Tag Archives: Badvertising

Annals Of Bad Ideas

It was planned a long time ago and it was supposed to be sarcastic anyway so it’s totally okay, you guys:

An event called “Caucasian Heritage Night” to be put on by a Utah minor league baseball team, the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim-affiliated Orem Owlz, has been cancelled following severe social media backlash via #CaucasianHeritageNight, particularly in light of the recent admittedly racist shooting massacre in South Carolina.

The Orem Owlz baseball team in Utah scheduled Caucasian Heritage Night, or what some are calling a “white appreciation event,” long ago, before the racially-motivated South Carolina shootings, and that the Caucasian Heritage Night event was meant to be a “lighthearted” roast of Caucasian people, poking fun at white stereotypes, reports CNN,

But when the Orem Owlz put up a Caucasian Heritage Night post on Friday, promoting what they perceived to be an event mocking the behaviors and likes of white people, social media blew up, many, such as a woman calling herself Melanin Monroe, apparently offended and angered by the Caucasian Heritage Night event, thinking white people get enough attention as it is.

A “lighthearted” roast of Caucasian people? “Poking fun at white people?” How exactly does one do that, show up with a jar of mayonnaise? Caucasians don’t have a heritage. For that matter, why? Who says it’s okay to make fun of white people any more than it’s okay to make fun of any other ethnicity? Sorry, but that’s not okay!

Anyway, I’m calling bullshit. No matter how much you may claim your intentions were good, there are going to be people out there who will think you’re condoning white supremacy.



Filed under advertising, racism

Sliding Down That Slippery Slope


We saw this one coming:

NY transit system to ban all political advertising

Just wonder if there’s going to come a time when they need to clarify what they consider “political advertising.” Seems like that slope is still a little slippery.


It feels like just a few weeks ago that those of us railing against selling advertising on public spaces warned that it was a “slippery slope” — that if you allow KFC to advertise on your firetrucks and manhole covers, it won’t be long before the NRA is gloating about cop-killer bullets at your airport and the KKK is demanding its free speech rights on your public buses.

Oh wait, it was just a few weeks ago!

So, here’s what’s happening in New York City:

Last week, the federal courts chalked up another victory for the defense of American freedom—or, rather, for the American Freedom Defense Initiative. Judge John Koeltl of the Southern District of New York ruled that the MTA must display an advertisement known as “the ‘Killing Jews’ advertisement.”

“Killing Jews” (the court’s abbreviation, not mine) is a response to an ad campaign run by the Council on American-Islamic Relations about the concept of “lesser jihad.” As part of its #MyJihad ad campaign to “take back Islam from Muslim and anti-Muslim Extremists Alike,” that group ran a series of ads attempting to promote tolerance and understanding of the concept of “jihad,” or “struggle.” In response, the American Freedom Defense Initiative developed a series of ads with quotes from Islamic extremists, including the one from “Hamas MTV” at issue in the most recent case: “Killing Jews is Worship that draws us close to Allah.” MTA refused to run the ad, and the group sued.

I’m not saying the court was wrong here. I am saying the MTA set itself up for this kind of nonsense when it first started using its public buses as an advertising venue. Just as I’m saying any municipality — including Nashville — is wrong for turning its public spaces, regardless of what they are, into advertising venues.

Here’s the deal. We’ve reached the era of “trollvertisements” — inflammatory hate speech litigated onto the public square by activists. It’s a tactic deployed effectively by Fred Phelps’ “God Hates Fags” group and has been perfected by anti-Islamic extremist Pamela Geller:

In practice, the group—which is run by Pamela Geller, a right-wing activist—is largely devoted to creating incendiary ads for display on public transportation, then litigating when transit authorities shy away from accepting the ads. “Killing Jews” thus joins the pantheon of offensive advertising that the group has placed on public transit around the country, teaching everybody an important lesson about the First Amendment and causing innocent commuters’ eyes to bleed. Beyond their utility at getting travelers from point A to point B, Geller has noted that “[Buses] are a very effective form of advertising,” adding, “I like the bus purely as a marketing vehicle.”

These aren’t advertisements, they’re shoving bigotry and intolerance down the public’s throat under the guise of the First Amendment. Do they have a right to do it? Absolutely. Is it smart for cities to open themselves to this kind of hate speech? No.

Cities have been arguing about this forever. But a contentious KKK rally down Main Street requires having actual people show up to don their white sheet and take their message to the public square. And Fred Phelps’ merry band of hate-mongers, despicable though they are, actually showed up to put a face to their hate.

This is a different thing altogether. This is some faceless person or persons writing a check to plaster their awful message on a public space. And while we know who people like Pamela Geller and Laurie Cardoza-Moore are, it’s easy to see some unknown non-profit doing the same with anonymous donors.

I just think if you’re going to take a dump on the public square we should know who you are. But we can’t see your face when you’re hiding behind an advertisement. And, of course, that’s the point.

Cities opened themselves up to this stuff when they decided that filling a budget hole with ad revenue was more important than opening themselves to the PR disaster that is trollvertising. Good luck presenting yourself as America’s Friendliest City when your city buses portray your Muslim citizens as “Jew Killers.”

And let me say, I’ve devoted more than enough bandwidth to expressing my anger at the dehumanizing experience that is the constant barrage of advertising messages we Americans are confronted with on a daily basis. I’m personally sick of it, have been for a long time (indeed, one of my very first blog posts was on this topic). The surest way to turn me off is to advertise to me (and yes, that goes for the damn megachurch that sent me a direct-mail marketing piece today.)

It would be really refreshing to be able to go somewhere in public, say the town square, and not see an endless stream of messages telling me to think this, buy that, or vote for this person. It’s time our city governments got out of the advertising business for a whole bunch of reasons, not the least one being, you have no control over what you’re selling.


Filed under advertising

Faith-Healing And Snake Oil In Nashville

Nashville’s largest healthcare provider, St. Thomas Health, has been running this super-creepy “faith-healing” ad campaign for the past year or so now. I can’t even tell you how offensive and obnoxious I find it. It exploits is based on a quote from the Gospel of Luke, “nothing shall be impossible with God,” and while they leave out the “with God” part, the images that accompany the campaign are so overtly religious, it’s obvious what they’re selling here: faith-healing, snake-oil, and promises of miracles for those who believe.

Imagine seeing this image plastered all over town, on billboards, buses and full-page newspaper ads:Screen Shot 2014-06-11 at 5.36.07 PM_0

How does this not trivialize religion?


The TV ads are even worse. Seeing a team of doctors and nurses holding hands in prayer over an operating table does not make me want to go to this hospital. It makes me want to run in the opposite direction, as far and as fast as possible. It does not inspire confidence in the surgical team. It makes me think of this charlatan:


On top of which, there are quite a few things that are impossible at St. Thomas Hospital. An abortion, for one thing.

I’ve been really uncomfortable with this ad campaign for a long, long time, and while I haven’t posted about it, others have (notably the Huffington Post, here, and this medical blog, here.) Interestingly, some of the campaign’s biggest detractors are religious people. From the latter link:

As I drive home from work (at an unashamedly for-profit hospital) everyday, I pass one of Nashville’s omnipresent “Nothing shall be impossible” billboards. While I am a Bible believing Christian with complete faith in God’s miraculous healing powers, the sight of the ad campaign makes me uneasy. I’m not one to be particularly politically correct or easily offended but the ad campaign gives off the illusion that if you become a patient at St. Thomas, God’s healing power is on your side.

To me, the scriptural slogan seems to imply an unintended opposite effect- it minimizes the power of God. My God cannot be contained within one hospital’s walls. He does not work in ways that we can direct with publicity stunts, let alone ways we can ever hope to understand. He may choose to heal you as a patient at St. Thomas…but he may not. That’s for him to decide, not for hospital admins looking for a raise to direct.

It’s just so tacky to exploit peoples’ religious feelings to sell something. It’s gross, and it’s disrespectful. And let’s take a look at exactly what kind of miracle we’re selling here, shall we?

Few of the people I spoke to had any idea about the actual context of Luke 1:37. It comes when Mary questions the angel Gabriel about how she will become pregnant since she is a virgin. Gabriel points to her cousin Elizabeth, who is pregnant after many years of having been barren, and announces, “nothing will be impossible with God” (NRSV). Indeed, Mary does become pregnant. The implication of draping this verse across a hospital entrance is that any kind of healing is possible: a barren woman becomes pregnant, and then even a virgin becomes pregnant.

St. Thomas Health does not offer fertility treatments.

So much fail.


Filed under advertising, Nashville, religion

Occupy Madison Avenue

Hey America, did you know there’s a culture war going on? Not the religious vs secular one we’ve always had, but a fun new one, the rich vs poor one? The takers vs makers one? The Occupy Wall Street vs Americans For Prosperity one? The “Me Generation” vs “Us Generation” one?

As an observer of the culture I find this new one far more interesting, relevant and, quite frankly, a far bigger deal than that other one. I know it’s a lot more fun for your Gannett fishwrap to write about Koran-burning pastors and fights over Muslim cemeteries in Rutherford County, and indeed these are important issues, I don’t mean to downplay them. But in terms of having a broad, lasting impact on American society, I think these religious wars over birth control and whether we are a Christian nation are really just sidebars.

This other culture war is the one which really defines us. It’s a battle of two beloved archetypes, pitting the “rugged individualist” against the “community organizer.” It’s a battle for the soul of America and American values. Do we value stuff? Or do we value each other? Are we all on our own? Or are we all in this together?

We’re not really having that national conversation right now, but it doesn’t mean the battle isn’t raging. Mitt Romney’s infamous “47 percent” comment and Elizabeth Warren’s “you didn’t build that” speech brought it to the forefront, but post-election we’re just sort of dancing around the topic instead of having a direct debate.

And I have to say, if you want to know what’s happening in a culture, look at its advertising. Have you noticed that all of a sudden we’re seeing mixed-race and same-sex families in TV ads now? I think this is great. When Madison Avenue recognizes that the “average American family” is now multi-racial and multi-oriented, it tells me the bigots have lost and the all-inclusives have won (I know that’s not a word, I just made it up, but I like it).

So now we have a new culture war raging, and I find it absolutely fascinating to see it played out in … wait for it … car commercials.

If you watched the winter Olympic games, you repeatedly saw Cadillac’s ad featuring Mr. 1%er, a self-satisfied douchebag bragging on American exceptionalism and showing off all his cool stuff. This truly useless idiot seems to think we’re going to go back to the moon despite the fact that we keep cutting NASA’s budget so we can afford tax cuts for wealthy assholes like him. What a buffoon. I suppose he’s Cadillac’s target market. If you missed it, here it is:

This ad irritated a lot of us liberals, and no doubt it was designed to do just that. And now Ford has answered that ad with its own, featuring an actual community do-gooder named Pasho Murray, founder of Detroit Dirt, which takes food waste and turns it into compost for urban gardens.

You can see Ford’s “parody” ad here:

I just find this so fascinating. I suppose someone else will come out with an ad telling us to ride bicycles or use public transit. Wait for it, in 5… 4… 3….

Something big is happening in American culture right now. I wonder, maybe we need to be a little more intentional about the conversation? Instead of letting advertising agencies have the conversation for us? Just a thought.


Filed under advertising, culture wars, pop culture

Super Bowl Derp Alert


Atlanta anchorwoman Brenda Wood sets the haters straight:



Tea Partiers are in an uproar over Coca Cola’s multicultural ad which features people singing “America The Beautiful” in different languages. You can watch the ad here:

Now there’s a #BoycotCoke hashtag. It takes some special kind of stupid to want to boycott Coca Cola for their ad celebrating American diversity. There are a lot of reasons to boycott Coke — here’s one, your health is another — but an ad featuring kids singing doesn’t exactly top my list.

P.S. Among the many ironies here is the fact that RWNJs got so upset about America The Beautiful being sung in foreign languages that they completely ignored the same-sex couple at 0:43. Bwaaaha.


Filed under advertising, pop culture

Today’s Anti-Abortion WTF Moment

I ask you, who does this?


Unbelievable. I don’t think there’s enough irony in the world for this marketing ploy to make sense. Either this dry cleaners’ is cluelessly unaware of the historic, documented impact of anti-abortion laws, or else they are aware of it and are just being cruel. According to the story, Cincinnati’s Springdale Dry Cleaners has been getting negative publicity (and losing customers) over this since 2010. So I’ll take cruel.



Filed under abortion, women's rights

Weird Advertising Ploy Du Jour

You know how I always say voting for people who hate government is akin to shopping at a vegan butcher shop? Well, one would think that might be the idea behind this London butcher’s shop, where faux human “meat” kinda makes me not want to eat any kind of meat, not for a good, long while.

In honor of Meatless Monday, I give you Wesker and Son, located in London’s Smithfield Market. Click on the link for some really, um, interesting photos. And I’ll post this one picture, just ’cause I’m mean:

Giving New Meaning To The Term “Sausage”

So, what gives? Is this butcher shop courtesy of PETA? Sadly, no:

Annnnnnnd there are the penises. If you’re currently howling “whyyyyyyyyyy?” the answer is “because the Resident Evil 6 video game.” This shop is basically a fucked-up marketing gimmick. Which hardly seems like a sufficient reason.

Oh. A video game. Of course. Why didn’t I think of that?


Filed under advertising, food



I just got a fundraising letter in the snail-mail. Can you believe it? They must be throwing everything out there.

Well, almost everything. The letter included a return envelope, but they were too cheap to spring for the stamp. LOL.


I just got called by a Republican telefundraising service. They said they were with America’s Next Generation; when I asked who that was, the lady hesitated and then said, “A SuperPac.” I asked where they got their money from and she said, “Republican donors like yourself.”

LOL. I’ve never donated to a Republican group in my life. I’ve never voted Republican in my life, either. How they got my name and number I have no clue, but this happens every now and then — last election I got called by a little old lady who said she was calling from the College Republicans. I mean, you could just tell she was 90 gazillion years old. I burst out laughing.

Anyway, I’m on some list, probably related to church stuff I’ve done. Some mailing list got merged with another mailing list which got merged with another list and then before you know it you’re getting direct mail pieces from Gary Bauer and campaign calls from Republican SuperPacs.

They wanted me to listen to their new ad, which was basically cherry-picked Obama quotes preceded by a scary-voiced announcer dude saying, “Obama said this but here he is in his own voice saying this!” They focused on Obamacare (“he said the individual mandate is not a tax but the Supreme Court said it is!”), the debt (“he said Bush’s debt was unpatriotic but his is worse!”) and Obama’s re-election (“he said he should be a one term president if he didn’t get the job done! Well?! WELL?!“). Then, oddly, I got returned to a real person who wanted to know what else I wanted to hear in future ads. I told them I didn’t want to hear any of this crap and why the hell were they calling registered Democrats and Obama volunteers? They had no clue.

Of course not.

According to OpenSecrets, this anti-Obama SuperPac has spent a big chunk of its money on a company called InfoCision Management Corporation, the nation’s second-largest telemarketing company. Apparently asking you to tell them what other issues you want raised in future ads is the latest in call center campaigning! It personalizes the call! Makes it seem less scripted! Creates a connection between the organization and the individual! Increases the fulfillment rate exponentially! Strategery! Technology!

I dunno, but it seems to me that might work better on something like raising money for the symphony or art league, less well on trying to uproot a president. It also might help if they didn’t call registered Democrats when raising money for Republicans — you know, a little more “info” with your “cision”? But what do I know.

I thought this was funny: Via the Sunlight Foundation, here’s the office of America’s Next Generation:

Funny You Don’t Look Like A SuperPac

Anyway, I’m starting to think that campaigns are running out of ideas. They’ve got all this money thanks to the Supreme Court and no clue what to do with it. They’ve reduced themselves to spam marketers, bombarding everyone with this stuff and hoping something, somewhere sticks. Spamming only works because it costs next to nothing to send 100,000 Viagra and porn e-mails. I’m not sure that works with telefundraising and TV ads though.

Furthermore, we’re starting to read about how people might be tuning out TV campaign ads. No! Say it ain’t so! This is really bad news for the media, since campaign ads are their bread and butter these days. Hell, the news media started gearing up for the 2012 election the day after Obama was elected. It just never stops with them.

It’s almost kind of funny, except it’s not.


Filed under advertising, Housekeeping

McDonald’s Fails At Twitter

Corporate America hasn’t yet learned there’s an evil dark side to social media. You know, it was just a couple months ago that ConAgra got on the wrong side of some New York food bloggers, after trying to dupe them into hawking their crappy frozen food.

And now McDonald’s has learned the downside of Twitter, launching a failed hashtag that was supposed to be a place for people to share their fond memories of eating at McDonald’s. Hah. Three guesses what happened.

Dear marketers: do not try to control social media. You will fail. And when you fail, you will look like idiots to the very people you’re trying to suck up to.

You can read some of the most hilarious entries at the link.

Comments Off on McDonald’s Fails At Twitter

Filed under corporations, twitter

Free Speech Or Free Hand?

I don’t know why conservatives are always confusing the two. Yet they do. Here’s Ben Stein, suing Kyocera for not signing him as a pitchman because they didn’t want to be represented by an idiot:

According to the complaint, filed in Los Angeles Superior Court, Kyocera approached Stein in December 2010 to inquire as to his availability to appear in TV advertisements for Kyocera printers. Stein agreed and they began negotiating a contract. Three months later, before the contract was executed, Kyocera learned that Ben Stein is an idiot who denies the reality of global climate change. So they changed their mind and withdrew the offer, because they didn’t want to be represented by an idiot. That’s how capitalism works, right? Companies make decisions based on their interests, and contracts are the law of the land.

No! Capitalism works by suing people when you don’t get your way. To hear Stein tell it, even though they didn’t sign a contract, they still had a contract since Stein really, really, wanted the $300,000 Kyocera had offered contingent on signing the contract, which never happened.

Also, according to Stein, he has a right to the $300,000 under the Constitution, which guarantees him freedom of religion. See, Stein believes that global warming isn’t real because “God, and not man, control[s] the weather.” When Kyocera declined to pay Stein $300,000 to represent the corporation in part because it doesn’t want to be associated with that belief, it violated Stein’s constitutional right to $300,000. He also accuses Kyocera of violating his “freedom of speech” and “political freedom.” Stein has no political freedom, because Kyocera robbed him of the freedom when it refused to pay him $300,000.

No, you do not have a constitutional right to be a Kyocera pitchman.

News flash: Kyocera Corp. is one of the world’s largest manufacturers of solar panels and other PV systems. While Stein would not have been hawking its solar products, I can see how having a vocal climate change denier pitching any of the company’s product lines would be a little awkward, to put it mildly. So a big boo to whatever genius suggested Ben Stein for this gig in the first place: advertising agency Seiter & Miller, I’m going to assume. That was just a dumbass move all around.

And I’m sorry, but Ben Stein? Hello? Try reading your own damn columns and books about the free hand of the market. Also, I haven’t had a chance to dig into the memory hole, but I wouldn’t be surprised if we didn’t find something in there from him decrying the burden of frivolous lawsuits and advocating tort reform and all that.



Filed under advertising, Ben Stein, free hand of the market, free speech