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.

First Direct made me laugh out loud with possibly the most naively pathetic boast of the year: “77% of comments about us online are positive.” Seriously, they’re advertising a 77% online approval rating? I wouldn’t buy a £5 knick-knack off an ebay seller with a less-than 90% rating. And they want me to buy a car off them when almost a quarter of their customers think they’re complete turd?

Lloyd Grossman made a valiant attempt to beat First Direct’s lameness with the unbelievably smug boast that his bolognese sauce, “tested in Bologna”, contains “his own twist – a squeeze of lemon to bring out the taste of the tomatoes”. I’m no food historian, but I suspect the idea of using lemon as a cookery ingredient isn’t exactly a Grossman original.

Before and after “science” nonsense is usually the domain of oral hygiene, hair products and skin creams. This year, the worst I saw came from an unexpected direction: yoghurt (and not even bollocks probiotic yoghurt – just normal fruity yoghurt). Apparently, eating a rubbish competitor’s yoghurt causes you to wear no make-up, hang around in low light and contrast conditions, and look miserable, where as eating Perle de Lait magically raises the light and contrast, causes make-up to be applied to your face and for you to smile inanely. I’ll mostly be avoiding Perle de Lait yoghurt, then.

I know that the short-term loans offered by companies like Quick Quid are only intended to be for a few days, and that it’s just a misleading consequence of the fact that advertising regulations demand an annual rate is quoted in the small print, but I can’t help but laugh when I see an advert proclaiming that a loan is being sold at a typical APR of 2356%.

Another bare-faced lie was surely obvious to all in the to-camera speech in Injury Lawyers 4U’s ambulance-chasing hard sell: “We’re all real lawyers.” Well you’re not, you’re an actor. I’ve seen you in the Bill.

It was a good year for ludicrous statements of wrongness. Confused.com put forward the proposition that, “the internet is the most important invention of the 21st century.” I’m sure many of you, like me, can clearly remember using it in the mid-to-late ’90s. That’s the NINETEEN 90s. And you know what!? It was actually around for quite a while even before that!!! And don’t try to claim that it can still be the most important invented thing to exist in the 21st century, even if it was invented in another century. Firstly, you’re going to have to have experienced much more than 10% of the 21st century before you start assessing the most anything of anything of it. Secondly, the internet probably will be an important technology of the 21st century, but you don’t refer to something as an “invention” unless the particular circumstances of its invention are relevant. “Invention of [time period]” is an almost idiomatic phrase which clearly refers to something which was invented in the time period stated. You wouldn’t get very far claiming that the wheel was the most important invention of 1908. In conclusion, Confused.com are a bunch of cunts.

My nomination for the worst advertising campaign of 2010 has got to be Windows 7. The sick-making “launch party” ad was bad enough, but it was the whole “Windows 7 was my idea” nonsense that really got to me. The reality, of course, is that Windows Vista was so shit, they had their entire customer base ranting and raving about how it should have been done better. You can try to put a “grassroots development” spin on it, but it doesn’t change the fact that one of the largest IT companies in the world, producing market-dominating software – which is essentially a user interface – had failed so spectacularly with its previous product, and produced a user interface so awful, that every one of its 400+ million users could describe superior UI features to those designed by supposed UI design experts.

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