Controversial Commercials Around the World – Part 1

Should these ads have aired at all?
Should these ads have aired at all?

It’s funny how the value of creating a buzz just isn’t what it used to be. Now it’s not enough to just get people talking about your ad. You need to get likes and clicks and views. In a crowded market, that leads to brazen one-upmanship. Sometimes it works (like many of Geico’s increasingly outlandish setups) and sometimes it doesn’t. But when it goes wrong, it can go really, really wrong–and that’s a universal truth, as marketers from around the world will agree.

Here are some recent gaffes from when advertisers around the globe chose to push boundaries a little too far:

  • Germany

Germans are not known for their sense of humor, but you’d think that local marketers would realize that. Instead, last year, Germany was in an uproar over a video for the grocery store chain Edeka. In it, a lonely grandfather was portrayed as faking his own death to bring the family together to visit him during the holidays. Apparently the tone missed its mark, because the ad was deemed in poor taste and called “heartbreaking” (or, as the Germans would say, “herzzerbrechend”).

  • Australia

Unlike Germans, Australians are definitely renowned for their ribald humor and thick skin. You’re not going to get them riled up over some scantily clad women. So while the land down under did wrestle with its share of complaints about indecency in 2015, the ad the actually got people the most worked up happened to be one with a child mildly cussing. Seriously.

In the commercial, which was for camper van brand Holden, a man in what might be described as “not your grandparents’ RV” is seen skirting nimbly around a more old-fashioned motorhome. As he drives around them, he complains: “Bloody caravaners.” In the backseat, a small child echoes: “Bloody caravaners!” Despite the peculiarity of this ad touching more nerves throughout the land of Oz than, say, an ad for Ashley Madison where married men explain why they want a mistress, even this offensive ad only received 161 complaints to the Advertising Standards Bureau.


Check back in a couple of weeks for Part 2, because these ads only get better (or, should we say, worse).


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