Here we go then. The worst adverts of 2015. If you're just here for the videos and want to give my usual Christmas Message Of Despair, skip the next 1,000 words...
Some people I know who are teachers have started to tell me recently that children don't necessarily know why we celebrate Christmas. No Jesus, manger, frankincense, little donkeys or Boney M. No Once In Royal David's City, O Little Town Of Bethlehem or God Rest Ye, Merry. Not even that version of Oliver Twist that Alistair Sim did. No, not because of immigrants or loony-left councils.
They think it's something to do with shopping. Some other people I know - people who are legally adults - got so excited by the arrival of a Coca-Cola truck in Sunderland I'm fairly sure they soiled themselves. When I pressed them further it became fairly clear they thought Saint Nick was something to do with fermented vegetable extract.
Easter? Chocolate eggs. Hallowe'en? Gaudy tat from pound shops that catches fire in any room above body temperature. Bonfire Night? Bangy things. September: Back To School. May: Barbecues, beach holidays and booze. November onwards: the Christmas Behemoth. We even have days dedicated to shopping: Black Friday; Cyber Monday; the New Year Sales. Mother's Day, Father's Day, birthdays - our lives are mediated by how, when and where we spend money.
Everything that we do is filtered through spending money. Shopping. Adverts. Our whole way of life is driven by acquisition - or the desire to acquire things. Forget the library, theatre, cinema, park, gallery or even pub - people go down the shops for something to do these days. They rule our lives.
Nando's is event living. Starbucks a daily gift to oneself. Maccies is a treat. We're so entranced by McDonald's, in fact, that we'd rather step over a dying man than risk getting our Happy Meal.
We show our love for another by exchanging cookery books that will never be read; box-sets forgotten and filed the second they're watched and Christmas jumpers thrown out the second the deccies come down. The system we've decided to live by is predicated on us having, eating and burning more things.
It's a manifesto for our own unhappiness and subjugation. But it's an insanity that we're happy to go along with as long as our friendly local supermarkets keep us fed, banks keep giving us money and TV provider keeps churning out good-looking trash. Advertising is the oil that greases the wheels of this ridiculous state of affairs.
And so we absorb it, assimilate it and are influenced by these little precision-guided films without even knowing it. To buy, eat, drink, travel. To tell us that we deserve it. To understand that the overriding thing in life is to have whatever you want, whenever you want it. To be the masters of our own ultimate doom.
When we've burned the last fossil fuels, chopped down the last tree, concreted the last pasture and eaten the last of the penguins we'll still have adverts telling us that we deserve more. That we should have more. Adverts are the ultimate expression of the way we enslave ourselves.
Not only that, they're really fucking annoying too. These are my selection for the worst adverts of 2015 but you can tell me which one you hated the most below. And if your most despised isn't present, feel free to add it below. In a futile way, you might just improve the human condition in some infinitesimal, unmeasurable and wholly pointless manner. But it might stave off the existential loneliness for a few minutes.
The Worst Adverts of 2015
My choices for the worst of the crop are below. Underneath that a poll. Read, weep and vote for your most-hated.
People used to quite like advert families. The Bisto Family. The Nescafe Couple. The Milky Bar Kid. We welcomed them into our homes and missed them when they were gone. But somewhere along the line things changed. Now we don't like advert families. We hate them. We've learned to distrust our Gods - the banks and supermarkets and car-makers and broadcasters. We may never stop using them. But in this set of Tesco adverts is a new paradigm. We hate these adverts - and we hate the businesses behind them.
Vax Air Cordless Lift
Like a mongoose brushes off cobra venom, I'm immune to the supposed charms of Miranda Hart. I find her whole 'whoops I'm a bit clumsy and look a bit weird' shtick a massive turn-off. In fact I'd rate my fondness for Miranda Hart as somewhere between 'acquiring wisdom teeth' and 'claiming housing benefit'. This Vax advert has all the traits that leave me colder than an Iceland party-food pack present and correct.
Only a total bell-end could have written this ghastly faux-twee affair. A proper Clem Fandango. Someone with a sleeve full of tats, a vial of expensive beard oil and a belief that Ed Sheeran, Catfish and the Fucking Bottlemen and Kodaline are the last words in amazing music. Hateful.
An exercise so fundamentally disturbing it can only have been made by actual children or psychopaths. Though it is incredibly fitting in that Haribo seems to have a phenomenal ability to reduce adults to dribbling infants.
I guess trying to make people go to a Travelodge in this day and age is a fool's errand, but breaking out the puppets just results in a mawkish, try-hard and charmless spot that suggests a polar opposite to common belief: that you'd be mad not to stay at a Travelodge.
The equivalent of buying David Attenborough and making him read out Katie Hopkins columns for the sheer Hell of it. Grisly, depressing - the utter triumph of cold, hard cash over something joyous and innocent.
A surreal, grotesque sex nightmare harder to avoid in 2015 than George Osborne's horrible smug little face. Still, there are definitely bigger and more annoying arses on television. George Osborne, for example.
The man who says 'You make me laugh Cortana' looks like he's physically choking on the words. He looks appalled and ashamed of himself. But what's bizarre is that many, many people - perhaps 100 - sat and watched and nodded and smiled while this abomination was allowed to happen. Even when the man looks like he'd rather shoot himself in the head than say those words. You can see it on screen - a man whose very soul is dying in front of our eyes. And everyone involved still said 'yep, that's the shot. Print it. We're using that one.'
In the cult sci-fi film Cube a massive, self-contained, indestructible death-trap is constructed simply because no-one involved in its creation ever questions what their tiny part in its making portends. No-one ever questions it; no-one ever stops doing their job and something inexplicably terrible just happens as a result. Just like this Clean Bandit Cortana advert. A vast, mechanised, purposeless killing machine. Only the advert is much worse.
If anything good has emerged from austerity it's that our relationship with banks has been changed forever. We finally learned to distrust big business in 2015, though we haven't quite figured out yet what to do about it. In that context Lloyds' desperate, misjudged 'we're your friends, really' advert felt as outdated as Jeremy Corbyn's wardrobe.
John Lewis finally runs out of steam with the 593rd iteration of its cover-versioned sad-sad-sad-happy routine. A tired, misfiring cry-wank of a glory-years photocopy.
Andrex seems to be on a mission to make people spew up into their TV dinners, with this the latest in a long succession of adverts apparently intent on either discussing bodily matter in great detail - or inspiring their sudden emergence.
Nothing against Vauxhall, I just hate Jake Bugg - a man with a voice like a stress headache.
Aldi graduates to the same level as the usual Big Four suspects with an ad featuring one of those singing voices that sounds like a Victorian urchin has been rescued from a gin parlour then partially educated by an aristocrat. The result is an estuary whine less loveable than cholera.
Fuck off Postman Twat.
Appalling, insulting, patronising drivel that dares to compare Paloma Faith to Billie Holiday and a lady who plays football to Emmeline Pankhurst. Women - apparently these are your Gods? Lots of bonus points for being insufferably smug and boasting an abysmal soundtrack. The last shot of the young girl glancing across to the camera physically pains me. 'Women who rock'. Dear Christ.
Vote: Worst Adverts of 2015
Vote for your worst adverts of 2015 here. But think carefully - you can only choose one...
Finally, thanks to Jon 'Holmesy' Holmes for sending in this billboard spotted in Ealing. I have absolutely no bloody idea what the Hell is going on, but felt it deserved to be mentioned here.
NB. Skip the next thousand words if you're just here for the funny stuff
Four hours. That's how long, if you're an average Brit, you spend watching television every day. And, if you're not watching the BBC, that means one whole hour of adverts every day.
There's a popular misconception that you don't pay anything when you're watching ITV or one of the free satellite channels. This is bollocks since you pay what amounts to a television tax at the checkouts when you buy the products you see advertised on television. Of course, if you subscribe to Sky you're not only creating the very adverts in the first place, you're also paying for the privilege to watch adverts: a double whammy that seems to be strangely overlooked by licence-fee whingers.
So, an hour of advertising every single day that you're paying for and also paying someone else to watch. Imagine allowing a door-to-door salesman into your home for an hour a day - and you pay him for the privilege. Or standing in front of a load of billboards for an hour every day - you bought them. Or switching on a television channel for the express purpose of being brainwashed by advertisers for an hour every single day - at a fiver per half hour. 365 hours a year. 16 days. Two weeks. Half a month. Every Sunday you might as well go to the cinema for seven hours just to watch adverts and pay for the privilege. Insane.
I wrote this after a walk through Hartlepool's town centre - a north-east conurbation that has been shat on from a great height by government policy, town planning and profiteering private landlords grown fat on the benefits of the feckless, ill, terminally unemployable or luckless.
Shorn of any meaningful industry or trades much of the north-east produces virtually nothing of value these days. Jobs mainly exist to service people and in this environment the requirement to sell stuff - necessarily goods of little or no value bought by people with no money on tick - becomes even greater, because without even this meagre trade even the hellish shopping centres and retail parks would be turned into rubble-strewn £2.50-a-visit parking lots.
Pound shops, value marques, charity outlets and even food banks make up much of the town centre. A friend of a friend runs one of those shops that sells food supplements and herbs. Recently his main supplier told him that he couldn't sell to him any more as he'd become an approved supplier to Holland & Barrett, a place whose clients are nothing if not eclectic, seemingly consisting solely of doormen seeking muscle protein and arthritic pensioners buying St John's Wort. The whey-protein vendors told him that he would not be allowed to supply anyone else within a certain radius. So another independent retailer is crushed into the dirt, the town becomes a little more homogenous and what little money there is is concentrated in the pockets of multinationals and spirited out of the town.
A job for a job, you might think. But that really isn't the case. Some jobs generate less value, per capita, than others and it's the big beasts who create the least value. An indie might generate, say, £20,000 a year. A McJob might create only £15,000. So when one of these places boasts of creating 20 new jobs the chances are there's a net loss in value to the region. Remember that, next time Tesco comes a-calling.
Why is this relevant? Because this system we live in relies on buying more and stuff. Stuff that we don't need. Stuff created abroad by miserable people for buttons, of material that's designed to become obsolete within months, requiring us to replace it with more shit. That the end of the line for these 'goods' is a place like Hartlepool, full of people with no money, is particularly perverse but it's become one of the prime money generators in our utterly fucked economy. Buying shit. It's a little like the last days of Rome, but with a TOWIE onesie instead of a Bacchanalian orgy.
The fuel for this ghastly engine is, of course, advertising. It's become utterly imperative that we keep purchasing, well beyond our needs or even meaningful desires. Thusly television adverts take on a greater significance. They must make us buy things we neither want nor desire. Our out-of-control demand drives down prices, which means everyone along that chain earns a little less. In doing so we perpetuate a system that destroys jobs, money, value and choice. We're all racing to the bottom; a fevered, insane dash to pay ourselves less, rob ourselves of hard-fought rights and salve our bruised personalities with holidays, cars and cheap shit - palliatives to block out the horror of it all.
Look around you the next time you're in a shopping centre, a supermarket or fast food joint. If you're particularly unlucky you might experience a chilling moment of clarity; a horrible insight into what lies beneath the facades. The Amazon warehouse, the Asian sweatshops, the palm oil plantations, the mines that provide the precious metals for electronics, the vast mechanised slaughterhouses. We're all complicit in this; we're born complicit. But we don't have to like it.
Adverts are the devil on our shoulder, whispering that we deserve it, that it's Christmas; a can of pop, a smartphone, a 12-month subscription to Netflix will complete us. Only adverts are done whispering. Adverts will mislead, pester, guilt-trip and annoy in their efforts to encourage us to cough up, barely stopping short of a metaphorical skull-fucking in terms of the aural assaults adverts increasingly lob at us. Adverts will inveigle and batter their way past your personal spam settings. They're not simply unskippable on a DVD these days, they're unskippable in your head. As a concept I find that objectively sinister.
Advertising doesn't have to be bad. It's just that advertisers have cottoned on to the fact that bad adverts frequently work better than good adverts. Remember that old maxim about a bad meal, and how you'll tell ten times more people telling their friends about a negative experience than a good one? We're wired to remember those details: the slap in the face, the finger in the door, the hair in the soup and that bloody awful tune that we can't get out of our heads. To be in your heads in what advertisers want, cooing that you deserve a new satnav or imprinting their url on your mind like cattle being branded.
Advertising pretends to be your friend. It is not. I can't tell anymore whether it is a symptom of our slavery to the worst excesses of the market or something more sinister: something that is leading us further down to the road to our own anaesthetic stupor; a wanton shoulder-shrug, idle channel-hop and a listless wank.
Ads may sometimes be a bit of fun, they might even be amusing and cheering occasionally. But they are not benign. They are precision-guided missiles aimed directly at your sense of guilt, unhappiness, esteem, self-image and alienation.
You choose to watch them for an hour a day while they try to fuck you up.
In that context, they're all bad. But these are the worst. Merry Christmas.
Women get wet while humiliating a man.
• Read the original Diet Coke AdTurd
Oh, hai rapey man with a modern-day Swatch Watch. Even though you look, sound and act like a twat I'm going to give you access to my vagina cos I like your wristphone.
Bean vendors try to convince us that the minimum-wage slaves they employ give a fuck about your Americano that you actually want milk in.
• Read the original Costa Coffee AdTurd
A bank makes stalkers live with sportspeople. Most of them seem to have some sort of alarming crush on said sportspeople now; at the beginning it was the other way round. There's some relationship dynamics right there. Expect Jessica Ennis' head to be found in a bucket soon.
• Read the original Santander AdTurd
Simply the worst advert of all time. Or, if you will, a shit ad.
• Read the original Andrex AdTurd
Emotional blackmail with your sugar-flavoured gakburger, sir? Nah, you're alright.
• Read the original McDonalds AdTurd
"I'm sorry to say the tests show you have a zingy, Mr Brown. You've got six months before your eyes fall out."
• Read the original EDF AdTurd
Celebrity cunts tell lies for money.
• Read the original Sky AdTurd
The 'ordinary voice' meme is, perhaps, 2013's most aggravating. No doubt it's relatable. It's also horrible.
A rap about a Vauxhall Corsa. KRS-ONE would turn in his grave, if he were dead.
• Read the original Vauxhall AdTurd
So try-hard you can imagine an ad exec wanking in the background while this got shot.
2013's most annoying noise - another appearance for the 'ordinary voice' meme - has returned for Christmas to mop up any viewers who may have luckily escaped thus far, like a battlefield executioner dispatching wounded soldiers with a bullet to the head. Oo-wack-a-doo-what-a-loada-crap.
This carnivorous fish was vaulted a long time ago but watching these once-amusing adverts devolve into late-era Only-Fools-And-Horses drivel has been painful. The only sane response is to hope for a cobra attack on the whole troop followed by twitching deaths, like when Flower got offed in Meerkat Manor.
You might not think there's much that's particularly hateful about this, apart from its syrupy, sickly chicken-soup-for-the-soul bullshit and that awful kids' choir. But look closer - this is the Irish version of the advert and it's more notable for what it doesn't include than what it does. Compare it with the UK version below, which features a happy - and gay - couple. Seems Coke can conquer anything - apart from homophobia. And tooth decay, obviously.
• Want more? Read the lists from previous years...