Controversial Commercials Around the World – Part 2

Here's some fast insight on how we choose ads on both sides of the Pond.
Here’s some fast insight on how we choose ads on both sides of the Pond.

Last time we started sharing some of the most scandal-causing outrage-provoking television commercials from around the world. Apparently, Germany doesn’t want to think about loved ones dying (1) and Australia has a sore spot for children using foul language (2).

But what about a few from a little closer to home? Here’s what’s stoking ad viewers in the United States–compared to what’s upsetting our gentler cousins across the Pond:

  • America

If Australia gets 161 complaints about a child using swear words, America’s going to get 10,000 about a woman in a bikini trying to sell website hosting (looking at you, Though that’s the norm for upsetting us former Puritans, naming those commercials would require a list of its own. Instead, we need to mention one topic you really can’t get blithe about: race. That’s exactly why two of the most heated ads to hit airwaves in recent months garnered rage.

In one, Coca-Cola made a surprising misstep when it showed an ad where affluent white people bring Coke and Christmas cheer to less fortunate Mexicans. Sure, it was meant to be about finding commonalities, but it was too reminiscent of colonialism and was quickly pulled from the air. MTV did the same thing, although in fairness the network did mean for it to be a joke, showing a fake company called White Squad where white people help people of color overcome discrimination in their day-to-day lives–for a price. Despite its obvious attempt at humor, it hit too close to home for a lot of people and received negative feedback across social media. Too soon, America. Too soon.

  • United Kingdom

One ad that sparked controversy in the U.K. recently was rather unsurprising: People were upset about an ad for the Lingerie Football League, in which female athletes play football (that’s soccer to us) in pink sports bras and tiny shorts. But more shockingly, one of the commercials that was banned from a critical slot–playing before the new “Star Wars: The Force Awakens” movie in cinemas–wasn’t about sex and lingerie.

Surprise twist: It was a commercial for the Church of England, in which the Lord’s Prayer was recited. The cinema distributor ultimately backed out of the deal, citing fears that the ad would offend too many people. The church was understandably upset that it was unable to reach its audience with the Lord’s Prayer during the week before Christmas, when “Star Wars” debuted.


Do you think any of these ads warrant the uproar they induced? Have you seen worse commercials recently on TV? These are all from 2015, and 2016 is just getting started … so we have a lot of time outdo ourselves in audacious ads around the world before the year is through.


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