Well, the last year flew by eh? Seems like just a few weeks since we were ready to go to TUI headquarters brandishing flaming torches and defaced copies of their brochures. And here we are again: time for the worst adverts of 2018.
Over the last year work and lifestyle changes mean I’ve watched less and less television – and so fewer adverts. That has the effect of insulating me from much of it, but being so much more aware of how dreadful some adverts are when they do make it through the mental shields I’ve developed over the years. Suffice to say over on Facebook and in the reader comments I am kept well abreast of the latest disasters.
2018 was perhaps the year when I felt most people in the country were able to understand the madness I have fleetingly experienced over the last ten years. As I write the government is stockpiling food and medicine – and spending £4bn on planning for a disastrous no-deal Brexit that it could simply rule out if it wanted to. Even the Leavers I know think the government has gone mad.
Welcome to the world of AdTurds; a world where you can’t quite believe that no-one else seems to appreciate how insane everything is. Where you want to grab people in the street, shake them and scream in their face that they stop eating at Nando’s, buying those stupid plastic coffee pods seemingly designed to pollute the world for ever, calling radio phone-ins and all the million-and-one other things that seem to speak of certifiable insanity.
Well, maybe they have a taste of my universe now. And if you don’t, well the next 3,000 words on the worst adverts of 2018 might give you an insight into it. My pain is constant and sharp and I do not hope for a better world for anyone. Enter at your own peril – for there may be no way back.
Worst Adverts Of 2018
Wrigley’s Extra advert – Tom
See Chewing-Gum Tom in his bare-chested glory. He has just finished fingering your daughter. See him chewing mint-flavoured gum. See his fashionably floppy hair. See him standing only in his boxers, which hide a penis <...hmm, penis…> that was until a few minutes ago interfering with your offspring in a particularly intimate manner.
Chewing-Gum Tom has already usurped you in the stakes of your child’s affections. Now he openly challenges you, with his flat stomach and well-developed chest. < Perhaps you are attracted to Chewing-Gum Tom on some level? No, no – there is only the Oedipal challenge he now presents. Forget about caressing his rock-hard abs >.
You must destroy Chewing-Gum Tom, like Saturn devouring his own son. If you do not strike now he will stand metaphorically astride your broken body, wielding the testes he has symbolically removed from your nether regions, steadily meeting your gaze and willing you to voice a breath of discontent at the terrible, unspoken subtext that passes between you < …sinking into those eyes like limpid pools of cool, cool water…. >.
Chewing-Gum Tom owns your Princess and his vigorous manhood < oh dear Christ his penis, his erect penis…> is going to be at her like a frantic piston during a rash B-road overtaking manoeuvre – and there’s not a damn thing you can do about it.
Kill Chewing-Gum Tom < …kiss Chewing-Gum Tom…>.
KILL HIM NOW BEFORE IT’S TOO LATE!
Just to be clear: the point of the advert is that Wrigleys Extra makes the girl’s dad fancy Tom, right? pic.twitter.com/WXmtWV3c3B
— Ian Hallard (@IanHallard) February 3, 2018
Diet Coke Mango – Superbad advert
Perhaps the one thing that made the idea of imminent climate change apocalypse seem like it might not be such a bad thing, the Diet Coke Mango advert is truly a piece of appalling stupidity not even Nathan Barley could have gone there.
Maybe Diet Coke focus-grouped what vlog-loving, gibberish-tweeting, LOLing teenagers talk like and it happened to be as bereft of meaning as if they had just written down a load of old shite for a man wearing a 90s denim jacket to say anyway.
And maybe the people who took receipt of that research, having read its findings, realised that the game was up. That it had all been for nothing and that humanity was on the downward slope of a bell curve, skiing gleefully towards Idiocracy like a farmer voting for Brexit.
If the rise of Millennials has coined the term ‘dawn of the dumb’, this Diet Coke Mango advert is their simpleton soundtrack.
• Read the original Diet Coke Mango advert entry
Sainsbury’s Christmas advert
The sound of children singing is horrible. Children are shit at singing. Wiring plugs, claiming housing benefit, driving articulated lorries. All things kids are shit at – but we don’t make them do those things do we? So why do we have to make an exception for the little fuckers making a noise scarcely less awful than Donald Trump dragging his fingernails down a blackboard… then sexually molesting it like he would any given woman within lunging distance?
What’s that? You like the sound of your own kids singing? Course you do. You’re a slave to hormones in the same way those ants who’ve been parasitised by fungus are. Your kids could probably singing Catfish and the Fucking Bottlemen backwards and you’d wee yourself a little bit.
No, children cannot sing. But they can shriek feel-seeking emotional missiles straight at your cry glands. Sainsbury’s know this – so that’s what they have served up for your Christmas dinner: emotion raw as sushi, with lashings of sentimental sludge and a side-serving of the vague unease we rightly feel when we make precocious children sing and dance like adults.
Now off you go to buy your Taste The Difference goodies like the good little ants you are.
Halifax Ghostbusters advert
This Halifax Ghostbusters Advert is the advertising equivalent of defecating directly onto the faces of everyone involved in the original film. Here Bill Murray is replaced by Gareth, the stout Welsh chap who, not content with vomiting all over the Wizard Of Oz, now seems to be embarking on an all-out cultural rampage that will presumably end with him painting a cock into the Mona Lisa’s mouth.
I’m guessing that it’s no coincidence that Bill Murray is not involved – a man who, unlike Dan Akroyd, seems to be unimpressed by money and frivolity when it comes to his work. Harold Ramis, of course, did not have a choice whether he appeared in this genuinely upsetting spot, by handy virtue of being dead. There’s an irony.
If you accept that some things would be beyond the pale on virtually any level – let’s say dropping Gareth into Schindler’s List to discuss life insurance, for example – then you accept that all such judgements are questions of degree. And if you have any sense you’d concede that everyone’s red lines are set at different levels. Who are we to judge other people’s red lines?
To see adverts like this is to look through your memories, the repository of stuff you like, and realise that every single bit of it is up for sale. And whether you like Ghostbusters or not, that’s a frightening thought.
• Read the original Halifax Ghostbusters advert entry
Flo & Joan Nationwide advert
People literally begged me to make this advert stop, like when you see women in films who are so desperate to save their children they offer their bodies to Nazi soldiers. Flo and Joan are probably lovely people and in the right place – a Radio 4 comedy programme or some godawful hipster cafe I hopefully never have to visit – I have no problem with them.
But stick anything on television again and again – even Salma Hayek pouting or Tom Baker laughing or the Blake’s 7 theme tune – and it’s going to become hateful very quickly.
And if your song about a house is so twee it makes people pull the same face as when they bite on a lime segment, then expect hatred so strong it rivals Toby Young’s utter hatred of himself for being a snivelling little cunt.
Boots – She’s Me Mum advert
This Boots advert features something more and more prevalent in Christmas adverts: a relatable Christmas message (you hate your own mother) and relatable (ie. terrible) singing.
With lyrics that would unite the DUP and Sinn Fein in mutual hatred (“It was her; did you see? Standing there; by the tree”) and with a voice scarcely less awful than Boris Johnson grunting his way to verbose orgasm, it’s a truly grisly prospect.
Instead of Scrooge, we have a brat who remembers not to hate her mother once a year thanks to Boots. Thank God we have private-equity owned multinationals to tell us what, how and when to feel.
• Read the original Boots advert entry
Vodafone ice-skating advert
There was at least something going on in the initial Martin Freeman Vodafone adverts. Some semblance of the everyman character Freeman always portrays, railing against the inanity of modern telecommunications contracts and clumsily romancing a young lady through the medium of data-allowance banter.
In some respects it was, I guess, vaguely relatable and not completely obnoxious. But like a mince pie discovered at the bottom of a bread-bin long after Christmas is over and done with, this series seems stale, over-familiar and thoroughly unwanted.
The repetition is one thing, but this advert is possibly the least inspired 60 seconds that has ever had the misfortune of being committed to a memory card. Not even a regional disc jockey could find this amusing; not even Freeman’s wife could muster an iota of respect for him going through with it; surely even his young children must openly despise him for what he’s done. Benedict Cumberbatch will surely slap him right across his oh-so-rich-now face when next they meet.
Freeman strikes me as one of the least annoying celebrities on the overexposure circuit (cf. Lauren Laverne, Ben Wishaw, Olivia Coleman) but this utterly uninspired advert – what’s it even about? something about no coverage, then he goes ice-skating? – is so bereft of even the most infinitesimal iota of inspiration that it’s basically an insult to the very idea of advertising, storytelling or Torvill & Dean.
That fucking dilly dilly Budweiser advert
This one is pure concentrated evil. It’s for Bud Light, a drink only MAGA-hat wearers actually imbibe, once everyone else has grown out of drinking this sugary piss at the age of 14.
The ‘makes stuff turn into product’ idea has, of course, been mined by Skittles for years now so it seems odd to lift the idea. And not just the general concept. Even the theme of this superpower being akin to some sort of curse to be endured is repeated wholesale here, just in a way that isn’t remotely funny.
And then ‘dilly dilly’: a sort of medieval ‘Wasaaaaaaaap!’ for genuine morons to rally around – whether ironically or not – when they meet in the sort of IKEA-fitted bars that actually serve shite like Bud Light, to bring together their few, meagre sugar-soaked brain cells and talk shit about sport, cars and how Brexit would be going alright if it only they’d put Boris in charge.
Oral B advert
On the face of it there’s nothing of the nuclear-level awfulness to compare with the rest of this list in this Oral B advert. There’s a couple of very gratuitous shots of the actress’ bum and of her jiggling about a bit – and yes there’s the usual simpering smugness that goes with toothpaste adverts. But next to Diet Coke, Boots or Halifax? No, simply not in the same league.
That’s until you get to the line ‘I didn’t even know Oral B made a toothpaste’. And it’s hard to pinpoint exactly why this is so aggravating. Perhaps i’s the fact that everyone knows Oral B makes toothpaste and the rank disingenuousness of pretending anyone in the mind might not know.
What, exactly, are Oral B known for, if not for toothpaste? Pizza? Price-comparison services? Over-50s life insurance? And what, exactly, does the name Oral B suggest beyond dental hygiene? No, don’t answer that.
Perhaps what’s so annoying is that truly no-one on this planet gives a fuck whether Oral B do make toothpaste or not, nor does anyone care what Oral B get up to. They can shove toothpaste up their arses for all I care – and for all I know, they do.
Sun Bingo Advert
If fairness the couplet ‘got fake tits? / but are you gonna bingo’? is perhaps the most on-point bit of work ever seen in an advert. And what an advert it is. It’s worth bearing in mind that this is an advert for playing online bingo – on your own, in your bedroom on a fucking mobile phone – on The Sun’s website. The tragedy of that mental image.
Sun. Bingo. Is it hard to imagine a more disastrous confluence than those two words? Chernobyl McDonalds? Jacob Rees-Trump? Piers Morgan? An appalling meeting of minds between the mindless: a profoundly, proudly stupid newspaper publishing content halfway between The Beano, Pornhub and Mein Kampf; a pastime that requires the mental faculties of a Krispy Kreme doughnut.
To be fair, as a proud Northerner, I don’t really have a problem with bingo. It’s that S** bit. Stick that word in front in front of anything and it conjures up a Coldwar Steve world of terrifying awfulness.
Sun Orgasm. Sun Holidays. Sun Heaven. See? Even if you can’t really discern what they might involve you just know it will be awful: a warm-lager, faded-seaside, racist-by-instinct, smartphone-nudes, fast-food, homophobic, GMTV, zero-hours, Primark version of anything you can imagine – with a guffawing cockney soundtrack.
Amazon Christmas advert
I don’t know why Amazon don’t simply have a video of Jeff Bezos touring around the third world torching everything organic he comes across with a flamethrower. That’s all I can see whenever I see a box with Amazon branding, or their horrorshow website – the very concept of a world based around buying crap for the sheer hell of it. ‘Shit for cunts’ as one meme I’ve spotted on the internet has it.
The fucking nerve of Amazon whitewashing the genuine hideousness of working in one of their George Orwell workhouses, where people piss themselves because they’re so afraid of getting sacked for having a toilet break, genuinely beggars belief.
Still, so much of our concept of Christmas is based around Victoriana, so it makes sense that the pre-eminent business of our time is merrily bringing back working conditions that could only be described as Dickensian. If that doesn’t make you feel genuinely upset and a little bit frightened then I’m worried for you.
Maybe that’s just life in the Broken Britain of 2018 – but pretending that Amazon warehouses are some sort of winter wonderland is the most grotesque dishonesty I’ve seen in Adland this year.
Diet Coke advert – Yurt and athleisure
“If you want a Diet Coke, have a Diet Coke.”
That’s it? That’s the pay-off to this sequence of dissonant Millennial brain-shart? Is this what William Shakespeare died for? Is that what a medium-sized Colombian cocaine-harvest produced? ‘Have a Diet Coke – because you can’?
In this Diet Coke advert, filled with meaningless, unconnected phrases that still manage to come off as deeply affected and hatefully hip, what appears to be a similar dynamic has birthed perhaps the most obnoxiously dumb 30 seconds in existence.
More nauseating than Trump boasting of grabbing women by their parts; more smug than Piers Morgan announcing he has won the Euromillions rollover; more thoroughly awful than Nigel Farage laughing while doing a shit in your bath, the Diet Coke advert is a Soho/Manhattan nightmare of vacant stupidity that literally has no meaning. You are trapped in it and there is no escape.
Ever wanted to live in a yurt? Wear athleisure every day? It’s time to do whatever you want, whenever you want. Why? Because you can. Be the first to see our new TV ad here. pic.twitter.com/Ij7xLdEAhN
— Diet Coke GB (@DietCokeGB) March 5, 2018
• Read the original Diet Coke Yurt advert