The Dumbest Super Bowl Commercials Ever

Gordon BlockContributor IIIJanuary 26, 2012

The Dumbest Super Bowl Commercials Ever

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    The Super Bowl is the ultimate time for marketers to get the word out about their products. With the complete attention span of millions, there are few better platforms for reaching a large number of Americans at one time.

    It might be expensive, but when done right (like these ads) Super Bowl advertisements can generate publicity and sales that can long outlast the deep hit to the advertising budget.

    That is, unless the ad stinks.

    When done wrong, Super Bowl ads can sink brand reputations, resulting in lost jobs, and even more amazingly, beginning the death spiral of an entire corporation.

    These ads have gone way above and beyond the classification of bad and uninteresting. These are horrendous. Terrible. Dumb.

    Here are the dumbest Super Bowl ads ever. 

SalesGenie.com, "Pandas" (2008)

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    Before this ad aired, Salesgenie said they were ready to reclaim the throne of worst ad in the Super Bowl, after getting the title in the 2007 Super Bowl (we'll get to that in just a few slides). Needless to say, I think they got exactly what they were asking for.

    Meanwhile, for everybody watching, we got an unfunny and uninteresting look into the world of panda business.

Just for Feet, "Kenya Mission" (1999)

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    White mercenaries tracking down, tranquilizing and forcibly adding shoes to a Kenyan runner. What a hilarious ad...what could possibly go wrong there? 

    Unfortunately for Just For Feet, the ad resulted in a large amount of negative press. Many writers called the ad insensitive and even racist.

    In the resulting controversy, Just For Feet sued the advertising company, Saatchi and Saatchi, for $10 million to recoup the money spent on the terrible ad.

    The company would collapse later that year, filing for bankruptcy after large amounts of accounting fraud.

Groupon, "Save the Money" (2011)

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    It's nice to recognize foreign cultures...but only when it's through people serving you...and at a discounted price.

    While this ad for Groupon attempted to poke fun at the genre of celebrity public service announcements, this particular ad fell flat. Many people viewing the ad thought it was in poor taste.

    It was ranked as one of the worst of last year's Super Bowl. 

Apple, "Lemmings" (1985)

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    After the success of its "1984" advertisement, Apple was convinced they had another hit on their hands with their advertisement "Lemmings," which it ran during the Super Bowl in 1985.

    Depicting a series of business workers walking to their own demise over a cliff, to promote its "Macintosh Office," the dark colors and apocalyptic tone did little to endear itself to viewers.

    The advertisement was such a disaster that the company didn't run another ad during the big game for over a decade (their next Super Bowl ad would run in 1999). 

Burger King, "Herb" (1986)

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    A prime example in a series of high-profile flops from Burger King in the '80s, the fast food company produced a whopper of a bad ad with the creation of the character Herb, who had never eaten a Whopper burger before.

    It may be a little too smart for its own good (to put it nicely), but there are really a few questions that the company should have thought about before doing this.

    1) Why would anybody care about a made-up character nobody has heard of?

    2) Does this make anybody want to buy burgers?

    3) Why do we care about any of these people?

    4) Why would a company make a fictional ad complaining that one guy hasn't eaten their product? There are several hundred million people in America. Sell burgers to them!

SalesGenie.com, "Office Worker" (2007)

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    Can you believe the CEO of Salesgenie.com wrote these ads? I could not believe it either. If this whole sales lead thing doesn't work out, clearly somebody has a job in sitcom writing waiting for him.

Nuveen Investments, 2000

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    An interesting look into the future (the future of eight years ago) took a turn to the bizarre with the introduction of a walking Christopher Reeve (who was paralyzed years earlier in a horse riding accident).

    While it may have been an attempt to coordinate financial investment toward medical research, I just can't help but feel sort of weirded out by the computer wizardry on display in this ad.

Lifeminders, "The Worst Commercial" (2000)

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    This ad, called "The Worst Commercial," was a good use of several million dollars. In retrospect, it may have been a good idea to hold on to it, as the company now appears to be out of business.

Holiday Inn, "Bob Johnson" (1997)

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    This ad from Holiday Inn, comparing money spent on renovations to a person undergoing plastic surgery after a sex change operation, seems to miss the mark. 

    Following outrage from the ad, the hotel chain decided to pull it from television.

    Despite the controversy, the ads brought a nice bump in business to the hotel chain...proving once again that almost any kind of publicity can turn into good publicity.