The Worst Adverts of 2016 then. Does anyone care? Among a whole world seemingly collapsing in on itself adverts might seem small beer. But one of my theories about why everything's going to Hell in a handcart is that we can't make sense of the world around us.
Fake news, lies and liars are the predominant phenomena of 2016. When we can't understand what is happening and why it makes sense that idiot certainties have a certain appeal.
There's lots of blame to apportion here with advertising seemingly a long way down the list. But advertising's playbook has been ripped off wholesale by politicians in 2016: exaggeration, omission, hyperbole, boastfulness, appeals to instincts and urges - and outright fabrications.
The last ten years of adverts have taught us that people remember stuff they hate - so politicians and newspapers did the obvious thing and told us to hate people, places, things. Thanks for nothing advertising.
In that spirit advertising appears as sinister to me as it ever did. I see no cartoon dogs, friendly celebs and companies who have our best interests at heart. I see the gears of the whole perverted system grinding along, powering the whole sorry affair on and on until we've spent every last quid and raped every last natural resource.
I've already dealt with the worst things of 2016. In that same spirit here's the longlist for the worst adverts of 2016. Who will it be? The Admiral? The 'Fantastic!" Go Compare cabbie? The risible Diet Chef advert? Before we go any further I should probably point out to those of a nervous disposition that James Corden features twice. It's up to you to choose the absolute nadir at the bottom of the article.
The Worst Adverts of 2016
MoneySupermarket EpicDanceOff adverts
Whoever makes the MoneySupermarket adverts doesn't seem aware of the fact they stumbled across a winning advert purely by chance. After many years of complete duffers the sight of a man with a magic arse stalking down the road was a rare, vaguely uncanny hit. Like the office dick who has stumbled randomly across a witticism, only to repeat it forevermore, MoneySupermarket persists with these 'epic something' ads in much the same way a drunk would return to an empty whiskey bottle. They're fucking shit, MoneySupermarket, and everyone hates them. #Epicshite
I hate the Pixarification, the Billy Crystal bastardisation of virtually any American animation - and I hate that we're forced fed this sugary gak because it's like smack for children. I'd like to crush these dopey, Disneyfied, Yank-ish and wholly unloveable cartoonish pricks in a vice until their delicious, brittle carapaces splinter into a million pieces.
Gaz and Leccy advert
Yes Gaz and Leccy are annoying. They're from the same kiddified animation playbook and that's pretty patronising. But I honestly think the thing most people find so infuriating is that it's such a shit pun. Just like Pan'n'Fern - the hapless women crowbarred into the Planitherm advert - it simply doesn't work. Gaz, Ok I can just about work with that. But Leccy?
Gaz: Hello, my name is Gaz. I'm some gas.
Leccy. Oh, OK. I'm some electricity.
Gaz: Right, what's your name then? Tricia? Ric?
Leccy: No my name is... Leccy.
Gaz: Leccy? Your name is Leccy? What's that short for?
Leccy: It's short for Electricity.
Gaz: But... that's not even a name.
Leccy. I know (sobbing). IT'S NOT EVEN A NAME!
If there's one thing guaranteed to stink like a fart under a duvet it's bad wordplay. For shame, Smart Energy GB.
Just one tiny example of how misleading people became just another tool in the arsenal of cuntery in 2016 was when Oak Furniture Land got its knuckles rapped for claiming there was no veneer in its products. In fact Oak Furniture Land has made the following claims in its advertising:
“No veneer in ‘ere“;
“100% solid hardwood furniture“;
“All of our cabinet furniture is made from 100% solid hardwood from top to toe; veneer, plywood and chipboard are never used”.
The ASA didn't agree, saying that some of the material used in Oak Furniture Land products 'functioned as a veneer'. Which poses rather a problem for Oak Furniture Land, which has been making hay with this message via its two characters which are actually called Oak and Acorn. They really are. I know, I know.
Still, I rather suspect the reason for readers' annoyance when it comes to these adverts is that they're fucking enraging in their ubiquity and chirpy soundtrack. As far as their wares go, if you want your home to look like a middling hotel chain that went through an inexpensive refurb five years ago, who am I to judge?
Nationwide Poem Adverts
I have nothing against poetry. It's not my favourite medium but I'd challenge you to read Houseman, Hughes or Larkin without feeling something stir within you. Great poetry is startlingly beautiful. By the same token bad poetry is as deleterious as it gets. Plonk it unceremoniously in the awkward mouths of street youfs and you have a recipe for disaster. Nothing against Isadora and her poem about keys but Jesus Christ.
Diet Chef advert
An advert so horribly inept it was banned by the Advertising Standards Authority on the basis that it was 'really fucking rubbish'.
Confused.com Mr Greenlight advert
In which 'insufferable cunt' James Corden (as described by one AdTurds reader) is amazed when some traffic lights change colour. The fact that the soundtrack to this advert is a song by a man who was killed it a car crash sums up the blithe vacuity of the whole enterprise.
Jacob's Cracker Crisps advert
Ironic try-hard juxtaposition catastrophe.
AO Talent Show advert
"The votes are in; its not good news" was pretty much the watch-word for the year. But even a world where Donald Trump is President is more attractive that this grisly focus-grouped idea of multinational Brits brought together by a talent show. And then someone throws a chicken on the table, just to communicate that no-one ever had the slightest investment in this crap idea in the first place and random poultry can't exactly make it any worse.
Flash singing dog advert
Seriously. How long was spent on making this advert? Just in case you're too busy dry heaving to take any notice, this constitutes the best bits of the lyrics in this advert:
"Where the hell has all the mud gone? I'm sure there was lots of mud. I shook off lots of mud. Where has the mud gone?"
Throw in a CGI dog and Queen's Flash and you have a pitiful car crash that has forced talented voice actors, CGI renderers and that poor actress into a 30-second criminal act that can only be the result of a game of Cluedo and Bowie songwriting technique unceremoniously buggering one another.
"Err, a dog, some mud, the soundtrack from camp 1908s space opera film Flash Gordon and one of the chessboard rolls of vinyl. What can we do with that?"
The answer is not just one of the worst adverts of the year but a music and lyrical journey only matched in its childish ineptitude by the last Catfish and the Bottlemen album.
Sainsbury's Christmas advert
One of the worst pieces of music I've heard since the last Coldplay album, sung incredibly badly by James Corden, described by one AdTurds reader as an 'irritating sack of shit'. It's also worth noting that this advert lamenting the prioritisation of work over family life is promoting Sainsbury's, whose stores were open on Boxing Day from 9am. How's that for a modern morality tale?
I know that these luvaduck cor-blimey UKIP-and-fry-up people probably exist, but do we really need them spewing their elongated vowels all over the telly? Why the beatific gurgling noise, as if he's discharging his dreadful cabbie semen over a Page 3 girl's tits? It's clear now that we will never be free of Gio Compario - just like you're never really free of sensitive skin, bad knees or Irritable Bowel Syndrome. Very Not Fantastic.
I don't know why Andrex keeps ploughing this, er, crevice. A hideous confluence of sickly kid cutesiness and someone asking you how you feel when you wipe your arse. Why does Andrex persist in making us feel nauseous?
The Just Eat advert is less of an earworm and more of an earparasite. Don't expect to be free of it any time soon.
Frankly a misfire that is astonishing even for advertising. The Admiral advert is an absolute horrorshow of what happens when something goes wrong and no-one can stop it. (PS. Here's a bonus AdTurd about The Admiral's very after-hours encounter with her employee Tom.
It's very much in keeping with modern times that mortgages are advertised by a stray animal that is famous for living in a bin. Along with the Flintstones efforts - complete with appalling impression - it struck a new low in the best part of two decades worth of truly terrible Halifax adverts.
Vote: Worst Adverts of 2016
Vote for your worst adverts of 2016 here. But think carefully - you can only choose one...
Have you noticed the amounts of Hollywood celebrities in adverts recently? Not just film trailers or transatlantic airways or American banks and all that jazz; not Victor Kiam. I'm talking bona fide Hollywood legends knowingly advertising utter shit in exchange for cold, hard cash and a significant hit to their credibility.
It's currently possible to see Arnold Schwarzenegger, Nicole Kidman, Harvey Keitel and a raft of silver-screen legends debasing themselves in the bit between repeats of Who Wants To Be A Millionaire on ITV56 every Tuesday afternoon. In exchange for yet another mansion - or a year's worth of fuelling a Lear jet - they appear in these parochial, ironic and very shit adverts for products as pitiful as insurance, price-comparison websites and bread. Often sending up themselves - or the roles for which they're known. In British adverts for British brands.
This tells us many things. One, most celebrities are utterly shameless. Two, there must be a hell of a lot of cash flowing through the coffers of these companies. Three, there's a very good reason they're coming over here, rather than doing it on their native TV networks, to do it.
In years gone by Sylvester Stallone, Snoop Dogg, Al Pacino, Samuel L Jackson and Bruce Willis have also made the trip over the water. Or have they? In many cases, probably not, but there's a calculation going on here - a calculation that suggests the shame of patronising this shit is worth the money if you only damage your street cred in a faraway land.
In years gone by it was known as Japandering - whoring yourself for cash in foreign lands on the basis that none of your white, English-speaking fans would ever see you humiliate yourself. Here's a good example: Schwarzenegger, one of the biggest movie draws of the 80s, appearing in a fucking bonkers Japanese advert for an energy drink at the height of his fame.
There are various degrees of awfulness and contempt to these adverts, but no-one comes out with much credit. Apart from a couple million more in the bank. One thing I am certain of is that we haven't seen the last of Hollywood celebrities in British adverts. They'll be back. Oh yes, they'll be back.
Harvey Keitel / Winston Wolfe Direct Line adverts
Harvey Keitel is a funny one. Here is a man who has has authenticity coming out of his arse. Born to immigrant parents who ran a restaurant in Brooklyn; a veteran; taught to act by Strasbourg; long associations with Scorsese and Tarantino; earned his stripes with against-type portrayals in films by Jane Campion and Abel Ferrara; acted under De Palma, Coppola and Scott; a peer of De Niro, Pacino and Nicholson - a quartet of actors you could argue have formed the bedrock of some of the most acclaimed and successful films of several recent decades; one of Hollywood's most iconic tough guys of the last 40 years. He must be fucking minted.
And yet he is happy to collect a cheque in which he shits all over one of his most iconic roles in a film directed by his protege, Quentin Tarantino. I happen to think that Tarantino is vastly overrated as a director, but popular opinion and celluloid consensus is against me: Pulp Fiction is a classic, the film's fixer, Winston Wolfe, is an icon and Keitel is one of the coolest character actors in modern Hollywood.
Which makes it all the more bizarre that he's prepared to spray that film and his own reputation with whippet shit. Keitel not only riffs on his image from the film as a mob fixer but repeats phrases and set-ups in the adverts, extricating Direct Line customers from minor scrapes with recourse to an insurance company. Or does he? Perhaps he really is going to shoot a lot of people in the head in order to remedy these prangs, leaks and boiler repairs. And surely Direct Line aren't equating home insurance with illegal racketeering?
Al Pacino and Bruce Willis Sky adverts
Seeing this pair advertise Sky in their inevitably half-hearted styles is sad as much as anything. Pacino once smouldered with intensity; Willis a wise-cracking everyman. Nowadays they look tired, used up, bored to tears by everything they do - including these embarrassing Sky adverts, in which they inevitably come up against some dopey, star-struck, weird-looking Brits.
Pacino actually references the fact that he might keel over at any second. And Willis taking one of them home to fuck does not make it any less sad. Indeed, after half an hour of trying to get it up and failing it probably serves to enhance the innate tragedy.
Harrison Ford Sky advert
This is, at least, not wholly embarrassing for Ford - and at least it's not inserting him into some drab domestic situation and asking him to make a fool of himself. But he just looks so very tired, as if all he wants to do is lie down and go to sleep. The man who played Han Solo, Rick Deckard and Indiana Jones looks more likely to doze off and start snoring halfway through a movie than be a kid again.
I find the overt wielding of cash fairly vulgar in this instance too. Sky, Virgin, Netflix, BT and the rest hurl around utterly vast sums of money in an effort to increase their share of the cash you allocate towards making your snoozy nights on the sofa that little bit more bearable. Lulling you into a soporific stupor as they lift another £80 monthly fee out of your bank account. We're slaves to our tellies in this way and these box-set wielding behemoths are our masters.
That they can spend these shit-tonnes of cash to convince more and more people to watch slightly differing shades of glossy, largely braindead television is one of the more sinister facets of our modern society. Oh, look, Game Of Thrones. A child being burned to death. LOL!
Sylvester Stallone Warburton's adverts
This the one that take the floppy, rubbery, processed-flour cake. Tory donors Warburton's offer up a grisly concoction of Chairman Jonathan Warburton and dough-faced Hollywood punchbag Sylvester Stallone engaging in an unlikely conversation about bread. For more background on this I urge you to read this apparently serious interview with the bread impresario, in which he voices his disbelief that Alastair Cook didn't realise supermarket bread was fresh.
I suppose it's something to be grateful for that Stallone didn't rape Rocky in earning his filthy lucre. And a soldier with PTSD massacring Muslims probably wouldn't play too well in Bolton, so they've plumped for a thinly-veiled Expendables pastiche. A mass-murdering mercenary, then, was deemed an appropriate character to base the advert around. Yet the odd smart visual gag can't rescue the fact that this is just horrible - a patronising, badly-acted and fundamentally dishonest advert about bread that votes for David Cameron.
Snoop Dogg / MoneySupermarket adverts
Gangsta rap's whole ethos is an expression of the desire for money and power - and ability to express both in the most vulgar way possible - so it's no surprise Snoop is prepared to eat shit in exchange for lots of The Benjamins.
The idea that saving money on a price-comparison site is somehow equatable to doing burnouts in low-riders and twerking with a bunch of honeyz is surely one that resonated with the Essex-dwelling C2s that make up MoneySupermarket's core demographic too.
John Cleese / Specsavers advert
It gives me no pleasure but say it, but it's precisely 28 years since John Cleese was last funny. In the same way that most musicians outlive their sell-by dates, churning out forgettable music by muscle-memory rather for any especially noble reason, many comedians start a low slide into irrelevance around middle age.
Fawlty Towers will always remain a landmark in comedy - and Cleese will rightly be lauded for his work - but this advert is just rather sad, for lots of reasons. It's impossible to link Cleese-Now with Cleese-Then, as a result this is simply the equivalent of acting karaoke by an old man who bears a passing resemblance to Basil Fawlty. Cleese must have been offered a tonne of cash for this - as he must have been hundreds of times over the last 30 years - and claims that he acceded this time because he thought it was funny. But it isn't.
Neither Cleese nor Specsavers come out with any credit. For the latter this is simply an opportunity to keep a tired joke going by besmirching the memory of a comedy classic. For the former, a million quid.
Nicole Kidman CompareTheMarket adverts
In my mind's eye Kidman gets booked in for a day of soul-destroying shit one every couple of months. She does a few voiceovers for adverts (probably those ones where radio stations can bag a bespoke mention), takes part in a few round-table interviews in which unlucky journos are allowed to ask one question each about her new film no-one gives a fuck about and spends two hours talking to a CGI meerkat. For this day's work she bags, ooh, let's say $1m. Then she goes home and devours the soul of a maid whose name she's never really known.
Put all that to one side and you have someone who's been rich, successful and acclaimed for almost 30 years. Humiliating herself for money in a market she's calculated cannot damage her fame or professional standing. Perhaps the lack of nobility about the whole shouldn't surprise us - but it's worth remembering that while your man on the street might think it a bit of fun, the very existence of these adverts shows us what these celebrities, agencies and brands really think of us.