Well, did anyone think we’d make it this far? By which I mean 2019 full stop, never mind the annual rundown of the Worst Adverts Of 2019.
In 2016 I went a bit mad. Well, more so. Brexit, Trump and the Tories had done my nut in – and advertising seemed to small-fry in comparison. If only I knew what fresh horrors 2019 would bring. Not just climate change, cunts still running the world and the quite hideous face of Michael Gove, but the Peloton advert.
Adverts can be bad in a variety of ways. They can be naff, smug, simply annoying. They can desecrate your favourite thing, they can stick in your lugholes like a particularly annoying bit of earwax, they might make your bite the inside of your cheek in some reflexive, masochistic instinct.
I’ve never quite got there but I can totally believe that advertising has drawn people to physical violence, meted out on their hapless television like a punchbag made of plastic and whatever that gooey stuff they put in modern TV screens is.
But advertising is more than that – not simply annoying, stupid and intrusive. It’s an engine for acquisition, consumption, fear and anxiety. It sets unrealistic standards, unattainable lifestyles and promises you that if only you buy that Renault Kadjar you can be free of that gnawing sense of existential futility. We buy, so we are.
When we know that our world is on its last legs – thanks to all the things we buy, eat, throw away and burn – the role of advertising doesn’t seem like a vague irritant, it’s appears more sinister than that throbbing vein on Dominic Raab’s temple.
In that spirit I have collected what you told me were your most hated adverts of the year. Some housekeeping first: the Meerkats have been elevated to a grand hall of fame and many suggestions actually originated in previous years.
Needless to say everyone has their own personal gallery of Hell when it comes to the ad break: the Nationwide ads, Marks & Spencer Christmas jumper advert, Lorraine Kelly, Jet2, Chanel No. 5, Deliveroo were all in the mix too. Let’s just consider them consigned to a particularly obnoxious Pandora’s Box. And while Blue’s boiler cover advert is truly appalling, the primary emotion it evokes is pity.
So somewhere between you and me, we collected what I consider to be some of the worst adverts of the year. As ever the final decision is not mine, but yours. I have set out my arguments below – and in doing so probably saved myself thousands in therapy.
Now choose from the worst adverts of 2019 – in this batshit year it’s probably the only meaningful way to strike a tiny blow against the forces of despair.
Worst Adverts Of 2019
Muppets Portal advert
Portal is like something out of Black Mirror, so the fact it’s advertised by The Muppets just serves to make it more sinister – and even more like an episode of Black Mirror. We all know that Facebook wants to monetise and weaponise our own personal data against us and it’s bad enough when they know where you shop, your favourite films and most frequently-browsed categories on Pornhub.
But just imagine what Facebook will be up to with the videos it will deny Portal records, saves and mines for information, before admitting that it does, promising to do better and then keeps recording, saving and mining that shit anyway.
Setting up a Facebook-connected webcam above your TV set is basically the technical equivalent of inviting a Bluetooth-enabled Julian Assange into your living room to record everything you say and do, while paying for the privilege. .
So bringing the Muppets into this just seems like a deliberate act of pure malice, like Donald Trump co-opting children’s fiction’s most famous asylum-seeker, Paddington Bear, to be the brand ambassador of his plan to build a huge wall to keep all the brown people out.
Fozzy Bear is a tech bro who is selling your browsing data; Bunsen and Beaker work in a Russian troll farm. And you thought the Cookie Monster was only interested in biscuits…
Muppets creator Jim Henson, of course, departed this mortal coil some decades ago, meaning his most famous and lovable creations have been whored out to anyone willing to throw enough money at the entertainment Borg Cube that is Disney – including dismal brandfucks such as Barclays, Three and Fucking Warburtons. The Muppets, by the handy virtue of not being real, have no say in the matter of course.
Annoying, a bit depressing? Sure. But matching kids’ TV things to tech-brands that increasingly control our lives and know more about us than we do, is tinged with dystopia.
When the apocalypse comes the Peloton Gang will be ready: poised on their stupidly expensive bikes, awaiting their instructions. These delusional sweat chiefs are clearly in training for such an event and will surely take to their bikes and rule the post-apocalyptic landscape, calves bulging and heads swelling.
“All hail the Two-Wheels!” will be the cry of the masses too stupid or unfit to be able to cycle for 60 seconds on full intensity. And from the Peloton Studio our new ruler will dispense inspirational soundbites, lycra sleeping bags and hot laser death.
Finally the true purpose of Peloton will be revealed and it will be like Day Of The Triffids or 28 Days Later, only with exercise bikes. We don’t know what it will be but probably something to do with anal probing seems likely.
In the meantime these people continue their journey to nowhere, knowing they are indeed righteous – and with a BMI significantly less than it was 18 months ago.
Aaron500, your life is a cruel veneer of success masking an empty abyss of a human being.
Just Eat advert
The Just Eat advert – indeed Just Eat’s entire business – is less of an advert and more of an imperative. Just eat. Now and always. Until your legs are so swollen with gout you won’t be able to escape the rising tides lapping at your door as you listlessly watch another rerun of Family Guy and masticate on another cold Domino’s.
Eating out used to be a rare treat, now it seems to be almost the default position for young people, many of whom seem to barely comprehend the concept of a gas stove, tin opener or cabbage.
We all claim to despise single-use materials but the growth in takeaway-to-your-door seems to be the ultimate expression of single-use living: use, discard, repeat – whether it’s Tindr or Just Eat. Somehow food has infected our brains, become an addiction – like the grubs that want to be eaten by birds so they can reproduce. It’s mind-control through our stomachs.
The fact all of these takeaway services – thriving on zero-hours contracts and the modern-day slavery plantations that many British takeaways consist of – take care to align the idea of takeaways with watching television is, of course, not a coincidence. When the invasion finally comes we’ll all be so bloated and unfit the only resistance we’ll be able to threaten is a zero-star review on Tripadvisor. Just after we’ve ordered our latest KFC anyway.
Tom Hiddleston Centrum advert
Tom Hiddlestone is, of course, a sexual deviant who breaks into your house and gaslights you into thinking he’s your partner – and brambles with fried eggs is a perfectly normal meal. Don’t believe me? Simply watch this video, masquerading as an advert for multivitamin nonces Centrum but secretly a cry-for-help from the deeply disturbed actor.
Not really of course (although I am leaving the door open to this interpretation) – this is Hiddleston’s Japandering nightmare made real – an advert so ludicrous it’s designed only to be seen by foreign audiences who don’t give a crap if you delivered a landmark Hamlet at the Old Vic.
The Hidd, as he is not known, is of course one of those unthreatening actor types that make women go all fizzy in the knickers, so it’s a mark of this advert’s true awfulness that it manages to make him look less like the new James Bond and and more like a deeply awkward, creepy, shaggy-haired estate agent with a raging coke habit and erectile dysfunction.
• Read the original Centrum Adturd
Get ready for Brexit
“Get ready for death” struck me as about as useful, welcome and cost-effective as these ridiculous slogans, appearing in your eyeline more often than Claudia Winkelman for much of the Autumn. But get ready how? Do what, exactly? Start praying? Built a new ten-lane motorway through Folkestone at the weekends? Detonate your relatives?
Since we all knew Brexit wasn’t going to happen in 2019 they struck me – at a cost of one hundred million pounds – as rather wasteful, amounting to an already-debunked bluff: a man trying to play poker with a privet hedge using Whot cards.
Whatever you think of the politics of the matter, a campaign urging everyone in the country to prepare for things completely unpredictable, fundamentally unknowable and ultimately impossible was rather like expecting the British people to have a contingency plan for a gas giant hitting Wrexham.
Mariah Carey Walkers crisps advert
Think Walkers Crisps; think Mariah Carey. That’s at least how I imagine some addled exec pitching this ‘which American celebrity is available to advertise something about which they truly give zero fucks?’ televisual infected gland.
It’s now illegal to not like All I Want For Christmas Is You, a song by Mariah that represents the quintessence of her soulless brand of R’n’B and has now found its way into Carols From Kings.
So naturally she’s wheeled out to pretend she’s actually a nice person and would actually deign to dirty her fingers with something as vile as a Pigs-In-Blankets flavoured Walkers crisps. To watch her fingering one of the snacks is like watching a man trying to defuse a nuclear bomb.
At least you can imagine Gary Lineker actually eating crisps or Nigel Farage hating foreigners, but the notion of Carey eating mass-market British crisps is so fundamentally dishonest it’s like Greta Thunberg advertising Rustlers Double Decker Cheese Burgers.
Oral B advert
Is there a more gratuitous use of a jiggling lady arse and crotch than this advert for… toothpaste? Following painstaking study of this actress’ backside over multiple freeze-frames, it even appears her leggings are translucent – revealing a pretty skimpy thong.
It’s only a surprise we don’t get a gasped “Tits!” as she works her breasts in some wholly dentally-relevant exercise that involves a close-up of her bristols wobbling up and down. Stick some of these shots into a 70s sitcom and it would appear on one of those You Won’t Believe This Cleavage And Racism! programmes that litter the festive airwaves on the less-visited Freeview channels.
I think what annoys people most in this Oral B advert is the baffling claim that the lady in question “didn’t even know Oral B made a toothpaste”. Toothpaste being pretty much their entire raison d’etre, this seems akin to claiming you didn’t know the Nazis did fascism, The Daily Mail peddles hatred or Channel 5’s primary product is shit.
Over ten years of writing this blog I’ve come to realise that some of the things that annoy people most of all are dishonesty, treating the audience as if they’re idiots or what amounts to a kind of trolling via absurd claims. The Oral B advert ticks all three boxes: a dismal trifecta of advertising detritus more irritating than a lump of gristle between your teeth.
Lavazza Real Italian Coffee Advert
Sometimes an advert isn’t hideous, genuinely angering or deliberately irritating – it’s simply inept, poor, crap. In trying to stake some sort of claim to being the only coffee of note, Lavazza has thrown the kitchen sink at this messy advert that tries to make us believe that Premiership footballers care – or even know – what coffee is.
The very idea of ‘real Italian coffee’ is, of course, about as genuine as ‘proper English tea’ and it taps into a kind of tiresome snobbery that circulates around coffee, wine and whiskey. And we’ve gone properly bonkers over coffee. Buy some from any outlet these days and you’re basically paying more by weight that you might for gold, caviar or enriched uranium.
Quite what the sort of people who might spend €200 drinking 17 espressos in an Italian ccafe – the equivalent of drinking a tasty eggcup of coffee grounds the consistency of tar, more potent that injecting ketamine into your eyeballs – might make of instant coffee is anyone’s guess, but I have a feeling they might repeat the words ‘real Italian coffee’ with rather more puzzlement or contempt.
One reason I do like this Lavazza advert is it that its unintentional hilariousness reminded me of an intentionally hilarious compilation along very similar lines from the excellent Harry Hill. Picture them mouthing an incredulous ‘ear cataracts?’ and you’ll probably be a lot happier.
An advert attempting to reposition one of the most famous hideous employers since the Roman army into a place of rainbow dust, pixie farts and beatific joy is one of the most sinister rebrandings since Instagram users turned Auschwitz into the backdrops of their latest #livingmybestlife Instagram posts.
The sheer brass neck – not to mention brass balls, brass spleen and brass nipples of this – bears some consideration: Amazon is under fire for multiple deaths of its contract workers, not to mention repeated suicidal crises and numerous workplace injuries at its
sweatshops piss-strewn “fulfilment centres”, described by one former worker as “isolating colon[ies] of hell where people having breakdowns is a regular occurrence”.
Amazon, as we all know, contributed £87.50, some cardboard boxes and a DVD boxset of Young Sheldon in UK taxes during 2019, despite earning over twelvety trillion dollarpounds per second. So its reimagining as a purveyor of festive delights by a workforce who would only be too happy to work for free, such is their devotion to transporting GHD hair-straighteners to your door, is a work of such obscene propaganda that George Orwell momentarily came back to life, gave a Christmas lecture on the redundancy of his entire body of work and threw himself into an Amazon carboard-shredder in protest.
It’s not simply a bad advert, nor a mere body blow against human decency, it’s a kind of evil so pure it should be confined to a jar and guarded by a gang of priests in a church cellar. And that’s before I get to that fucking singing kid.
OK, you’ve heard my thoughts. It’s over to you. Choose from the worst adverts of 2019 below – and may God have mercy on all of us.