AdWorms: February’s Most Annoying Advert


I’m finding myself watching less television – I’d be something of a hypocrite if I didn’t after all, given my increasingly anguished entreaties for people to switch off the idiot box – and inevitably I’m exposed to less and less adverts. This is, arguably, something of a problem for someone who relies on crap adverts to fuel their blog but it does mean that the ones that really get my goat stand out from the crowd.

These AdWorms aren’t simply the ones I think are really bad – the omnipresent and decreasing-returns shtick of the Meerkats and Go Compare would be present every month if so – but the ones that really get on my aural tits; the ones that may as well be a toddler screaming on a bus or a car alarm keeping you awake at night.

These adverts – the adworms if you will – are shoe-ins because I find myself being annoyed at them hours after they’re broadcast. I find myself thinking of them when I’m sat on the train, walking home or lying in bath considering my very mortality. I find these adverts interesting because they’re designed to be annoying – and because I genuinely wonder where this ends.

The current Hotels4U advert strikes me as the latest in a long line of such adverts, but perhaps the most naked attempt to infuriate innocent members of the public (incidentally I recently booked a hotel and flicked through my mental list of brand names – LateRooms, LastMinute and Trivago – Hotels4U didn’t get a look in probably because they’ve failed to include their brand name or URL in their catchphrase, which is the whole point of these ads when you think about it).

I honestly think that, should the man who says ‘Anything for you, cupcake” be identified in a bar on a Saturday night someone might go for him, in a grisly recreation of the way the Ow My Balls! guy from Idiocracy is routinely blasted in the nads. I would decry this behaviour as rank thuggery – as I hope anyone who read AdTurds would – but a tiny part of me would understand how it might happen.

If someone repeatedly flicks my ear or jabs me in the chest with an index finger for no reason it’s quite possible that, eventually, on a bad day, I’d return the favour with interest. And while this sort of provocation doesn’t justify a physical response in any sane world, the part of us that learned how to cope with life in the playground might find a certain empathy with a desire to repay a deliberately annoying act in turn.

I hope the guy from the Hotels4U advert goes through life unmolested – it’s not his fault after all – but I’d like to think that the people responsible for these intentionally angering adverts find some sort of ironic just desserts, like the way that a philatelist would be crushed to death by a giant stamp or the cruel boss of an underpants factory would turn into a pair of Y-fronts in Tales of the Unexpected.

In the meantime here are this month’s choices. I’ve included Hotels4U again because, y’know.

Royal Navy Life Without Limits advert

The ‘you x, you y’ meme has long been tired and aggravating so I don’t know why they persist with it here. Even more obnoxious is how the line between honest representation and grotesque war porn fantasy has been long abandoned. The message in this ad is fairly clear – join the navy if you want to blow people away and get to play with cool toys.

Perhaps we shouldn’t be surprised: armed forces around the world have long recognised that there’s a similarity between gaming and actually killing people – and played to those audiences. The vicarious thrill of warfare is frequently referenced in this ad but, fundamentally, it’s the maddening rhythm of the whole thing that makes it so fucking infuriating.

Cheese Strings

I can’t find the one that’s currently on, but it ends with the Cheese Thing repeating “Cheese! Cheese!” in an irritating voice. Ads like this always make me think of the voicoever artists. Did the actor in question, who once dreamed of playing The Dane, ever think he’s end up voicing animated dairy products with an idiom that would be be deemed a bit much at a child’s party? Did the rapper, inspired by the seminal work of KRS-ONE or Slick Rick, truly foresee lending his voice, honed on the streets of south London in brutally witty flow battles, to a smeggy twat riding around in a car made of cheese spaghetti?

I can never understand why anyone – even really stupid people – could find stuff like this funny and the idea that there are people who do depresses me enormously. I’d say that the thought of him melting might cheer me up, but whatever cheese spaghetti strings are made of I doubt they melt. Burst into flames, perhaps. Either way, get stuffed you cheddary bastard.


With reference to what I said above, every now and then there’s a report that a celebrity gets beaten up while the attackers gleefully repeat the catchphrase with which they’re associated (see What’s The Frequency Kenneth? for more on this). Though I do hope not, it’s not inconceivable that this guy joins those ranks, such is the inexorable twattiness of this advert.

The Worst Adverts of 2013

NB. Skip the next thousand words if you’re just here for the funny stuff

Four hours. That’s how long, if you’re an average Brit, you spend watching television every day. And, if you’re not watching the BBC, that means one whole hour of adverts every day.

There’s a popular misconception that you don’t pay anything when you’re watching ITV or one of the free satellite channels. This is bollocks since you pay what amounts to a television tax at the checkouts when you buy the products you see advertised on television. Of course, if you subscribe to Sky you’re not only creating the very adverts in the first place, you’re also paying for the privilege to watch adverts: a double whammy that seems to be strangely overlooked by licence-fee whingers.

The Diet Coke cumshot
The Diet Coke cumshot

So, an hour of advertising every single day that you’re paying for and also paying someone else to watch. Imagine allowing a door-to-door salesman into your home for an hour a day – and you pay him for the privilege. Or standing in front of a load of billboards for an hour every day – you bought them. Or switching on a television channel for the express purpose of being brainwashed by advertisers for an hour every single day – at a fiver per half hour. 365 hours a year. 16 days. Two weeks. Half a month. Every Sunday you might as well go to the cinema for seven hours just to watch adverts and pay for the privilege. Insane.

I wrote this after a walk through Hartlepool’s town centre – a north-east conurbation that has been shat on from a great height by government policy, town planning and profiteering private landlords grown fat on the benefits of the feckless, ill, terminally unemployable or luckless.

30 pieces of silver
30 pieces of silver

Shorn of any meaningful industry or trades much of the north-east produces virtually nothing of value these days. Jobs mainly exist to service people and in this environment the requirement to sell stuff – necessarily goods of little or no value bought by people with no money on tick – becomes even greater, because without even this meagre trade even the hellish shopping centres and retail parks would be turned into rubble-strewn £2.50-a-visit parking lots.

Pound shops, value marques, charity outlets and even food banks make up much of the town centre. A friend of a friend runs one of those shops that sells food supplements and herbs. Recently his main supplier told him that he couldn’t sell to him any more as he’d become an approved supplier to Holland & Barrett, a place whose clients are nothing if not eclectic, seemingly consisting solely of doormen seeking muscle protein and arthritic pensioners buying St John’s Wort. The whey-protein vendors told him that he would not be allowed to supply anyone else within a certain radius. So another independent retailer is crushed into the dirt, the town becomes a little more homogenous and what little money there is is concentrated in the pockets of multinationals and spirited out of the town.

This watch will give me access to your fanny
This watch will give me access to your fanny

A job for a job, you might think. But that really isn’t the case. Some jobs generate less value, per capita, than others and it’s the big beasts who create the least value. An indie might generate, say, £20,000 a year. A McJob might create only £15,000. So when one of these places boasts of creating 20 new jobs the chances are there’s a net loss in value to the region. Remember that, next time Tesco comes a-calling.

Why is this relevant? Because this system we live in relies on buying more and stuff. Stuff that we don’t need. Stuff created abroad by miserable people for buttons, of material that’s designed to become obsolete within months, requiring us to replace it with more shit. That the end of the line for these ‘goods’ is a place like Hartlepool, full of people with no money, is particularly perverse but it’s become one of the prime money generators in our utterly fucked economy. Buying shit. It’s a little like the last days of Rome, but with a TOWIE onesie instead of a Bacchanalian orgy.

Costa buries its employees
Costa buries its employees

The fuel for this ghastly engine is, of course, advertising. It’s become utterly imperative that we keep purchasing, well beyond our needs or even meaningful desires. Thusly television adverts take on a greater significance. They must make us buy things we neither want nor desire. Our out-of-control demand drives down prices, which means everyone along that chain earns a little less. In doing so we perpetuate a system that destroys jobs, money, value and choice. We’re all racing to the bottom; a fevered, insane dash to pay ourselves less, rob ourselves of hard-fought rights and salve our bruised personalities with holidays, cars and cheap shit – palliatives to block out the horror of it all.

Look around you the next time you’re in a shopping centre, a supermarket or fast food joint. If you’re particularly unlucky you might experience a chilling moment of clarity; a horrible insight into what lies beneath the facades. The Amazon warehouse, the Asian sweatshops, the palm oil plantations, the mines that provide the precious metals for electronics, the vast mechanised slaughterhouses. We’re all complicit in this; we’re born complicit. But we don’t have to like it.

Arse wiping over a cocktail
Arse wiping over a cocktail

Adverts are the devil on our shoulder, whispering that we deserve it, that it’s Christmas; a can of pop, a smartphone, a 12-month subscription to Netflix will complete us. Only adverts are done whispering. Adverts will mislead, pester, guilt-trip and annoy in their efforts to encourage us to cough up, barely stopping short of a metaphorical skull-fucking in terms of the aural assaults adverts increasingly lob at us. Adverts will inveigle and batter their way past your personal spam settings. They’re not simply unskippable on a DVD these days, they’re unskippable in your head. As a concept I find that objectively sinister.

Advertising doesn’t have to be bad. It’s just that advertisers have cottoned on to the fact that bad adverts frequently work better than good adverts. Remember that old maxim about a bad meal, and how you’ll tell ten times more people telling their friends about a negative experience than a good one? We’re wired to remember those details: the slap in the face, the finger in the door, the hair in the soup and that bloody awful tune that we can’t get out of our heads. To be in your heads in what advertisers want, cooing that you deserve a new satnav or imprinting their url on your mind like cattle being branded.

Emotional mcblackmail
Emotional mcblackmail

Advertising pretends to be your friend. It is not. I can’t tell anymore whether it is a symptom of our slavery to the worst excesses of the market or something more sinister: something that is leading us further down to the road to our own anaesthetic stupor; a wanton shoulder-shrug, idle channel-hop and a listless wank.

Ads may sometimes be a bit of fun, they might even be amusing and cheering occasionally. But they are not benign. They are precision-guided missiles aimed directly at your sense of guilt, unhappiness, esteem, self-image and alienation.

You choose to watch them for an hour a day while they try to fuck you up.

In that context, they’re all bad. But these are the worst. Merry Christmas.

Diet Coke advert

Women get wet while humiliating a man.

• Read the original Diet Coke AdTurd

Samsung advert

Oh, hai rapey man with a modern-day Swatch Watch. Even though you look, sound and act like a twat I’m going to give you access to my vagina cos I like your wristphone.

Costa Coffee advert

Bean vendors try to convince us that the minimum-wage slaves they employ give a fuck about your Americano that you actually want milk in.

• Read the original Costa Coffee AdTurd

Santander advert

A bank makes stalkers live with sportspeople. Most of them seem to have some sort of alarming crush on said sportspeople now; at the beginning it was the other way round. There’s some relationship dynamics right there. Expect Jessica Ennis’ head to be found in a bucket soon.

• Read the original Santander AdTurd

Andrex advert

Simply the worst advert of all time. Or, if you will, a shit ad.

• Read the original Andrex AdTurd

McDonalds advert

Emotional blackmail with your sugar-flavoured gakburger, sir? Nah, you’re alright.

• Read the original McDonalds AdTurd

EDF advert

“I’m sorry to say the tests show you have a zingy, Mr Brown. You’ve got six months before your eyes fall out.”

• Read the original EDF AdTurd

Sky advert

Celebrity cunts tell lies for money.

• Read the original Sky AdTurd

Admiral advert

The ‘ordinary voice’ meme is, perhaps, 2013’s most aggravating. No doubt it’s relatable. It’s also horrible.

Vauxhall advert

A rap about a Vauxhall Corsa. KRS-ONE would turn in his grave, if he were dead.

• Read the original Vauxhall AdTurd

Lotto advert

2013’s most annoying noise – another appearance for the ‘ordinary voice’ meme – has returned for Christmas to mop up any viewers who may have luckily escaped thus far, like a battlefield executioner dispatching wounded soldiers with a bullet to the head. Oo-wack-a-doo-what-a-loada-crap.

CompareTheMarket advert

This carnivorous fish was vaulted a long time ago but watching these once-amusing adverts devolve into late-era Only-Fools-And-Horses drivel has been painful. The only sane response is to hope for a cobra attack on the whole troop followed by twitching deaths, like when Flower got offed in Meerkat Manor.

Wonga advert

Enough to make one pray for the second coming just so Christ can twat the money-lenders again. 1, 2, 3, 4, 5.

Coke advert

You might not think there’s much that’s particularly hateful about this, apart from its syrupy, sickly chicken-soup-for-the-soul bullshit and that awful kids’ choir. But look closer – this is the Irish version of the advert and it’s more notable for what it doesn’t include than what it does. Compare it with the UK version below, which features a happy – and gay – couple. Seems Coke can conquer anything – apart from homophobia. And tooth decay, obviously.

• Want more? Read the lists from previous years…

Worst adverts of 2012

Worst adverts of 2011

Worst adverts of 2010

Worst adverts of 2009

Now vote for the worst of 2013