Ten worst adverts of 2009

Gillette Phenom advert Woods Federer Henry

It’s been a tough year for TV viewers, assailed by telecommunications or financial services adverts at every turn. And to think people still want the licence fee scrapped.

On certain satellite channels this year I’ve been convinced the amount of advertising may have outweighed the amount of actual time devoted to showing programming, so ubiquitous were the adverts in questions.

And what a load of utter shit those adverts have been. Smugness and attempts to annoy brands into the minds of viewers are the two things that really get me.

In those instances you can almost picture the guilty creatives, gurgling beatifically as they masturbate onto a digestive biscuit before writing ‘Impatience is a Virtue’ onto an oversized whiteboard.

I find it all quite hateful, but that’s the world we live in. I like to think that the people involved are every bit aware of how utterly depressing it all is. But, while they are all going to hell, they earn more money than I do – so who’s the real chump?

It’s been a bad year for banks, Stephen Fry and the unlikely triumvirate of Tiger Woods, Roger Federer and Thierry Henry. But it’s been worse for Duffy, a singer potentially destroyed by a particularly catastrophic commercial.

My only hope is that the money was worth it for those celebs taking the shilling, especially if the ads they patronise appear is this list of 2009’s worst.

You may disagree with my choices, but I think this was about as bad as it got this year in advertising.

Peter Jones and his godawful Money Supermarket ads escaped the pits of despair on a turbocharged shopping trolley.

If you think I’ve missed any obvious others feel free to suggest them – and vote at the bottom – and remember that the people responsible will be lined up against a Shoreditch wall the second the revolution comes.

Ten worst adverts of 2009

Kebab Pot Noodle adverts

An ad that has the sheer effrontery to start with the words ‘We know you find us annoying’ goes straight to the top of my personal list through its sheer hatefulness.

My personal rejoinder to whoever was responsible for this will always be ‘I know you’ll find this agonising’.

The first, a Flight of the Conchords rip-off, was bad enough. The High School Musical One was actively evil.

The fact that it will be enjoyed by those low on gorm via their mobile phones and Bebo accounts makes it all the worse.

T-Mobile’s Life’s For Sharing advert

Flashmob advertising really seemed to hit its stride this year, with advertisers realising that a unique, joyous and spontaneous event could be harnessed by the forces of evil.

T-Mobile did an ad at Liverpool Street station that I actually thought was quite good – the reaction of people watching is what makes these. They all looked amused and cheered up; a brief chink of sunshine in their miserable trudge to work.

However, as flashmob ads have become more prevalent, the public has become more jaded. Nowadays its possible to see ‘making of’ and handheld footage of such events where people actively ignore flashmobs and similar stunts.

So, what was once something rather glorious and heart-warming has been transformed into someone trying to sell you a monthly telecommunications plan.

While this one for T-Mobile isn’t really a flashmob I’ve lumped it into the same mass public stunt genre.

Red driving school advert

Anyone who thinks that becoming a driving instructor is their way out of a badly-paid boring job into a new world of opportunity, hard cash and self-determination is sadly mistaken.

It’s a one-way ticket towards mind-shattering boredom interspersed with moments of extreme danger shared with endless, faceless, 18-year-old twunts who already have a brand new 3 Series (that you’ll never be able to afford) on a promise from their Dad.

Miraculously, even though this advert doesn’t reference any of these things it still communicates the extreme desperation involved in deciding to become a driving instructor.

Direct Line ads

2009 was the year Stephen Fry went massive, as if he wasn’t already there. Poor Stephen comes in for a lot of stick, mostly ill-deserved by my reckoning, but he hasn’t done himself any favours by agreeing to these terrible ads for Direct Line.

Paired with Paul Merton, perfectly cast as a sneering cockney shit, Fry exudes all the characteristics his critics level at him.

They’re unfunny, smug, aggravating and seemingly ubiquitous – which is exactly the sort of press Fry doesn’t need, as his detractors would paint him as all of the above.

Duffy coke ad

It’s just possible that this coke ad, featuring Duffy riding to the shops on a bike, could have finished off the ordinary Welsh songstrel, so debilitating has its effect been.

AdTurds’ Google Analytics accounts reveals thousands of combinations of keyword phrases all revolving around the words ‘Duffy’, ‘coke’, ‘advert’ ‘shit’ ‘terrible’ ‘awful’ and lots of other unfortunate adjectives in a similar vein.

There are adverts that irritate me far more than this one, but the exceedingly low quality of the concept and its execution make it easily the worst.

It almost feels me feel sorry for Duffy. One minute the new Carole King; the next a poor man’s Joss Stone.

Gillette Phenom

Just what on Earth are these adverts about? They look like a modern-day demographic box-ticking homo-erotic Three Stooges played out with at least two people seemingly incapable of adopting facial expressions.

And now Federer and Woods are replaced by cartoons, with only Henry of the original trio remaining to mug around in their ongoing contest of hitting each other with their respective balls.

Just baffling.

118 118 adverts

The original standard-bearer for deliberately annoying adverts, this absurd telephone information service certainly needs memorable ads to convince people to pay upwards of a quid to find information they could easily access through a Google search in seconds.

Like a load of advertisers have sat locked in a room with ten kilos of coke for a weekend, everything in these adverts smacks of a brainstorm spiralled horribly out of control.

Beefeaters, Ghostbusters, Dave Bedford, The Stig, Elvis impersonators – every post-modern crapulous ironic reference imaginable.

I hope Ray Parker Junior got a fucking packet.

Go Compare advert

An undisputed nadir of the annoying advert genre, sewn up earlier this year by the amusing Compare The Meerkat ads.

So it’s a case of diminishing returns for these ads, which are competing furiously for your attention.

Peter Jones ran this one close but it’s the fact that you can almost see the working behind this – maximum possible annoyance – running through it like a stick of rock that makes this one so deleterious.

Natwest help adverts

I’m writing this on a day when the supreme court has ruled that banks are allowed to make unfair charges – an issue the banks have spent the last decade fighting – on no moral basis whatsoever.

So any suggestion that banks really give a flying one about the general public is automatically exposed as the height of hypocrisy.

These adverts for Natwest, a bank which has charged me a few hundred quid over the years for occasionally straying a few pounds over my overdraft limit, are the worst.

And lest we mention the bonuses? Everyone hates banks now, but they don’t care – they don’t have to.

They have a carte blanche to screw you every which way, and no amount of touchy-feely adverts (which are inevitably awful) will change that.

Samsung Jet advert

The motherload. The most hateful pile of cack ever committed in the name of advertising.

A message so vacuous, yet simultaneously horrible, that it transcends the medium. This isn’t just one of the worst adverts ever, it’s one of the worst anything ever.

Its foretelling of a Britain where the only ideology is the satisfaction of appetites is the most chilling portent of a nihilistic future ever seen. It would have terrified Ballard and Burgess.

If you want a vision of the future, imagine a bloke taking a picture of his cock on his mobile phone – forever.

Vote for the absolute worst advert of 2009:

Best and Worst Car Adverts of the 1980s

best car adverts of the 1980s

The 80s: a time of astonishing excess. Subtlety, suggestion and understatement went out of the window. That meant some of the most visually exciting, baffling and downright boring adverts in televisual history, and since the car industry tends to flash more cash when it comes to commercials, this phenomenon is seen most clearly in TV car adverts of the 80s – a decade of big suits, lager and massive cuntery.

Cast your nostalgic mind back to the Castrol GTX ads of the time; boggle at the baffling wonderment of Grace Jones advertising the Citroen CX; shake your head at the pride-before-a-fall braggadocio of the Rover 800 ad; shake your fist at Noel Edmonds; doze off to Ford’s neverending snoozefests.

These are the best and worst car adverts of the 1980s.

Best and Worst Car Adverts of the 1980s

Land Rover Advert

All Land Rover ads seem to portray their owners as inveterate show-offs. If they’re not charging to the top of a mountain in their Rangeys – what do they do when they get there? – they’re scaling dams for the sheer hell of it.

Still, this one’s a good effort and features a bit of slightly dubious music to boot. Nowadays Land Rover has gone the whole hog and admitted their adverts are aimed at snobs.

Volkswagen Jetta Advert

Painfully British, painfully 80s, but a neat and simple idea well-executed. This ad shows a parade of German and British luxury cars being gently dissed. You see the new Jetta is wider, has more legroom and a bigger boot than, er, one of those.

The bearded chap in the ad does miss out when not pointing out that, er, any of those have about a thousand times more character.

The Jetta remains one of the lesser-spotted cars on British roads, filing a niche that has all but died out – the ‘shatchback’, as coined by PetrolBlog.

Saab 900 Advert

Saab still relied on this trick of pushing its aerospace heritage – right up to the point where it finally succumbed to bankruptcy anyway – as if the idea that aeroplane manufacturers should automatically be good at building cars was unquestionable. Still, the 900 does look great blasting up a quarry at night.

Understandably the company was less keen on extolling the range of devastating weaponry its erstwhile sister company sold, though an advert showing a crazed exec in his 9-5 blowing the living daylights out of his office block with a Saab-built anti-tank gun would be amusing.

Audi Advert

It’s a sign of how slowly reputations change in the automotive industry when Audi has only very recently achieved parity with BMW and Mercedes – for decades itplayed catch-up with the premium Germans and Jaguar – much as they were when this ad was made in 1987.

The message here seems to be that if you’re ready to drive like a madman it’s time to buy an Audi. Although driving an Audi seems to guarantee a reputation as an undercutting tailgater, appealing directly to crazed lunatics may not be de rigeur these days, but this is the 80s after all.

Ford Orion Advert

Utterly lacking in humour and self-awareness, Ford’s adverts in the 80s really were the nadir.

Despite showing anyone driving a Ford to be living in some sort of Thatcherite nouveau riche fantasy world, complete with misty country estates and assorted Victoriana, the subtext for this Orion advert – the Escort with a boot – seems to be ‘it’s not as a bad as you think it is’.

Which it almost certainly was.

Honda Advert

As Bird’s Eye will attest to in 2008, stick Suggs in your ad and people will buy your product. This trend was started by Honda in the early 80s with this advert featuring Madness flogging the City, er, city car.

This is a stroke of genius. Unable to compete with the more established manufacturers of the time – the British Leyland group, Ford, Vauxhall, Renault, VW, Audi, BMW and Mercedes – Honda could only take them on on price.

Establishing yourself as cheap and cheerful does little harm to brand new budget manufacturers – undercutting the rest of the pack with an advert emphasising your innate loveability really can’t do any harm at all. Skip forward 30 years and look how Honda does it now – it’s a fascinating exploration of how brand equity and image changes over the decades.

Citroen CX Advert

Truly the most bonkers advert ever produced – and I include Tony Kaye’s Dunlop acid trip in that too. I have no idea why a Citroen CX is coming out of a giant Grace Jones head, and why anyone thought that would make people buy it.

‘La Beauté Sauvage,’ says Grace at the end, although at first I heard ‘A Bout de Fromage’, which means ‘A cheesy end’ rather than ‘Savage Beauty’.

Renault 5 Advert

We can only assume that the makers of Ford’s adverts would all have immediately suffered heart attacks if they’d seen this early-80s effort advertising the Renault Five.

It’s an advert so garish, childish and ingenuous it rather defies critical description. All we know is they don’t make them like this anymore, which is probably good news for epileptics.

Rover 800 Fastback Advert

An advert of such bafflingly undeserved hubris, it’s impossible to believe it ever got off the drawing board.

This advert for the Rover 800 Fastback tilts the executive saloon of the likes of BMW and Mercedes by having Germans in awe of its capabilities. Rather oddly, Citroen tried to do the same thing for the 2008 C5 (Reassuringly German), probably with more success.

The omens are not good for Citroen though. Six years after this advert was made Rover was sold to BMW, who struggled to make anything of the marque before offloading it to the Phoenix Consortium in 2000. MG Rover collapsed in 2005.

Austin Rover Advert

Noel Edmonds. The new Austin Maestro. Surely a marriage made in heaven. 30 years is a long time, but still not long enough to believe adverts like this – taking in a stultifyingly dull tour around some new Austin models, with Edmonds doing his best to appear as earnest as possible – ever passed muster.

According to Edmonds, who also talks about ‘the Magic of Metro’, the new MG Maestro ‘looks really terrific on the road’, while the bearded wonder thinks the Montego is ‘the most stylish estate car ever devised’. As if he gives a fuck!

Just before he delivers the coup de grace – ‘I’ve enjoyed finding all about the new cars’ – Edmonds packs his small children into a rear-facing shelf in the Montego’s boot, presumably to guarantee their instant deaths in the event of a rear-end shunt.

Really, all you need to know about the end of the British car industry in the 80’s is in this advert. While the rest of the pack were employing dry ice, explosions, animation and genuine celebrities, Austin went for Noel Edmonds walking around a factory in the Midlands.

Peugeot 309 Advert

A man dreams of exciting escapades in his Peugeot 309 – perhaps the least-exciting car ever made, and actually a Talbot reject from the mid-80s.

The 309 was a hodge-podge of Peugeot and Talbot bits’n’pieces and was designed in-house and built at the now-defunct Ryton plant. As such it didn’t get the Pininfarina styling that the rest of the Peugeot range did, and looked a bit crap.

There’s nothing too exciting about this ad, barring the fact that our hero is clearly shown to be bored of spending time relaxing with family, dreaming instead of spy adventures, and furtive sex with dangerous Russians.

Interesting pitch from Peugeot, that.

Austin Metro Advert

No-one does jingoism like the English, with this advert for the Metro urging you to send the invading visitors back where they came from, showing a bunch of Fiats, Nissans, Volkswagens and Renaults taking the ferry back to Johnny Foreignerland.

Accompanied by The British Grenadiers and Rule Britannia, the ad goes to great lengths to extol the Metro’s British roots and white-heat technology – split-folding rear seats, nearly 60mpg on the motorway and a 12-month service interval.

The Metro actually lasted longer than most Austin Rover models from the 80’s, but the lingering suspicion that the humble supermini was a little off the pace put paid to it by the time BMW came along. So much so, in fact, that it was the first car to be awarded just one star in NCAP safety tests.

Vauxhall Cavalier Advert

The car of the future: four-wheel drive, an onboard computer, ABS. The stuff of a madman’s dreams in the mid-80s, according to this Vauxhall advert anyway. Can you see where this is going? Yep, it’s the Vauxhall Cavalier, which has all of the above and more.

The car of the future indeed, if by that the advert meant car most likely to be used by taxi drivers in the future. If that kid in front of the telly had time travelled to the mid-80’s and found that the Cavalier was the height of mankind’s endeavours he’d have deleted himself from existence by going back in time and killing his own Granddad.

Still, all is not lost. A later advert for the Cavalier is one of the best car adverts ever.

Peugeot 405 Advert

Explosions, a soundtrack by Berlin, crashing waves, swirling vortices of downed leafs. If all of these make you think of the Peugeot 405, a French car manufacturer would like to talk to you.

Ignoring the sheer excess of this advert, it’s unclear why anyone thought of hawking a fairly boring mid-size saloon aimed at families using huge explosions and the biggest rock ballad ever made.

It’s all testament, surely, to the amount of cocaine being taken in the advertising industry in the 80’s. Obviously no-one in advertising takes cocaine these days though.

Ford Sierra Advert

Another incredibly conservative ad from Ford, but this one’s shilling the Sierra, a car that stirs up a surprising amount of nostalgia – not least because of its then-radical jelly-mould styling. The Sierra was everywhere when I as a nipper and when I got the chance to drive a vintage model courtesy of Ford I ignored all the other blue-oval exotica and went straight for the Sierra.

“It’s a hatchback, a saloon, an estate,” says the voice in this ad, belonging to the head of a local masonic lodge, over a Bontempi backing track.

Compare this effort with more recent Ford adverts for the Mondeo and you can see just how far cars – and car adverts – have come in 20 years. But there’s always the nagging doubt that the cars, and the adverts, of the past had more character than the new models ever will.

Esso Advert

Your kids need the toilet, you’re running low on petrol and you’re being stalked by a tiger. Time to stop at an Esso service station!

But hang on, the lavs aren’t slippy with unidentified liquids, the wares are surprisingly wallet-friendly and the cashier isn’t dead-eyed and sullen. It can only be an advert.

People stop at petrol stations because they absolutely have to, not because they’re warm, friendly oases of peace and welcoming smiles – so why advertise them at all? You’re not going to drive another 50 miles because the next circle of fuel-sale Hell has an Esso logo on it.

The idea that service stations are anything other than places of depressed and possibly dangerous loners, bafflingly expensive pasties and furtive purchases of pornography seems an especially strange one.

Austin Metro Clubman Advert

Oh dear, the curse of Austin strikes again. In this one Michael Barrymore takes us through the options in the new Metro range, and to be fair it’s pretty funny. “Aw white, aw red and aw Bwitish racing gween’…”.

Apparently the Metro Clubman also featured a digital clock, though it seems unlikely that this was ever a deal-breaker. What’s also striking about this one is the bafflingly expensive Metro Clubman – nearly six grand for a base model at 1989 prices and around the price of a brand new Ford Ka in 2008.

Barrymore outlasted the Metro, but both came to sticky ends in the 90s: A bad time for British cars, and British entertainers.

Castrol GTX Advert

One of the best car adverts from the 80s, Castrol’s ads were always something to look forward to. What obstacles would the oil have to traverse this time? And why the sinister music (Mahler’s Seventh Symphony)?

Castrol has rather updated its adverts these days, the frightening music consigned to the empty oil can of history, but they still feature the classic motifs of the 80’s.

BP Advert

Everything you need to know about car adverts of the 1980s is right here: an advert so ridiculously overblown it could only hail from that benighted decade. This effort from BP could have been summed up with two words: ‘buy petrol’, but instead takes us on a whistle-stop tour of BP’s operations around the world that unsurprisingly stops short of taking in BP’s documented oil spills and government-sponsored persecution of farmers in pipeline regions.

The advert’s last scene features a pizza delivery boy being deliberately exposed to the chill vacuum of space, inevitably resulting in a violent and rather messy death. Cheers, BP.

Car Adverts of the 1980s: Vote

Vote for your favourite car adverts of the 1908s below