There is nothing more depressing than year-end lists. They represent everything that is terrible about the human race. When I say I found these “by accident” it's because its my job, my ongoing mission, to find the absolute worst ads in the world.
You won't find any of these commercials in the predictable page-view grubbing listicles you're used to seeing on other sites, so enjoy these gems—which are in no particular order—because next week, it’s back to the same old manufactured vitriol.
CHOCOLATE-DIPPED ALTOIDS - “BLOWHOLE BOB”
This is the strangest ad from a series of strange ads for chocolate-dipped Altoids by the ad agency Leo Burnett in Chicago. The concept owes much to the insane Skittles commercials (my favorite: the amazingly dark “Touch”), but this is fucking advertising, not art. So if you “borrow” to make something good, something that works, good for you.
CRISTAL BEER - "STREET FOOTBALL”
Y&R Peru recently produced a wonderful series of short commercials for Cristal, a beer brand of União Cervejeira SA popular in Chile. The ads all bring a smile while establishing Cristal as the unofficial sponsor of street football—a really smart strategy ahead of the World Cup in Brazil next summer. The above spot, “Goal Width,” and “Sky Boxes,” are my two favorites. See all nine of the ads here.
REPORTERS WITHOUT BORDERS - “GREAT PEOPLE”
Ad agencies worldwide lineup for the chance to produce pro bono work for the freedom of the press nonprofit (of note: these great award-winning print ads). BETC, a Paris-based agency, obviously doesn’t have money to spend on marketing, which shows in their latest ad—essentially a bunch of print ads turned into a commercial. It is effective, though.
DEVONDALE FARMS - “SUNSHINE BUBBLE”
Devondale Farms is a co-op of more than 3,000 farmers in southern Australia. This spot would have been snappier as a 15-second commercial, but it’s still a funny, dark ad done by Marmalade in Melbourne. The second commercial, the “Man Child” campaign, will definitely make some husbands squirm.
VOLKSWAGEN - “TREEGUY”
After all these years, Doyle Dane Bernbach and its worldwide offshoots still retain the VW account. And for good reason. This spot, via DDB Tribal in Germany, is plain fucking bizarre yet still manages to deliver the main benefit clearly and memorably—just like the Mad Men era ads did.
NØRREGADE SWEETS - “GOTH”
“Less is more” is a trite and irritating phrase, but it’s one of the few absolute truths in advertising. And simple ads stand out even more these days, what with all the noisy over-produced “viral” video diarrhea flowing out of “tech-savvy” agencies in search of massive amounts of “eyeballs.” Bravo to Nørregade and Danish ad agency LoweFriends for keeping it fucking simple. Great casting, perfect voiceover.
JIFFI CONDOMS - “PARENTS”
Theo Delaney directed this classic British commercial from 1990. No, those aren’t the procreators of some of the biggest monsters of the 20th century—they’re patients at a London old people’s day center who unwittingly posed as the parents. A dirty trick for sure, but at the time, the general public actually thought this was genuine archival footage. The spot won a Silver Lion at Cannes that year.
THE INDEPENDENT - “LITANY”
Staying in the 1990s and in the UK, this 1999 commercial for the “Indy” is again (sorry I keep bashing the shit out of that poor dead horse) so simple because BIG ideas aren’t born in bullshit round-table meetings about “native” advertising or at a high tech production house. They’re created on a blank page/screen, usually by one person, two at the most.
Ad agency: Lowe, London.
POSTBANKEN - “POSTBANKEN”
Another classic commercial, from 1997, for Postbanken, a Norwegian bank that offers its services through the country’s post offices. The actor is Ernst-Hugo Järegård, a cult hero in Sweden. He was one of director Lars von Trier’s favorite actors, having worked with him on Europa. For me, this is the most honest financial ad ever created—which ain’t saying much, but there it is.
FREITAG - “BUSINESS BAGS”
In-house video for FREITAG business bags. Dilemma: you have a tough business bag and a lot of cool designs you want to show in your commercial, but you don’t want to be boring about showing them but you still want to show them in a business environment. I think this solves it perfectly. The boss casting and the nice quirky original music add polish to the execution. I’d buy one.
PECO INSURANCE - “DISAPPEARING OFFICE”
This Russian spot from 2009 shows our hero searching for the office of a fly-by-night insurance company, “Vigvam.” This is, basically, the same concept Geico is running right now with their asinine Maxwell the pig commercials, except this ad, from an unknown agency, is clever and entertaining.
DETROIT INSTITUTE OF ART - “YOU GOTTA HAVE ART”
Unlike most of you, I grew up in the nearly ironic-free 1970s, when pure 100 percent cheese was accepted as is, without snark. Which is why I love this 1976 commercial, as is. It’s perfect. As you probably know, Detroit is fucked beyond belief at the moment, so much so that Christie’s is currently valuing the Institute’s 2,800-piece art collection for the city’s Emergency Manager. Preliminary estimates of the artworks’ value range between $452 million and $866 million. Private donors are trying to raise $500 million to help keep the art in city hands.