The worst 10 ads of 2016

Mark Duffy has written the Copyranter blog for 11 years and is a freelancing copywriter with 25-plus years of experience. His hockey wrist shot is better than yours.

This was a difficult shitlist to compile because 2016 produced a shitpile of shitty ads; the biggest, shittiest ad shitpile ever. Imagine a Tower of Babel made of shit, filled with a shit-ton of shit-talking marketing shitheads senselessly shouting out every window about their shit-awful ads, non-stop. That was The Year in Advertising, 2016.

Therefore, this just needed to be done. And here they are: The bottom 1o ads of 2016, from least worst to worst worst.

10. Am/Pm Organic Cafe, Nepal, “Flowchart”


I could go into the logic of this headache of a flowchart billboard (note that if you have a problem and can’t do anything about it, there is a line up to their logo, but no arrow), but I’d rather just take a 50 cal Gatling gun to it. Found on reddit.

9., “Apartments Alert”

Remember Max Headroom? I liked him (although he was mistakenly used to try to save New Coke), and his name was creative. Brad Bellflower is not creative or funny or interesting or relevant or useful. I just want to punch his face through the back of his skull. Agency: RPA.

8. Ignite Instant Light Charcoal, “Fly”


From agency DDB South Africa’s press note: “Ignite…catches alight so fast that an insect sitting on one of the coals would be incinerated before it could fly away.” (This is a lie.)

How about 25 insects? And would my steak then have an aftertaste of burnt fly? Why not put a couple of cockroaches in the ad, too? Maybe a dung beetle.

7. American Express, “Tina Fey’s Guide To Workout Gear”

Maybe the most embarrassingly unfunny commercial of 2016. I hope Fey didn’t help with the writing. But the script isn’t what got this spot in the bottom 10. It’s how much shit she bought, how obnoxiously Amex shoves hyper-consumerism into our less-rich-than-Fey faces. Buy! Buy! BUY!

6. Mellow Mushroom Pizza Bakers, “Clinically Proven”

Parodying Erectile Dysfunction ads (badly) to sell pizza is a brilliant move, said nobody with or without penis, ever. Agency: BooneOakley, Charlotte.

5. Secret, “Raise”

“Feminine” brands pandering to millennial women mean well, buy they mostly don’t execute well. And this very uncomfortable spot portrays our hero as, well, a very stupid person. Here’s a more in-depth take on why the ad sucks from a smart millennial woman. Note: this whole Pandering Awkwardly To Young Women Femvertising Movement is Dove’s fault.

4. and 3. (tie) Pizza Hut “#PizzaBump” and Bergedorfer Beer, “Pregnant”

The spot, via Grip Limited, Toronto, is for Pizza Hut’s “Triple Treat Box.” And, see, these men have eaten so many pizzas that they got so fat that they look pregnant, but are not, but are probably close to death.


These ads, by Jung von Matt, Hamburg, are for Bergedorfer Beer. And, see, these alcoholics have drunk so much of the beer that they have massive beer guts that make them look pregnant. They are also close to death. And not pregnant.

The “pregnant male” is such a refreshing, original, game-changing, crackerjack of a creative linchpin, isn’t it?

2. Facebook “station takeover”

Image via: Instagram.

Facebook did this “takeover” execution in a few stations worldwide. Nothing dehumanizingly dystopian about this experience. Also, it’s not at all a scary metaphor for Facebook’s ultimate goal of taking over your life 100 percent, 24/7. The next step in this campaign is, you will see your own Facebook page updates on the walls/ceilings around you in every subway/train station in the world.

1. Chevy, “Stereotypes”

This list, of course, should be made up of 10 of these Chevy “Real People, Not Actors” ads. I just picked the worst one. (The “breakdancing millennials” spot they mock here would be a much better ad than this commercial.) I don’t care how many Chevrolets this campaign is selling, because it continues to make the world a markedly worse place.

And, it needs to be said, more than a few of the real people in these ads are actors. According to GM, they just don’t have their SAG cards yet. (I don’t believe that either.) But that’s not what makes the spots the shittiest ads of 2016. It’s the cringeworthy dialogue between the coached “people” and the astoundingly annoying and pathetically smarmy host, an actor named Potsch Boyd. Agency: Commonwealth/McCann, Detroit.

RELATED: numbers 11-15 Bottom Ads of 2016.

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