The worst adverts of 2011

In Roger Corman’s portmanteau of Edgar Allen Poe’s short stories, Masque of the Red Death, Vincent Price – as Prince Prospero – explains that his father once locked a man in a yellow room for a year to see what would happen. When Prospero was done with him the man was half-mad and unable to look at the colour yellow for the rest of his life.

The most hated man in the country?

Having watched eleven months of adverts that could drive the calmest man to knuckle-biting angst I know how he felt. What would happen, I wonder, if a man were made to watch price-comparison website adverts non-stop for a year? My bet would be a fate from another Poe story, namely being reduced to a puddle of foul, stinking, steaming pustulation in a matter of minutes.

2011 continued where 2010 left off, with a number of big names – chiefly price-comparison sites, financial sectors and high-street names – doing their level best to put you in a bad mood. In a marketplace where brand recognition is paramount, an advert equivalent of a hair-pull is good work.

Reanimated corpses

Let’s consider, for a second, the utter absurdity of price-comparison adverts. Short, aggressive messages that cost tens of millions of quid to create and distribute; designed to make us use a website that shows aggregated prices for financial services. And to make us use them they try their damnedest to make us feel angry – it’s utterly barking mad by any rational standpoint. Welcome to advertising.

So it should come as no surprise that price-comparison site adverts usually constitute a significant degree of ‘worst of’ lists. Go Compare and Confused.com anyway. In my wholly scientific price-comparison site advert survey earlier this year readers disliked them the most. CompareTheMarket continues to show that price-comparison sites can be tolerable, enjoyable even, but the majority of ads in this pester-power genre have all the subtlety of a South London racist tram rant.

I’ve left Go Compare off this year – I think we can all take it as read that we hate it – and the Patrick Stewart MoneySupermarket ones haven’t quite piqued my anger yet. Confused.com is, of course, because I absolutely despise it.

Dreams pictured not coming true

Alas, there’s nothing we can do about any of this. You want your Corrie, your I’m A Celebrity, your X-Factor, your E4, your More 4; you pay for it. By buying Corn Flakes, Anusol, Mattesons smoked pork sausages, Muller yoghurt, KFC and Volkswagen Crafters. By submitting your details to MoneySupermarket and Go Compare; by banking with Barclays and Santander and Halifax. By doing your Xmas shop at M&S, Tesco, Iceland and Littlewoods.

You pay for these adverts to be created. You have created your very own monster. Stacey Solomon’s gangbang of cheap food and families. Jamie’s Oliver increasingly piggy face smirking over some brussel sprouts. Freddie Flintoff headbutting pork pies. And, lest we forget, Cara Confused pulling unfeasibly large items out of her vagina.

The only, tiny, infinitesimal thing you can do is to boycott the products of the ads you despise; an act so futile it’s up there with shouting at the telly and blogging about adverts you hate.

Vile pornographic subtexts

But you can strike a blow for humanity. You can, in your own way, blow Gio Compario’s brains out; throw an anvil at the Halifax choir or kick that “Wooh! Hello buddy, how’s your shave?” twat up the arse forever by delivering swift internet justice.

Vote for your worst advert of the year here – and send a metaphorical horse’s head to these people. It’s the one chance you’ll ever get to fight back. The war was lost long ago but, briefly, the boot is on the other foot. And it’s a foot of righteous anger.

Deliver it to the knackers of evil – and rejoice.

The worst adverts of 2011 – shortlist


Marks and Spencer Xmas ad

An advert that is so brazen in the lie that it is telling even Tony Blair would baulk at delivering it. Honey-voiced cannon fodder line up to tell us that your dreams can comes true even as they’re being edited out of the ad, week by week, as theirs die in the pages of tabloid and shopping centre ribbon-slicing Hell.

And let’s not even mention Frankie…

• Read the original Marks and Spencer Adturd


VW Think Blue advert

I’ve never included an advert on these lists before simply because the soundtrack is so irredeemably awful. The visual concept is quite nice – albeit not exactly original – but this rendition of Wouldn’t It Be Nice – a truly beautiful and lovely song – is so stomach-knottingly awful with its whiney delivery that this may be my most despised advert of the year.

• Read the original Volkswagen Adturd


British Airways’ massive wank

It’s possible that this advert opens up a small rip in the space/time continuum every time it’s played, so up its own backside is it; like an Ouroboros serpent burrowing into its own rectum, rather than swallowing its tail.

Several people have already been sucked into some sort of existential Mobius strip, as reality struggles to orientate itself with this new level of awfulness.

An elbow to the nose of anyone who’s attended Heathrow; to anyone who’s been through a body scanner; to anyone who’s looked forlornly at a notice board to see a row of red where their flight details should be.

• Read the original British Airways Adturd


Wonga.com advert

Wonga got into trouble last year for making adverts deemed too flippant to sell an eye-wateringly high money-lending service, so what did it come back with? Three grotesque hyperannuated puppets, gurning and twitching around, explaining various ‘payday loan’ scenarios.

Adverts to give you nightmares, if not for the crippling APR, then the disturbing mannequins – like marionette corpses given life once more in the pursuit of selling ill-advised loans.

Would you buy money form reanimated cadavers, twitching around in their ghastly parody of their former lives? Did you know that Wonga.com actually uses reanimated corpses to staff its call centres? Of course you didn’t. But you do now.

• Read the original Wonga.com Adturd


Eurostar

I have no inherent objection to ads that try something else; cock a snoop at received wisdom. I like Jarvis and Gondry; some of my favourite adverts are utterly batshit crazy, but this is simply idiotic. No-one knows who these three people are; two-thirds of them are hard to understand; the concept is confusing and unengaging.

The most ridiculous thing of all is that this is an advert for Eurostar that’s using London 2012 as a hook. It is quite conceivable that Europeans might be lured to Eurostar by the promise of Olympic sports to the other side of the channel.

But it has exactly zero relevance to anyone in the UK – unless they’re planning to fly to Paris and then get the train back to London in order to get to a lake in Slough. Just a bad, bad idea.

• Read the original Eurostar Adturd


BMW Lunds

BMW tracked to two brothers and interviewed them about their empty lives: cue instant hatred.

How could it ever have been otherwise? Everything about this advert is dripping with a smugness so cloying it’s a relief when the television doesn’t dissolve in a warm, self-satisfied fart and start oozing into the carpet.

The Lunds themselves may be nice people, but if BMW had made it their target to make themselves, and the brothers, look like the biggest cunts in the world they couldn’t have done a better job.

• Read the original BMW / Lunds Adturd


Haribo

I’m still not exactly sure what happened here? Is this the confused result of an ad simply gone very wrong? Or, more likely, an attempt at a deliberately bad advert. A bad advert so bad that it made Halifax and Go Compare look like an indoor firework compared to Haribo’s Tunguska?

Are there any vile pornographic subtexts here? Almost certainly not – but that doesn’t mean I’m not going to imply that there are. And it’s really hideous stuff. I mean it. Sick, just sick.

Can you image if you actually, in real life, saw the events in this ad take place? The utter horror of that – your world turned totally upside down. Either you had lost your mind or, or…

The alternative is too hideous to contemplate. But I feel sure the Haribo family would start moving towards you. No smiles, dancing or singing now. Just pure, unfettered blood lust. The horrifyingly blank eyes, the hungry mouths, the chittering noise as they gnash their teeth…

• Read the original Haribo Adturd


Harvester

This, on the other hand, is rather more straightforward. It’s utterly hideous on a much more prosaic level; the result of a creative brief just going more and more wrong with each successive iteration.

There’s a decent idea behind all of this; it looks glossy enough. But it’s annoying. And it’s utterly inept. Why the heck was a rap about salad included here? And why crowbar it into the ad is such an unwieldy way? “Help yourself to salad [three second pause]… all the salad that you want.” Dear Christ.

I refuse to believe anyone associated with the ad was happy with this. No-one put this to bed with that sense of satisfaction of a job well done; just a weary shrug. The problems, the lack of direction, vague brief, ‘the best we could do’.

I imagine the director, driving away from the shoot at a Harvester on an industrial estate near Daventry; Five Live is on but he’s not listening. He misses his turning but just lights a cigarette and just drives and drives and drives…

• Read the original Harvester Adturd


Barclays advert

Stephen Merchant always seemed like the nice one when set against Ricky Gervais, didn’t he? You could imagine Ricky Gervais actually physically abusing Warwick Davies – but not Merchant.

He may not actually step in but would linger in the background, distaste writ large on his face as Gervais’ high-pitched hyena-ish laugh rang out, another blow raining down on the dwarf’s back.

“Come on Ricky,” he’d offer, a weak smile on his lips. “That’s enough now. He’s had enough for one day.”

Gervais would stop; his fun forgotten, for now.

“What did you say? ‘Stop’? Stop what?”. His voice is calm and sounds reasonable, but there’s a dread stillness to him now.

Suddenly Warwick shrieks in pain as the riding crop connects; another withering blow on his lacerated buttocks.

A nervous rejoinder: “The, er, the whipping. Stop. You’ve gone too far.” Merchant swallows hard.

“Too far? I’ve gone too far?” A high-pitched giggle, baring those oddly pointy teeth. “And who are you to tell me I’ve gone too far, you gangly Milky Bar… Cunt.”

Gervais approaches, flicking the riding crop absent-mindedly, unblinking.

Merchant spots a squirrel dashing across the set and point it out, hoping it will lighten the mood.

“Squirrel there, oops, he’s off,” pointing at the squirrel disappearing through a door; another nervous smile.

It’s not working – and he can tell Ricky is getting tumescent with the thrill of the violence that is to come.

“No, come on, you’ve had your fun Ricky. Let’s write some more lines, eh?”

“‘Write more lines’? Oh, I see. You want some of this too. Is that what you want?”

Spittle flecks the lips and Gervais is clearly nursing something that isn’t vertically challenged in his pants.

“You want to talk to Mr Whippy too? I’ll write some lines – across your back!”

Ricky is now pointing at Stephen’s face with the fun-size whip. Stephen backs away, but Shaun Williamson grabs him from behind and holds him steady.

Gervais raises the whip above his head, Merchant knows that to struggle will only make it worse. Warwick Davies is sobbing across the room – still wearing the leather chaps and waistcoat Gervais insists on – a look on his face that says ‘thankyou’.

At that second Johnny Depp enters the room, and it’s as if a light has been switched on. Gervais drops the riding crop, Barry wanders off in search of cream cakes and Merchant relaxes, slightly.

He fingers the scars on his face and neck; flinching at Ricky’s high-pitched whinnying. At least Warwick survived.

This time.


Once upon a time you might have looked at Ricky Gervais and Stephen Merchant and imagined a dynamic between them a bit like that. But no more. This set of Barclays adverts are so awful I find it impossible to look at him in anything approaching a positive light any more.

I’m sure Ricky Gervais does not whip dwarves with riding crops, just as I’m sure neither man is actually evil. But whenever one of these ads comes on I think of Merchant brandishing an Ewok figurine and throwing it at Warwick Davies. Really hard. And laughing.

• Read the original Barclays Adturd


Gillette advert

This is a genuine search query, typed into a search engine today, resulting in a visit to AdTurds:

Is there a bigger cunt on tv than the twat in the gillette pro-glide ad?

The answer to the question is ‘no’.

• Read the original Gillette Adturd


Confused.com advert

…and still they come. Confused.com adverts are certainly memorable – for featuring a weird cult with massive bouncing breasts and a multi-dimensional muffed leader singing about what is understood to be a dating service.

If Brian Blessed were to shout FAIL from the moon for eight years it wouldn’t be sufficient to describe this deleterious misfire.

• Read the original Confused.com Adturd


Paul Whitehouse / Aviva advert

Can Paul Whitehouse tapdance? Is Paul Whitehouse dead? Has Paul Whitehouse bought a house in Tuscany? These ads seem to really confuse people, who don’t seem to be able to tell fiction from reality.

They confuse me too, mainly because they’re so strange. They’re just like Fast Show vignettes, but somehow there’s a message for insurance in there too. I never really receive that message because I’m too busy writing WTF? all over my skin in felt tip.

A very unlovely, aggravating, baffling and truly weird series. In’t Aviva brulliant? No, no it’s not.

• Read the original Paul Whitehouse / Aviva Adturd


Littlewoods advert

Quite probably taking victory at the last minute, for my money, this Christmas advert for Littlewoods is not content with simply being an entirely new shade of awful, it’s killed off Santa too.

I’m not really sure why Littlewoods felt the need to dispossess children of their youthful innocence quite so abruptly and violently, but there you are. Perhaps because Santa Claus is now deemed an obstacle to accessing the true meaning of Christmas – children’s pester power – to be tolerated any longer.

Perhaps they should have gone further; explaining that their parents will die one day, anything they truly love will be taken away from them and there is no God.

Start firing off Littlewoods credit cards emblazoned with ‘THIS IS THE ONLY THING THAT TRULY LOVES YOU’ once they get to 12 months, I say.


MoreThan advert

Idiotic – if nicely shot – drivel that made 53,000 people come to this site over the course of the year to try and find what the hell was going on.

I don’t have the energy to talk about it again. Suffice to say that the guy doing the voice was NOT Morgan Freeman.

• Read the original MoreThan Adturd


Colmans advert

I always hated this song, but imagine how much more I hate it now that it’s being used to advertise cow paste, using a reanimated cow skidding around on a dinner table.

I mean, at least Wonga waits until people die to use their corpses to run their UK operations, but Colmans relies on cow’s being killed to make its beef gravy. That’s right – a creature loses its life for this to be made possible.

That’s all well and good, but there’s no need to shout about it – or make a hideous, distasteful advert about it. It would be like Wonga using their bodysnatching teams on their adverts.

• Read the original Colmans AdTurd


Halifax Choir advert

Halifax won last year’s worst advert poll with its bank-employees-as-idiotic-regional-radio-disc-jockey ads.

Having dispensed with the services of DLKW, who were responsible for the radio station adverts, it’s now up to Adam & Eve to rescue Halifax’s reputation; battered by poor performance as part of Lloyds and its hated ad campaigns.

This one is noticeably less egregious; it’s not actually trying to cause you mental distress, which is always a bonus. The people in the choir are actual Halifax employees and they’re trying to convey messages such as Halifax’s Saturday opening and so on.

But still it’s horribly annoying. It may be the misappropriation of the songs – I don’t want my bank telling me they’ll ‘be there’ or that I’ve had a ‘hard days night’, but it’s OK ‘cos the bank’s open in the morning.

What next? ‘It’s OK not to be OK’? ‘You are beautiful in ever single way way’? ‘What I got you gotta get and put it in ya’?

To try and bolt such garbled messages about savings accounts and the like to these twee little ditties is simply rather grisly. It’s like a door-to-door salesman spending hours cooing over your family snaps and lovely crockery, only to open his briefcase in the last ten minutes and try to sell you a ‘little piece of paradise’.

You kinda wonder if all the preceding stuff is just a big pile of bullshit, don’t you? And, you know what, you’d be absolutely right. Banks exist to make money from you – don’t forget it.

Also, bonus hatred for the guy who does a little first pump in the bottom left-hand corner at the climax of one of the ads – for some reason not present in any of the ads on Youtube. I bet the people who made the ad would make out that it was “just something he did on the day” and that they “decided to leave it in”.

Lucky that he was positioned in one of the two places that would be really noticeable, then, eh?

Now vote for your most hated ad of 2011

You’ve seen the candidates – now you have to pick one. And only one, mind. None of this multiple voting shit. I know it’s hard. You may have to think long and hard and about – agonise over whether your vote goes to Wonga, Littlewoods, Barclays or one of the others.

Either that or clear your cookies and vote again.

Best and Worst 2011 Christmas Adverts

Time was we’d judge the start of the Christmas season by the appearance of crackers in shops; nowadays it’s the appearance of the first Christmas adverts.

With fully 50 days before 2011’s Yuletide there were Christmas adverts on our tellies; filmed in the unseasonally pleasant September and October across the country. Freddie Flintoff in a duffel coat, surrounded by fake snow, santas and mince pies. In St Albans. In September.

So, what festive delights await us this year? M+S had ditched Twiggy and Danni; the Sainsburys ad constitutes Jamie Oliver’s swansong; what would John Lewis come up with this time?

Absurdly, Xmas adverts for the big supermarkets and department stores have become event television. But how big – and shit – have these events been this year?

By my money they’ve mainly got it right. Iceland has backed away from the insanity of last year’s Donovan adverts; Marksies has ditched its middle-class smugathons; the overall tone is of restraint, when compared to last year anyway.

It’s not all good. The Boots girls are still coming – perhaps due to the entry of Ann Summers into our advert marketplace – and there are still two truly diabolical efforts here.

Familiarity – and you can bet you’ll become very familiar with these ads – is sure to breed contempt, even fury. By the fifth time you’ve seen the new Littlewoods or Toys R Us ads you’ll be ready to hurl your chestnuts at the telly.

But with any luck this year’s crop of Christmassy ads should leave you relatively unmolested come Christmas morning. Just pray no-one has a Halfords-style reaction when unwrapping presents.

John Lewis

Celebs: None

It seems to be John Lewis’ modus operandi to make viewers cry these days, with their ads ploughing a fairly shameless furrow that seems to work for them.

I think the strategy pretty canny. It’s a rich seam of nostalgia, sentimentality and general warm fuzziness – all the stuff that makes Christmas what it is.

Next year’s advert will apparently feature a sickly kitten being stroked in front of an open fire by Terry Wogan for a full 120 seconds, while Gary Jules’ Mad World plays in the background.

Turd rating: One


Sainsburys

Celebrities: Jamie Oliver

“Goto Sainsbury’s for a magical Christmas feast,” says this last effort from Jamie Oliver on behalf of the upmarket supermarket.

Nice idea, nice execution. Minimum Oliver. Good work.

Turd rating: One and a half


Iceland

Celebs: Stacey Solomon

Where was there to go after last year’s Xmas Iceland offering, featuring Jason Donovan as a perverted ringmaster? Well, back to basics really. Christmas parties, finger food, Stacey Solomon’s enormous face – I’m fairly unsure Stacey and her family will be tucking into gammon over Xmas, mind.

I take exception to the horrible new Solomonised recording of Driving Home For Christmas – a song I always make sure I have on a CD when actually heading home on Christmas Eve.

Not especially egregious then – and a thankful step back from the Lynchian horror of last year – but I doubt any celebrity would ever be seen dead entering Iceland, which seems to be ever closer to some sort of underclass shopping experience every time I hazard upon one.

Turd rating: Two


Waitrose

Celebs: Delia Smith, Heston Blumenthal

I’m a bit nonplussed by this one, featuring Delia and Heston. It hinges everything on four distinct products and doesn’t really compel me to find out more.

It looks a million bucks – a bit Downton Manor via Heath Robinson and Tim Burton – but it doesn’t feel especially cosy.

A bit chilly, all told, like a Heston artichoke and air-dried Haribo truffle in liquid nitrogen.

Turd rating: Two


Morrisons

Celebs: Andrew Flintoff, Bruce Forsyth

Hmm. Jury’s still out on this one. I suppose Freddie still has enough goodwill from the Ashes in 2005 and 2009 to get away with this – and some good decent, honest, thick Lancashire shtick probably doesn’t do any harm, although it’s a bit much that they actually correct Flintoff’s awkward delivery.

Nice cameo from Brucey at the end and a fairly strong message – Freddie like pies! Legend! Meat! Christmas! Pastry! Brulliant! – unlike many of the ads featured here.

Turd rating: Two


Marks and Spencer

Celebs: X-Factor cannon fodder

It’s fairly apparent that M+S and John Lewis are competing to be the winterval shopping experience and Marksies has really wheeled out the big guns for this X-mas effort.

Riding the X-Factor bandwagon has brought its own problems that rather trouble me (the singers either got a paltry £3K each or nothing, depending on who you listen to – Merry F’ing Xmas) but as an ad in itself it’s well executed and reasonably inoffensive.

I just find it hard to shake the feeling that we’re all implicit in an evil plan to make berks like Simon Cowell even more filthy rich than they are already. From somewhere in Brighton comes the sounds of Johnnie Robinson gently weeping.

Turd rating: Three


Argos

Celebs: None that I’m aware of

A novel, decent conceit but I’m not sure why a family of sperm are striding around shopping centres looking for Christmas presents.

There’s one extremely strange – and rather disturbing – aspect to this. “Mmm, eggnog,” says Father Sperm, Homer Simpson-style, absent-mindedly.

“Mmm, Bieber,” says Ma Sperm, appreciatively. Actually, more than appreciatively. Lasciviously, you could almost say.

Now, I suspect Bieber is legal, but probably only just. What’s more he looks about four. Just imagine the Dad lusting after Hermione Granger and see how you feel about that.

Mmm, Granger…

Turd rating: Three


Halfords

Celebrities: None

Nice idea, nice execution but this is a terrible assault on the senses – the sort of thing the CIA used to blast at Manuel Noriega.

Turd rating: Three and a half


Boots

Celebrities: None that I’m aware of

I find it hard to believe that the Here Come The Girls tattoo doesn’t have some sort of Pavlovian effect on half the population these days – its very presence like the foreshadowing of some horrific catastrophe.

Personally I’m inclined towards punching myself in the neck, but voiding of stomachs, noses, bladders and bowels are all empirically-proven side-effects of hearing this tune.

Since this one has a clear Great Escape theme to it I’m hoping there’s a bonus ad that involved them all being taken out to the woods and machine gunned.

Turd rating: Four


Matalan

Celebrities: None

I wonder if the Wachowski Brothers ever thought that their revolutionary Bullet Time trick photography invention would ever be used to shill a discount supermarket chain in a bizarre Christmas advert.

I’m guessing not, just as I’m guessing that no-one would have foreseen the inclusion of a mind-spinning Inception-style telescopic reality setting for an advert selling trouser-vendors.

I just find this confusing – and I don’t get what it has to do with Matalan. Presumably all the people feature in it are asleep, bald, pale and nude – possibly in a gigantic monster-feeding embryo chamber.

Turd rating: Four


Toys R Us

Celebrities: None

Why, when you have a much-recognised and much-loved Christmas advert in the form of the ageless “There’s a magical place; We’re on our way there; With toys in their millions; All under one roof” ad, would you piss all that brand equity down the drain with a vile American rap waffling on about coupons?

Appalling. Inexplicable. Appallicable.

Turd rating: Four and a half


Littlewoods

Celebrities: None

An absolute fucking disaster, unless the aim was to reposition Littlewoods as the most low-rent outlet on the marketplace.

The ASA has actually been moved to an issue a ‘we don’t like it, but we have to go along with it’ rebuttal to complaints that this ad is killing Santa. And replacing it with what? A bloody credit card.

If this were Japan some ritual boardroom suicides would be going on about now. Possibly metaphorical, possibly not.

I never want to see this ever again.

Turd rating: 245,835,585,299,001


So, there you have it. The best and worst 2011 Christmas Adverts. A rotten bunch to be sure, but this could have been so much worse. No-one would ever pretend that Fukushima was a good thing – but the alternative doesn’t bear thinking about.

And, just in case you think I’m overcooking things somewhat, take a look at this – and never, ever forget.