The past year has seen plenty of clever, inspiring and creative advertising campaigns. For those, there are awards ceremonies. But as 2022 comes to a close, let’s also take a moment to recall what we can learn from the the campaigns that got things wrong – in some cases very wrong.
Whether it’s a small oversight like a poster or a social media handle that somehow missed a final proofreading to a whole marketing concept that should never been approved, 2022 saw its fair share of blunders. For advertising done right, see our pick of the best print adverts ever. In the meantime, these are the worst advertising fails of 2022.
Burger King Australia’s Pride Whopper
It’s great to see brands supporting diversity, but Burger King Australia got things many shades of wrong with this bizarre attempt to show its support for the LGBTQIA+ community. Really, we still don’t understand how anyone thought this was OK.
In a post on Instagram, the brand launched a ‘Pride Whopper’. The burger was simply a normal Whopper with ‘two equal buns’. Yep, you could choose to have it with two top halves of a bun, or two bottom halves. Two tops or two bottoms. Equality and diversity in action, right?
It certainly got attention. Most people questioned the dubious innuendo and thought the whole thing a crass mess, although some people did have to admit that they wouldn’t mind a burger with two tops, as terribly wasteful as that would be. The agency behind the campaign did later apologise, so we hope they’ve learned their lesson.
Volkswagen Italia’s unbelievable Instagram handle
Volkswagen Italy, please never change your Instagram handle. pic.twitter.com/BD2efn63zaNovember 28, 2022
These days, brands have so many channels to get right. As well as traditional advertising, there are now social media channels, which can throw up problems in the most unlikely ways. It’s important to get the right social media handle, but most companies will go for the company name without giving it much more thought.
In the case of Volkswagen Italy social media users realised that this meant it had fallen prey to that utterly modern branding fail – the username-that-accidentally-spells-something-rude. Place ‘Volkswagen’ and ‘Italia’ next to each other, take out the space and make it lower case, and voilà. Like the infamous #susanalbumparty debacle, @volkswagenitalia went viral.
The lesson here? Check even the smallest of details where you would think nothing remiss could happen. The blunder could have been avoided by a simple stop between the words. That said, the internet’s hoping Volkswagen Italia leaves things as it is, accepting its place alongside the world’s most offensive logo (and, er, Anal Malaysia) as one of the most amusingly rude marketing gaffes.
The Northman poster (at least we think it’s The Northman)
This poster appeared in New York with a lot of the elements you’d expect in advertising for a violent period epic. There’s beefy lead Alexander Skarsgård looking fierce and an earnest-looking Nicole Kidman dressed in fur. They’re named along with the obligatory tagline that says little about the film. But anyone ready to run out and buy tickets has a problem. What’s the film called?
The film in question is The Northman, but you would have to already know about it to know that. Was the lack of a title an intentional marketing trick intended to create intrigue ahead of the release of the film? I suppose it’s possible, but I think it’s more likely that somehow sent the wrong file to the printers. Either way, plenty of people took their hand to fixing the poster, reworking it to feature titles ranging from Tarzan to Finding Nemo 3. Now Finding Nemo 3 starring Alexander Skarsgård is a film we’d pay to see.
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