Heineken takes a strong lead on Most Dishonest Advert of 2016 with ‘Moderate Drinkers Wanted’

I haven’t done Worst Adverts of the Year for a while now, but I’m considering resurrecting it for 2016, given Heineken’s early lead in the coveted ‘Most Dishonest Advert’ category.

The ad shows a sequence of women on a night out, singing a montage of Bonnie Tyler’s Holding Out for a Hero, as they contemptuously ignore the drunk men stumbling and snoozing around them. It ends with a female bartender being impressed by a man who leaves the bar after having only one drink, which leads to the tagline, “Moderate Drinkers Wanted”:

The advert is so breathtakingly disingenuous, it takes a few seconds after seeing it to start to process what might be going on here. Obviously, they can’t be telling their customers, “we want you to buy less of our product.” They must know that, as studies prove, the majority of their revenues come from dangerous and harmful levels of binge-drinking.

Do they think that by pretending their beer is only for more discerning (and therefore attractive) moderate-drinking men, they’ll raise its status and men will stupidly drink more of it? No, I don’t think that’s Heineken’s tactic here.

To understand the advert, you have to realise that it’s not aimed at potential Heineken customers at all. It’s primarily aimed at regulators. It’s part of a big lobbying campaign, attempting to prove to governments that the alcohol industry is a responsible self-regulator, that it doesn’t want its customers to over-use its products and is taking steps to stop them.

The campaign, of course, is paid for with the profits Heineken makes as it fuels a public health catastrophe, the costs of which are socialised to the rest of us. And the reason the industry wants self-regulation is so they can avoid minimum unit pricing, and continue to sell 15p/unit cider to its biggest customers: alcoholics drinking themselves to death.

Shreddies: four layers of bullshit

So, Shreddies have dropped their cutesy “Knitted by Nanas” marketing campaign (which was actually a sneaky attempt to pretend they were all lovely people, not a giant baby-killing, child-slaving, famine-exacerbating industrial food-processing corporation). Instead, they’re now promoting their small squares of processed wheat with the following ziggurat of bollocks:

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Ficks Cocktail Fortifier

An Indiegogo crowdfunding campaign has raised over $40,000 for a bunch of charlatans to make what they call a ‘cocktail fortifier’: a tonic containing a handful of herbs and vitamins, which they strongly imply (although carefully avoid stating explicitly) will prevent hangovers if added to alcoholic drinks.

The product is called Ficks Cocktail Fortifier, comes in three flavours (ginger, lime and lemon) and costs $15 (about £9) for an 8 oz (240 ml) bottle. That’s almost £38 per litre, significantly more expensive than alcoholic spirits (Bombay Sapphire gin is about £25 per litre), and that’s for a non-alcoholic product, basically a mixture of ginger and vitamin B, which is probably less nutritious than a fruit smoothie and a multivitamin tablet (Tesco Red Berries smoothie, £1.20 per litre).

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Lego for girls: postscript

Last year, I wrote an article Lego for girls about a 1981 Lego advert, and the stark difference it showed between the company’s marketing strategy and gendering of its products, then and now.

(Apparently another blogger call “HuffPost” just got round to doing this last month as well, but we can’t all be on the cutting edge in this fast-paced new media landscape.)

Another blog called Women You Should Know just posted a follow-up article by Lori Day who, it turned out, was a friend of a friend of the girl from the original advert.

That much-blogged and shared 1981 Lego advert

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Chat Harassment

As a Westerner (ie, white person) in India, one of the distinctive elements of the travel experience is the near-constant harassment by people trying to get your money. I’m not talking about begging. That happens, but not nearly as much as you expect. I’m talking about stall holders, shop keepers, rickshaw drivers, tourist guides and a hundred other varieties of touts, scammers and pedlars, bombarding your ears every second of the day.

A typical walk down the street will have you assaulted from every side by cries and shouts, all trying to get your attention, and persuade you to spend. After 24 hours in India you start ignoring it. It’s the only way you can ever reach your destination. Even someone who just seems to want a casual conversation has to be blanked and walked away from. It sounds harsh, but you quickly learn that the dreaded phrase, “Hello sir, from which country?” is not just a friendly inquiry. It means you’re now on the receiving end of Level 2 Chat Harassment.

Yes, that’s right. I’ve developed a three-level model for it.

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Worst Adverts of the Year 2010

(Originally published on 11th January, 2011)

I didn’t watch much television in 2010, so I didn’t get to see many dreadful, hateworthy adverts. Good news for me, bad news for Worst Adverts of 2010. This year’s list is therefore much less extensive than last year’s. In fact, it’s just a handful of ads I happened to catch which annoyed me for various reasons. I’m sure there were much worse, which you’ll have seen and hated yourself, but here are mine.

At the start of the year, Renault managed to combine both a sneakily misleading claim, and a ridiculous bare-faced lie, in one advert. The former: launching a TV campaign on 1/1/10 which boasted that they would have zero emission cars “next year”. The latter: the claim that Renault has “been there for every revolution in society.” Really? Didn’t notice them at Wat Tyler’s Peasants’ Revolt of 1381.

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Worst Adverts of the Year 2009

(Originally published on 29th January, 2010)

A Hate List spin-off, which I’d vaguely been thinking about doing for about 15 years before finally getting around to it. Presented in the lazy, tired format of an annual awards presentation.

The “I Want To Punch You, Not Buy Your Product” Award

Runner Up: Pringles

“Oh wow! They’re in a bag. I wasn’t expecting the bag.” Presumably because you’re a total cunt in a Pringles advert. Actually, I suspect the end of this vox pops was cut in editing: “I wasn’t expecting the bag… But I was expecting some foul, salty papier-mâché discs, and those expectations have been met.”

Winner: Envirofone

One of the worst vox pops adverts of all time. Every single person who appears in this heinous clip makes you want to kick them in the nuts or fanny as appropriate. There’s a lot more that’s wrong with this whole concept, such as the fact that the company name infers it’s a primarily environmental project, but the ad shoehorns in the issue of the environment right at the very end as an afterthought, after spending 95% of it telling you how much “WONGA!!!” and “READIES!!!” you could get. (Note to admen: try speaking to some real people. Seriously.) But mainly it’s a neck-and-neck competition to see who can annoy you the most in just a few words ham-acted to camera. For me, the “WONGA!!!” guy narrowly loses out to the chap who apparently has an orgasm at the idea of “ONE HUNDRED AND FIFTY POUNDS!!!”

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