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