The Worst Advert of 2014: Results

Well, well, well.

It seems that many people, rather than being touched by Sainsburys’ advert about the Christmas Truce, thought it was the worst advert of the year. I’ve explained previously why I thought so when it originally came out and in the end-of-the-year round-up, so I’m not going to repeat myself.

Suffice to say, I do hope this misadventure is the last we see of appalling moments in history being used to flog goods. And to anyone who wants to take this up with me, I offer the following question: In what way would it be worse to use 9/11 as a backdrop for advertising a supermarket in a similar idiom?

Of the other top three competing to be named worst advert of 2014, I was surprised but heartened to see Gladstone Brookes ranking highly. This aggravating, openly aggressive and hideously ubiquitous advert was like an aggressive fungus spreading across television screens in 2014. The product they were advertising? Charging you a wedge for the sake of sending out a templated letter.


There’s something offensive in a vaguely Dickensian way about that and while I’m sure their terrible advert played a part, I think the number of votes indicates that readers felt similarly about Gladstone Brookes’ business methods.

Hive rounds off the top three and was winning this poll for a fortnight or so. There was no more aggravating noise in 2014 than this ghastly, twee, try-hard ditty that sounds like it was sung in a shed by a man wearing a stupid pom-pom hat, drinking cloudy cider and thinks Ed Sheeran is the last word in cool music. From everyone in the world, Hive, I beg you to fuck right off.

The rest of the poll

I loved how Wonga spectacularly imploded this year, with their ads disappearing from screens as the company underwent a lengthly self-flagellation, execs were defenestrated and they admitted they’d lent money to people who wouldn’t be able to repay their loans in a million years. This was particularly satisfying as Wonga have made a habit of popping up on this blog over the years to complain that I’ve misrepresented them.

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My big problem with the actual adverts is that they turn the serious business of borrowing money into some insane, infantilised pantomime – it’s a smoking gun, as far as I’m concerned, as to Wonga’s real market and in pulling these ads, they’ve admitted as much.

Hotels4U, another ad that simply vanished as quickly as it appeared, is the only advert I’ve ever seen that made me fear for the safety of the actors it featured. Their Twitter account reads: “If you love #hotels & high quality television adverts then you’ve come to the right place!”.

While not in any way offensive or annoying, the Co-Op advert smacked of a company that simply doesn’t know what it’s about anymore. The fact that an agency made this ad and the client signed it off is, frankly, a disastrous mistake by everyone concerned.

Will this be the year that Andrex stops trying to sell us their wet wipes? I don’t know, but I do hope it’s the year they stop telling us that they’re safe to flush. Especially as there’s a full ad campaign by water companies specifically designed to refute this claim. Where next for this lengthy campaign which seems determined to make us discuss faeces?

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I’m not sure there’s much less to say about the remainder, other than how appallig they are. What I can guarantee is this: CompareTheMarket isn’t going anywhere, despite being the most overstayed welcome since Julian Assange at the Ecuadorian embassy; Sky Sports will continue to pretend that football matter, when it doesn’t fucking matter one bit; Apple will continue to be smug; beards will continue to be appropriated by fuckwits; cheese strings will remain vile in every respect and that we will never escape The Redknapps.

Happy New Year.


There were plenty of votes for other adverts readers hated, including lots (excluded here) that simply aaid ‘all of them’.

Mostly good choices on the whole, though I can’t agree with the Singing Toys advert. Even though I couldn’t tell you what it was advertising if I had a gun to my head, it was one of the best of the year for my money. I actually wrote to the makers of the ad to see if they’d let me have the wonky owl, but they never replied to me.

Natwest – 3 votes
Gala Bingo – 3 votes
Paddy Power – 2 votes
Singing toys – 2 votes
Oak Furniture Land – 1 vote
Carphone Warehouse – 1 vote
Sensodyne Toothpaste – 1 vote
Paypal – 2 votes
Bet 365 – 1 vote
Cadbury Xmas – 1 vote
Coral Windows Radio Advert – 1 vote
Vistaprint – 1 vote
John Lewis – 1 vote
Chloe Perfume – 1 vote
Argos – 1 vote
Go Compare – 1 vote
Vanarama – 1 vote
Famous Grouse – 1 vote
First4Lawyers – 1 vote
MyMate – 1 vote
Renault Zoe – 1 vote

McVitie’s and Cadbury’s: The Owls Are Not What They Appear

If you look closely on the internet there’s all manner of bullshit to navigate. Forget Jennifer Lawrence grimeporn and the Deep Web, the really filthy stuff is to be found on the drivel-purveying marketing and advertising websites.

For instance, were you aware that there’s an ‘afternoon snacking market’? Of course, you weren’t, because there’s no such thing. It’s a nonsense term invented to convince biscuit-vendors that they have to spend more money on advertising, by convincing us that there’s such a thing as an afternoon snacking market. There’s not – it’s a total invention. But I bet you’re thinking about what biscuits you typically eat on an afternoon.

What, for example, differentiates a morning biscuit from an afternoon biscuit? What does the midnight snacking market consist of? What would you say if someone offered you a night biscuit?

Anyway, such ‘afternoon snacks’ can be seen in the form of Cadbury’s Lu and Ritz – something that I think consists of two different biscuits, though I’m not sure. Every time I hear them reference they’re called Cadbury’s Lu and Ritz. What is a Lu? And isn’t a Ritz a cheese cracker? Is that what a Cadbury’s Ritz is? And do you have to purchase it with a Lu or can it be bought separately. And doesn’t Cadbury’s Lu put you in mind of a chocolate lavatory?

So many questions. What the afternoon snacking market advert is aiming for is obviously the idea that eating one of these biscuits is akin to a five-minute hit of pure heroin-cocaine highball, only without the attendant self-loathing, heart attack and death in Hollywood motel.

Cadbury’s suggests that you’ll want to dance if you eat one of their Ritz and Lu (or maybe a Ritz or a Lu, I really can’t tell) – they call their campaign Moments Of Joy; McVitie’s wants you to think that you’ll enjoy a narcotic-free Twin Peaks-style trip if you eat one of their BN biscuits. Their current campaign is called Sweeet.

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You’ve probably seen their ads where two girls make funny faces at owls that are sitting on their heads. I don’t recall ever finding simple visuals so aggravating. McVities has form with this – not long ago we saw a Bush Baby coming out of pack of Jaffa Cakes, a puppy emerging from some digestives and kittens making nurses all gooey.

I despise every single one of them. Mannered, try-hard, whatever you want to call them, it’s the sort of thing that seems designed to stimulate a reaction – any reaction – to make it memorable. We see the advert; we see the product – we make an association. Perhaps the best at this was the You’ve Been Tango’ed series of ads from the 90s that suggested that drinking some fizzy orange pop was a bit like being slapped around the face. There’s another on at the moment that suggests chewing 5 Gum is like standing under a torrent of Vimto.

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Only, these adverts don’t do that for me. Eating a Jaffa Cake isn’t like all the horror, delights and weirdnesses of a trip condensed into 30 seconds. It’s something that tastes nice with tea. Can you imagine how insane life would be if it were how advertisers portrayed it? A day-glo, high-volume rollercoaster of inescapable emotion. Exhausting, numbing, incomprehensible.

Sometimes a biscuit is just a biscuit. And thank God.

• To give you an insight into the insanity of biscuit marketing, I’ve C+Ped some stuff from an ad blog I found, along with my genuinely-held responses to it, line-by line.

The campaign was created to celebrate everyday moments made that little bit better with a McVitie’s biscuit.

Fuck off.


Fuck off.

places a packet of BN biscuits on the sofa behind them and invites them to enjoy an afternoon tasty treat.

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Fuck off.

The packet is opened and out pops a wide eyed baby owl creating unexpected excitement

Fuck off.

and happiness

Fuck off.

for a moment before crunching into the crispy sandwich biscuit,

Fuck off.

enjoying the cheeky wink

Picture 3

Fuck off.

of a McVitie’s.

….fuck off.

Sarah Heynen, Marketing Director of Sweet Biscuits at UBUK, commented: “The new BN ad continues to illustrate the emotion derived from the biscuit eating moment.”

Fuck off.