March’s Worst Adverts

M+Ms advert

What a strange time for awful adverts. I can only assume it’s something to do with the Conservative government. March doesn’t just herald the arrival of adverts that are truly appalling – the sort that you only have to see once to recognise its hideousness – in the shape of the Admiral advert, but enduring efforts such as the Just Eat advert, Go Compare advert and Big Bad Wolf Moneysupermarket ad – or even commercials back from the dead, such as the M&Ms ‘I could really use a snack’ advert, arse-wipe Andrex effort and Travelodge muppets spot.

All are currently making people hurl their remote controls, pets or even spouses across the room in the vague direction of the television. An ad break that featured all of the ads mentioned above might just lead to the sort of outbreak of spontaneous mass violence that JG Ballard would have written off as too horrible to contemplate.

I don’t think I’ve ever seen such a confluence of truly terrible adverts. As a result I’ve been forced into a kind of mini Worst Advert of the Year poll, a bit like an Treasury Autumn Statement. Choose your most hated ad with care – you only get one vote. I understand that’s a bit like having Piers Morgan, Michael Gove and Louise Mensch in the same room and only being able to throw rotten tomatoes at one of them, but there you go.

If you must – and you can bear to put yourself through it – you can remind yourself of the horror of it all below. Just be warned – watching all of them in one go could turn you into hermit crabs.

Andrex advert

A hideous confluence of sickly kid cutesiness and someone asking you how you feel when you wipe your arse.

MoneySupermarket Big Bad Wolf advert

More omnipresent than Olivia Coleman and more awful than The One Show.

M&Ms advert

Containing the most hideous phrase you can possibly see on television right now, apart from anything that comes out of Donald Trump’s mouth: “I could really use a snack.”

Just Eat adverts

The Just Eat advert is less of an earworm and more of an earparasite. Don’t expect to be free of it any time soon.

Travelodge advert

Jim Henson’s gift to the world, hijacked in this unlovely evocation of business-trip misery.

Admiral advert

Frankly a misfire that is astonishing even for advertising. The Admiral advert is an absolute horrorshow of what happens when something goes wrong and no-one can stop it happening.

Go Compare advert

It’s clear now that we will never be free of Gio Compario – just like you’re never really free of sensitive skin, bad knees or Irritable Bowel Syndrome.

New Admiral Advert

new admiral advert

The new Admiral advert then. Oh. Oh dear no. Oh Jesus Christ.

You know that horrible feeling at the pit of your stomach, the first few seconds when you know something has gone horribly wrong? The moment you realised you’ve fucked up at work. The moment you open the manila envelope. The moment you realise a relationship is over. The moment you make a pass at someone you shouldn’t. Or the moment when you fatally misjudge a risqué joke (I do this one all the time). Yeah, that feeling.

That feeling is surely what the people behind this new Admiral advert are feeling right now. Sometime you roll the dice and walk away from the table smiling. But sometimes you stare at those dice and have one of those moments. A moment of clarity. A what-the-fuck-did-I-do-that-for? moment.

For something like this advert to hit the television around 500 things must occur, many of which involve the top brass at Admiral, its retained marcomms agency, the creatives who came up with it. And about 100 other people. And, apparently, no-one put their hand up and said these words:

“It’s shit isn’t it?”

But apparently no-one did. Apart from Michael Symes – and several thousands more people out there on social media platforms, I suspect. If only they’d asked.

I’ll make no bones about it. This is utterly hideous. The Admiral is now a woman, because blah (albeit not wearing an admiral’s uniform). I don’t care either way. I’m not angry about it for some weird ‘why isn’t there a men’s rights day’ reason – I don’t see it as a victory for feminism or having any significance whatsoever. It’s a gimmick and that’s all. It doesn’t harm the ad or benefit it. It just is.

What else? Well, she is more annoyingly chipper than a Blue Peter presenter – exactly the sort of person everyone in an office openly despises. She seems to be omniscient, which has serious connotations for free will and the concepts of good and evil. She says that the company is ‘always looking out for the customer’ when no one in the sane and rational world believes that insurance companies give a shit about the people they deal with.

Here is a link to third-party review website TrustPilot, where customers of Admiral Insurance rate Admiral Insurance. They award it one star out of five. Out of over 100 reviews nearly 85% award Admiral one star. Here’s another where they get 3.7 out of 10.

Could you find negative reviews about any insurer online? Sure. That’s because everyone believes – not unreasonably – that they’re ripped off by insurance companies as a matter of course. That’s life in such a sector, but don’t insult everyone’s intelligence by pretending you actually give a hoot. In a web-savvy age, in an era where trust in the financial sector is understandably at an all-time low, this Admiral advert is the equivalent of someone earnestly telling you that Santa Claus is real. You know it’s dishonest.

But all that stuff goes without saying. It’s more than that. It’s just wrong. It’s a category error. It’s milk and orange juice. It’s New Coke. It’s eating what you think was a stray Malteser and discovering that it was really a small nugget of poo. It’s this display suggesting that lingerie is an appropriate Mother’s Day present.

This is one of the worst adverts I’ve ever seen. It’s horrible. It really is.

Here’s how this site works. I see dozens of adverts I hate. People tell me about terrible adverts on Twitter, Facebook and in the comments section. If I think there’s some wider significance to it I write about it. If I think of something funny or clever to say about the advert, I write about it. Occasionally – once a year perhaps – I watch an advert and literally stop everything I’m doing in order to write about my hatred for it. This Admiral advert is one such occasion.

More and more I stop and consider how I would feel if I’d been involved in writing, directing or acting in these adverts – only to see it slated on the internet. I’d only be doing my job after all. I wouldn’t be doing any meaningful harm to anyone and I might be a really lovely person. Oh lord, that poor girl. It’s a tricky one.

But when you make something so fundamentally disingenuous you can’t complain when people call you out on it. When it’s so objectively awful you’re going to cop it. Whether acting, painting, singing or blogging – if you put your stuff out there and people judge it to be egregious they’ll let you know. Boy are they letting you know Admiral.

Your advert stinks, Ma’am, and you’re going to hear a heck of a lot about it.

Admiral advert tweets