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The 10 most offensive US advertisements of 2011

‘Re-civilise’ a black person! Help fix your girlfriend’s PMS! Smash a toy baby against a wall! …or not.

ADVERTISEMENTS ARE INTENDED to make an impression – but |not all impressions are good ones.

Just in case you missed the real stinkers of 2011 – many were taken out of circulation days after they first appeared - Business Insider has compiled a list of the ten most controversial print and television ads of the year.

From smushed babies to talking vaginas to Groupon’s disastrous Super Bowl ad campaign, these ads will all leave you asking what on earth these big name advertisers and brands were thinking.

1. Nivea

It’s a wonder that this Nivea ad, promising to ‘re-civilise’ black men, got past the draft stage.

This print advertisement features a clean cut black man winding up to hurl the head of his former self – complete with Afro and beard – across a football field. Because if you have an Afro, you don’t “look like you GIVE a damn.” Right.

After a deluge of negative comments, Nivea apologised in a Facebook post.

2. Summer’s Eve



Earlier this year, Summer’s Eve launched a completely bizarre ad campaign that featured — we kid you not — an ethnically diverse array of talking hands that represented an ethnically diverse array of talking vaginas. Said hand-ginas also spoke in racially stereotypic cliches.

After being parodied on The Colbert Report, the commercials were eventually pulled. Still, those responsible refused to apologise. The Richard’s Group told Adweek, “We are surprised that some have found the online videos racially stereotypical.”

Maybe they should re-watch the part that the Latina hand-gina screams, “Ay-yi-yi-yi-yi.”

3. Got Milk? Got PMS?

Got PMS? Milk is to the rescue. The short-lived “Everything I Do Is Wrong” campaign featured grovelling boyfriends trying to appease their PMS-suffering girlfriends.

Eventually the California Milk Processor Board responded to the negative publicity.

“Over the past couple of weeks, regrettably, some people found our campaign about milk and PMS to be outrageous and misguided — and we apologise to those we offended,” its website read.

Not one to turn down a good marketing opportunity, Milk essentially extended the campaign with a new website called ‘Got Discussion’.

4. Cadbury take on Naomi Cambell

When Cadbury compared Naomi Campbell to dark chocolate, the supermodel was displeased, to say the least.

“It’s upsetting to be described as chocolate, not just for me but for all black women and black people,” Campbell told the Guardian. “I do not find any humour in this. It is insulting and hurtful.”

Cadbury pulled the ads and issued a grovelling apology – even though the UK’s advertising authority rejected a complaint against it.

5. Groupon’s not-so-super Super Bowl ads



Groupon’s three commercials that aired during the Super Bowl incited immediate backlash.

One ad opened with discussing Tibet’s human rights issues but ended with promoting a deal on Tibetan fish curry. Few people found the spoof of celebrity-endorsed public service announcements to be funny.

Groupon found Andrew Mason apologised – sort of – stating, “We would never have run these ads if we thought they trivialized the causes – even if we didn’t take them as seriously as we do, what type of company would go out of their way to be so antagonistic?”

6. Take one baby and one wall…



HomeAway – a house-swapping holiday company –  produced the other Super Bowl ad that got pulled from the airwaves.

The website thought that the best way to depict how cramped hotel rooms are, especially when compared to spacious rentals, was to hurl a toy baby against a wall. The viewers disagreed.

“We’ve concluded that despite our best intentions and efforts, the image of the test baby doll is too hurtful for us not to take action,” HomeAway CEO Brian Sharples said in a press release.

7. Where do lost chapsticks go?

This ad ran with the tag line “Where do lost Chapstick go?” Apparently the answer has something to do with the model’s rear end.

While the bottom of the advertisement invited costumers to “Be heard” on their Facebook, Chapstick ended up deleting the negative comments. To put it mildly, posters were displeased.

Blogger Margot Magowan noted that while many pejorative-free protests were deleted, comments like “after looking at this pic i know where i wanna hide my chapstick” remained uncensored.

Pfizer ended up discontinuing the offensive ad (from Facebook and their website) and issued a quasi-apology.

8. Beware the cyclist

When GM ran this ad in college newspapers across the country declaring gas guzzlers a far superior alternative to bikes, they didn’t realise how much they were misreading the undergraduate demographic.

The ad shows a bike-riding college guy hiding his face in shame from a pretty girl in a car. The tag line? “Reality sucks… luckily the GM College Discount doesn’t.”

A UCLA professor complained to BikePortland.org, “The company that helped destroy public transit in Los Angeles is now running a campaign to convince students who travel by environment-, fitness-, and efficiency-friendly bicycles that they are inferior to those who travel in highly discounted mini-trucks. Shameless, isn’t it?”

GM eventually pulled the ad and Tweeted an apology.

9. Happy Hannukah. Don’t marry an American Jew. Thanks, Israel



The Israeli government decided to pull a series of commercials that urged Israeli expats to avoid marrying American Jews - because if Jewish parents raise their children in America, then they can kiss Hanukkah goodbye.

Creators of the ad were apparently unable to differentiate between American Jews and American non-Jews.

Netanyahu banned the ad following outrage from the US’s Jewish population.

10. Pennsylvania’s ‘Blame The Victim’ Rape

What’s problematic with Pennsylvania’s Liquor Control Board’s sexual assault PSA?

According to feminist blog Jezebel, it’s the ad’s implication that “if you drink too much alcohol and end up getting raped, you should blame both own drunk ass and your friends.”

The PSA provoked appropriate uproar, and the ads were pulled.

- Laura Stampler

What ads on this side of the world did you think were offensive? Let us known in the comments.

GAA-themed crisps ads not Hunky Dory, says advertising watchdog

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Business Insider
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