The Year in Review: 10 worst ads of 2016

Mumbrella looks back on 2016 advertising that is memorable for all the wrong reasons in this annual wrap-up.

TAB logo

TAB: Fishing Trip

A man’s escape for a weekend away with his mates has been a staple for agencies over the years, perhaps best demonstrated in BMF’s work for XXXX Gold.

This year TAB decided it would be the perfect vehicle to promote its app allowing punters to stay in touch with the action wherever they are. So off one  bloke set on a fishing trip with his mates, to be asked upon his return by his wife how it was.

He flashes-back to a weekend spent glued to his tiny screen watching sport and punting away, oblivious to the bushland surrounding him. The ad attracted the attention of critics concerned it was promoting an unhealthy level of gambling and the ad watchdog agreed. TAB is appealing the ruling but in the meantime all trace of the ad has disappeared, so you will just have to take our word for it that this was a truly sad ad.

Sportsbet: Cup Tips

The wagering and gaming companies have filled a creative void for the advertising industry and the arrival of the Melbourne Cup was the cue for plenty of content aimed at promoting a sea of apps in the market.

Among it was a standout effort from Sportsbet with some cup tips you may not have found with a traditional bookie. “Why study the form guide when you underwear can tell you the horse you should be backing”. the online campaign proudly declared. “Need a tip? Check your undies”. Not much more need be said.

Purple Brick: A Bit of a Difference

Australia’s obsession with real estate remained a stand-out theme of 2016. Enter a new player in the real estate agent space, Purple Bricks. The one stop shop that aimed to give sellers a cheaper way to put their homes on the market with a flat price model. But how to demonstrate such a revolution? The answer was a slick looking salesman, a band camped on someone’s front lawn and a stilted script. Throw in some subtle dancing and it was mission accomplished for ad agency VCCP.

John West: Asian Range

In case you missed it, more than couple of years ago K-Pop was a thing, driven by the unlikely rise of a certain Korean artist named Psy and his hit Gangham Style. Late this year John West caught up with the trend, launching its Asian style range with a throwback to the era when K-Pop was on everyone’s lips.

Complete with dancing tuna cans that would not have looked out of place with Graham Kennedy on In Melbourne Tonight in the late 1950s, Cummins & Partners’ fishy ad was a triumph of style over substance.

Sir Walter Lawn: DNA Certified

Sometimes an ad simply defies description. Sir Walter is a lawn company and someone convinced it to make an ad because it’s lawn is “DNA Certified”. We get the barbecue setting – but after the opening five seconds, things just get weird. We’ll just leave this one here.

QBE Insurance: Call Me

Music is one of the most powerful tools to cement the name of a brand in the minds of its target audience – if it’s done right. But there is nothing worse than a brand murdering a classic in the name of marketing, and QBE Insurance has managed to it to one of the biggest hits of the 1990s.

Blondie’s Call Me has been eviscerated by the brand in the name of its call centres and online self service pages. Adding insult to injury to a proud rock anthem is animation by agency Core of the call centre girl singing the song with the revelation that more people click than call in the modern age.

White Lady Funerals: She Knows

Funeral marketing may be one of the toughest briefs ever to cross the desk of a creative. Finding the right balance between sensitivity and the sell cannot be easy. But is funeral direction a career choice pondered from a young age?

In trying to tap into what makes someone right for the role, and what makes White Lady different, Banjo charted the life of a young girl. There she was there supporting her sad friends. At the side of her dad while burying a pet and then finally, helping the bereaved as a White Lady. It all just felt a little bit creepy. She knows.

Westpac: Rescue Chopper

There is little doubt that Westpac’s long support for rescue choppers around the country has saved countless lives.  And its fair that the bank should trade off that goodwill to a certain extent. But in getting its message across, Westpac crossed the most subtle of boundaries.

As a father and his son bob in the ocean, their stricken yacht nearby, the story unfolds of a man and his life. A father, a husband, a mate, and as it turns out, a sailor, but not a very good one.

As the Westpac chopper swings into view, the ad notes that he’s not even a customer of the bank, but there is the chopper to help him out anyway. A reassuring note for customers of NAB, ANZ and the CommBank.

Transport for NSW: Sydney Entertainment District

There are so many ways ads can go wrong. They can be offensive, misleading, unintelligible or, worst of all, just lame. In what may well be a metaphor for Sydney’s ailing nightlife, Transport for NSW tried to inject a bit of excitement into an evening on the “George Street Strip” with a video.

It’s a piece of content so engaging in its execution that Premier Mike Baird, the man who tucked Sydney into bed early, might well be taking the creative credit.

Ultra Tune: Unexpected Situation

From rubber-clad women to cliched blonde bimbos, Ultra Tune is a brand that loves to live on the edge. The brand has crafted a tidy strategy in marketing to women with its models finding themselves in a variety of precarious situations.

2016 was no different as the pair found themselves stranded on a train track after their car grinds to a halt, oblivious to the approaching locomotive. It ends with their car in flames and the pair sauntering seductively towards the camera – truly the height of marketing sophistication.


Get the latest media and marketing industry news (and views) direct to your inbox.

Sign up to the free Mumbrella newsletter now.



Sign up to our free daily update to get the latest in media and marketing.