Tesco was the runaway winner of the poll to find the worst advert of 2015. By such a long way that it garnered almost four times as many votes as its closest rival, Clean Bandit’s quite hideous Cortana advert and a full 35% higher than a third-placed late addition – the Virgin Media advert.
This is by far the biggest win of any terrible advert over the last seven years, but I’m going out on a limb to suggest that Tesco’s ubiquity around the time the poll has somewhat skewed the results. Was it really worse than the Clean Bandit Cortana advert? The godawful Haribo ad where they talk in children’s voices? Or the utterly vile Andrex ‘gold pants’ ad? For my money no, but there’s certainly something interesting going on here.
The rather swaggering way that Tesco went into this ad campaign – believing it had ‘permission to be funny‘ and that there was a ‘latent love of the brand’ – only to be met with a wall of visceral hatred reminded me of the grisly way the Ceaușescus went to their doom in 1989. Waving and smiling to a crowd one minute; machine-gunned up against a wall the next.
Hyperbole? Just take a look at the comments on this Facebook post, which contains just one image of actor Will Close (the annoying son to Ruth Jones and Ben Miller in the Tesco adverts) and nothing more. A calvacade of hatred.
My theory on this is that our suspicion of government, banks and big business is finally catching up with authority figures. It’s why Donald Trump, Nigel Farage, Jeremy Corbyn and the SNP have become more popular; why the High Street is having such a terrible time; why we burn effigies of politicians and bankers. The old orders are being disrupted.
It’s not so established that we’re actually leaving our banks or shopping at co-operatives – instead we vent our frustration in more symbolic ways. We’re unlikely to vote out a Tory government virtually everyone believes is horrible but we’re sure as Hell going to throw eggs at them. Tesco and the like – all those big, familiar brands – can expect a rougher ride going forward.
20 years ago Tesco had Prunella Scales and Jane Horrocks doing the exact same thing as Miller, Jones and Close. And it was seen as part of Tesco’s undeniable elevation to the king of the edgeland-megastore; the vanguard of a movement that killed off our limping town centres. Skip forward to today and Tesco is struggling and a set of adverts that do exactly the same thing are utterly despised.
Something has changed. The question for agencies, brands, business – for all of us – is what?
Worst Advert of 2015: Results
Tesco wins with over 44% of the vote, with the Cortana advert a distant second at 12.33% and Virgin Media – a late entry that probably would have claimed the runner-up spot if it had been in the original poll – taking bronze with just under 10%. MadBid was just outside the medals and the only other advert to take more than five per cent of the vote in a very open field. A field of shite, that is.
oak furniture land
Vitality uk dog
Joe Hart Head and Shoulders advert
House of Fraser “Your Christmas your rules”
ALL OF THEM
Apple xmas advert
LA vie est belle
Worst Advert Of The Year: Past winners
Tesco joins AdTurds royalty Wonga, Sainsbury’s, Go Compare, Haribo and Halifax in being voted the worst advert of the year. You can check out results and what I had to say for them below.
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.
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.
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.
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.