV is in stock.

  55. me
    29 Nov 12
    2:09 pm

  56. You’re missing two print ads – the one with the dead woman and the other with a near naked woman… straddling a seat that looked like an ice cube.

  57. Nigel
    29 Nov 12
    2:15 pm

  58. Not great but at least they have a smidgen of production values and they are nowhere near as bad as the ads were some Bogan screams about discounts.

  59. Charlie
    29 Nov 12
    2:42 pm

  60. By far the best laugh I’ve had all day!

  61. Kerry
    29 Nov 12
    3:47 pm

  62. I agree, really smart advertising, they’re brilliant! Low budget, but they really get your attention, love the sarcasm. That crocs ad one is gold!

  63. Walt
    29 Nov 12
    4:57 pm

  64. Rivers ads ARE terrible, surpassed only in cheesiness by the ‘oh-so-cute’ girls and ‘I might be gay but I’m selling hi-viz clobber’ bloke at Golders of Roma. There’s heaps of crap ads out there if you are lucky enough to satellite free-to-air in regional Australia.

  65. MZ
    29 Nov 12
    4:58 pm

  66. I don’t shop there, nor do I care about the brand but I still crack a smile every time I see one of those ads blasting death metal between meh content on 7’s Sunrise. Memorable as hell but no use in converting me to a customer

  67. Meg
    29 Nov 12
    10:35 pm

  68. In what way are these bad? They are intended to drive store traffic and they do this without yelling and with tongue in cheek, amd so nicely that they have attracted a large reaction. Great! artsy media/marketing types are not their core customer.

  69. just saying
    30 Nov 12
    12:32 pm

  70. Rivers use to be a mid to high range store. Where the shoes were over $150 a pair. The shirts were about $80 each. You use to get the brochures that told you a story about their employees (I think at Ballarat). Sadly like a lot of other companies the clothes and shoes are now made in china and very poorly made. So why is Rivers so bad quality?

  71. hmmm...
    30 Nov 12
    3:27 pm

  72. When you’re selling cheap shit (like Rivers) cheap shit ads are exactly what you want to make.

    These are perfectly on brand, and stand out like the proverbial.

    Ads that are deliberately awful are good. Ads that are good/great are brilliant. It’s all the wallpaper in the middle I really hate.

  73. Gary Kurzer
    30 Nov 12
    6:02 pm

  74. Oh, come on.
    Just because something sell in DJ’s or Country Road, the overall production costs and quality are hardly 287% better. Rivers stuff is very good value, and “on sale” even more so. (Their shoes are pretty uncomfortable for me).

    The $1.80 socks “all year” price are great.

    I actually find the general lack of artifice in their ads (or is that artifice in itself…dunno…) pretty refreshing. I am rarely swayed by any ads, but I do listen when Rivers tell me I can get some dacks for $10. My green jeans I paid $5 for are amongst my fave.

  75. Phil
    1 Dec 12
    8:57 pm

  76. Lol I used to work in a Rivers store. The first thing most people would tell me when I would tell them I work there is, “oh, I HATE those ads!”
    Sometimes they would then imitate the dead-pan voice-overs Rivers like to use.
    It was a good enough place to work, not anywhere near the number of horror stories I’ve heard from working elsewhere in retail, but the quality of their stuff has really gone down the crapper since they started sourcing it from overseas. Worst mistake they ever made.

  77. Sydneynudism
    2 Dec 12
    10:33 am

  78. As nudists this ad wouldn’t interest us.

  79. Ponder
    3 Dec 12
    9:34 am

  80. Their advertising hits the mark with their brand. Can you imagine if they hired an advertising company to do their ads?!

  81. Merv
    3 Dec 12
    10:33 am

  82. Ads are great but product quality has gone dowhill over the past few years. Cheap & nasty

  83. Barkeep
    3 Dec 12
    2:43 pm

  84. Some of their stores are not averse to ‘bait and switch’ with no stock of advertised specials or misleading facings.

  85. Kelly
    3 Dec 12
    6:22 pm

  86. A few years ago, an advertising friend of mine felt compelled to email Rivers to tell them just how much he hated their advertising. They called him a ‘pony tailed ad wanker’. You’ve gotta love that ‘tude.

  87. LB
    3 Dec 12
    6:43 pm

  88. @Um (comment 29), you clearly didn’t understand what I wrote. I USED to buy Rivers – I have several of their shirts. I WENT into a store and was absolutely shocked at the “quality” of clothing they now sell. I left the shop without purchasing anything. Their advertising is actually better than the quality of their clothing – and that is saying something.