Annual 2015: The worst ads of the year

While 2015 has seen some great campaigns, we’ve also seen some absolute turkeys. Here Mumbrella lists the 10 worst of the year. 

Fresh in our memories: Woolworths.

When the 100th Anniversary of the ANZAC lands came by, a nation stopped to morn, but Woolworths stopped to market.

In a poorly timed and clumsily worded attempt to show its own appreciation the supermarket chain decided that appropriating its tagline was the key to the campaign. Fresh in Our Memories was a disaster on every front, from the social media outcry and offended veterans, all the way the dozens of memes utilising the Fresh in Our Memories profile picture generator featuring images of Bill Cosby and Hitler.

Woolworths' Fresh in our memories campaign

Stoner Sloth: NSW Department of Premier and Cabinet.

Like the sloth that stars in it, this campaign moved slowly, generating little interest when it was launched in late November, but a week before Christmas the NSW Government health awareness campaign by Saatchi & Saatchi suddenly came to life. If viral uptake was what the creators were expecting, they got it in spades. But driven by claims by a marijuana research group that they had not been involved in the concept, the uptake of the idea was a classic opportunity for parody and a bewildered tweet from the NSW premier Mike Baird guaranteed this late entrant a place in the worst ads of the year.

Cheap Cheap: Woolworths.

It just wasn’t Woolworths year. While Fresh in Our Memories was probably the standout misstep – let’s not forget this delightful ditty with pop princess Samantha Jade duetting with the Woolies green birds in a recording studio, singing a reworded version of Jackson 5 classic Rockin Robin with the words ‘Cheap Cheap’. Not only a copy of Coles’ ‘Down Down’ strategy but an insult to music to boot.

Little Black Rock: Minerals Council of Australia.

Faced with a collapse in the resources market and with coal’s dirty reputation growing, The Minerals Council and Banjo responded with a campaign extolling the virtues of coal as the amazing little black rock. Highlighting that coal is up to 40 per cent cleaner than it used to be and created light, jobs and economic prosperity, the campaign might have made coal miners feel good about themselves, but proved to be a magnet for the members and parody-makers.

Squirrel and Possum: Squirrel Super.

What could possibly be the best way to show the world what a trustworthy and sophisticated financial services company you are and that people should entrust you to help them manage their superannuation? It’s hard to go past Squirrel Super’s beer swilling Squirrels in trees discussing nuts. Hard to say more, really.

Gas bill: Nimble.

Blink and you will have missed the cruel exploitation of people who can’t afford to pay their utility bills by fast loan provider Nimble. Nimble by name, nimble by nature,  The company swiftly pulled the ad after it was flooded with complaints about the man who could not pay his gas bill because he didn’t get paid for another week. The bearded and bespectacled hipster in the rabbit suit might have picked up a few creative awards for the brand and agency McCann in Melbourne, but the campaign probably deserved myxomatosis.

Multicultural round: AFL

Imitation is the highest form of flattery. Unless, that is, if you happen to be appropriating someone else’s work for an advertising campaign. Clearly the heart of the creative department at Cummins & Partners was in the right place, but its head was in the internet, hunting down filler for the void that was its creative idea for the AFL’s Multicultural round. What they happened upon was some stylistic artwork by Tyson Beck for LeBron James “We Are All Cleveland” Nike ad.AFL-multicultural-round-468x175

LeBron James - Face of Cleveland - Artwork by Tyson Beck

LeBron James – Face of Cleveland – Artwork by Tyson Beck

Blokes: Wallet Wizard.

Small loan companies might have joined the betting agencies as the new revenue stream for the TV networks, but they seem to have taken ownership of excruciating advertising as well.

Promising fast loans, Wallet Wizard has two blokes chatting in the form of the script notes: “Cheerful blokes chatting”, says one, as the other replies “Slightly wistful comment about needing a couple of grand for an overseas holiday”. The mood is then smashed by the loud entrance of an idiot in a superman-type suit promising fast loans for those in need. It’s as cheap as it looks and sounds.

Vegemite Pizza: Pizza Hut.

When you are a multinational company well versed in the art of marketing, making sure you have all the bases covered on copyright front when using another brand is a given, right?

Well, perhaps not if your name is Pizza Hut. The culinary insult that was Mighty Stuffed Crust Pizza released to celebrate Australia Day was a short-lived dish after the folks at Kraft got shirty about a little something called copyright infringement.

Appropriating the “diamond” symbol from the Vegemite label which has been trademarked since 1923 left Pizza Hut with little choice but to pull the campaign and review all the imagery. Youtube suspended the account “due to multiple third party notifications of copyright infringement”. Not the finest start for the new relationship between Pizza Hut and its new agency, Host.

Vegemite Logo


Pizza Hut Mitey Crust


Proudly Australian: Actron Air.

Need a hook for your marketing, why not try xenophobia? Aussie air conditioning company Actron Air did and it went off like a cracker, but not the way the brand hoped. Trying to highlight it’s local credentials against imported air conditioners, the ad featured the host talking about how the brand didn’t try to be Australian, it was Australian, before cutting to shots of three men, one of them an Asian man dressed uncomfortably in the green and gold.

There’s noting like a little racism to give your brand that pure Aussie glow. Needless to say, the Ad Standards Bureau were far from impressed and duly banned the ad. Aussie, Aussie, Aussie, Ouch, Ouch, Ouch!


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