I’ve long believed that a lot of people who work in the broad range of marketing fields are frustrated, would-be advertising copywriters. I certainly am. When I was in graduate school, I envisioned myself moving on to an advertising career, being one of the people responsible for clever and funny television commercials.

It didn’t quite work out that way. Instead of creating ad campaigns, I wound up conducting the market research that helps to shape them. That’s a pretty sweet gig in its own right, but being on the research side of things hasn’t stopped me from thinking of myself as a self-appointed advertising expert. If anything, working in a marketing field that’s heavily focused on measurable results and strategy development has probably made me even more critical of ill-conceived advertising.

I look at a lot of ads and believe that I could have done it better. Sometimes I look at an ad and believe that pretty much anybody could have done it better. The latter category is what this blog post is all about – advertising that is so poorly executed, annoying, or just plain baffling that it makes us cringe. Here are just a few examples:

1. HeadOn


Arguably the most annoying commercial ever produced. In fact, it was so annoying, that HeadOn did a follow-up campaign where people interrupted the spots to complain about how annoying they were. Maybe that was their intent all along – to build buzz by being so horrible, and then slyly letting us know that they were in on the joke. Maybe they were just trying to create demand for their headache remedy by creating ads that gave us headaches. For all we know, this could be marketing brilliance. Even so, I still despise the commercial.

2. The Burger King plastic king-headed entity


Disturbing. Creepy. Unsettling. Capable of psychologically scarring young children for life. Those would all be great approaches to market a horror movie. Hamburgers…not so much. The really odd thing about this campaign wasn’t that Burger King tried it, but that they stuck with it a long time over the course of many spots. Who knows — perhaps it actually helped their sales. But speaking for me and people I’ve talked to, it just weirded us out, haunted our dreams, and sent us running to the nearest McDonald’s. At least there, you won’t find anything disturbing, creepy, and unsettling about Ronald McDonald.

Speaking of McDonald’s…

3. McDonald’s “I’d Hit It.”

Um, well, the less said about this the better, lest we violate the tasteful PG rating we try to maintain for this blog’s content. Suffice it to say that we suspect the corporate suits at McDonald’s didn’t do sufficient research into the meaning of this slang phrase before they okayed the ad. At least we hope they didn’t.

4. The 5-Hour Energy Guy


First, let me say that 5-Hour Energy is a fantastic name for a product – I’ve always been a fan of products that manage to straightforwardly communicate real benefits right in the name. I also think that their strategy and message is right on the mark  — appealing to working people who experience mid-afternoon sluggishness.  The problem with this spot is the guy it features pitching the product. Not only is he annoying and smug, but he displays odd facial tics, twitchy head-bobs, and insufferable perkiness – all side effects that might scare people from taking an artificial stimulant.  

That does it for this installment of The Bunker Ad Critic. There very well could be more to follow in the future. In the meantime, if there’s an ad you hate, why not share in the snarky fun and tell us about it in the comments section?