5 Epic Advertising Fails Rewritten

5 Epic Advertising Fails Rewritten

I’m sure you’ve seen it before; a huge company investing countless dollars on an advertising campaign with copy or images that leave the audience wandering “What were they thinking?!?”  Here are 5 Epic Advertising Fails that will hopefully inspire those in the creative advertising community to think twice before hitting the green light.


Nivea ran a campaign “Look Like You Give a Damn.”

nivea ad look like you give a damn

Of course, this is a good looking ad and a very nice tagline to be honest. The problem arose when someone decided to ad some additional copy to the following concept:

nivea ad look like you give a damn re-civilize yourself

This particular ad with the African American male is the ONLY one with the copy “Re-Civilize Yourself.” The message one can clearly take from this is that natural hair on a black man is uncivilized. Fortunately Nivea quickly apologized for this ad and took it down. Bravo!

Out of curiosity I did an online survey to see how people felt about this ad. Even though only a small fraction thought of race when seeing this ad, that is plenty to make me think a small focus group ahead of time could have saved the company this embarrassment.

  • 13 of 24 people did not find this ad offensive, and those who did mentioned the same reasons I posted. Those who were unoffended said the ad was unnecessary and would not inspire them to purchase it.
  • One person simply stated the intention of the ad was to make one look more professional, and they were completely not offended by it.
  • Others compared it to the ISIS beheadings and said it was inappropriate.
  • Only 2 people mentioned race for the Nivea ad.

So how would I have rewritten this? First of all, using too many “taglines” can confuse a viewer. They don’t know which one is more important, and that amount of information can overwhelm them. The tagline “Look Like You Give a Damn” is plenty sufficient for this visual. However, I feel the first visual with dapper gentlemen in a formal setting is very appropriate for this concept, and a somewhat gruesome idea of throwing your old face off in an abandoned parking lot is, well, who does that? This visual should have never made the cut.


BIC’s Women’s Day Advertisement:

Act like a lady think like a man

I don’t even know where to start with this one. Implying that women need to change their brains to function more like men is baffling to me. Also, is that a tinge of ageism I am detecting? Women need to look like girls, and not grown adults?

Although the company issued a weak apology, they somewhat blamed a blog they had taken the quote from. Shifting the blame like this created more social media uproar, Bic deleted the apology and delivered a more sincere apology, but the damage was done.  #BicFail was already trending.

I don’t know what focus group could have possibly approved this copy, but as a huge company with a nice advertising budget, they easily could have done better. Just off the top of my head?

“Women of the world, Write On!”



The Lynx Effect: Use Religiously.

lynx effect use religiously

Ok, Lynx, we get it. You think you are funny. Making fun of someone’s religion is tricky territory, however implying that being a sex magnet for minors is a good thing is wrong on every level.

If you absolutely need to mock religion because that appeals to your target audience, why not try a scene of the benediction with a priest confidently lifting his arms? The tagline “Use Religiously” would still be appropriate, but child molestation would not be implied. That seems like a win to me.


Walmart: Fat Girl Costumes

walmart fat girl costumes

Walmart’s Fat Girl Costume copywriting fail did not last long as they were quickly called out on twitter. They quickly apologized:

“This never should have been on our site. It is unacceptable, and we apologize. We are working to remove it as soon as possible and ensure this never happens again.”

AKA: Someone got fired.

Do I even need to rewrite this? Clearly it should have read “plus size.”


Esurance: Cover Your Home in a Click

cover your home in a click

Although the tagline “cover your home in a click” is catchy and effective, the kearning and type choice was a fail in this instance. Many viewers read this ad in a different light.

Esurance quickly pulled down these billboards, however the damage was done. I don’t think this tagline needs a rewrite, however the powerful (and expensive) lesson here?

Kearning Matters.

If you are in the market for some new branding, copywriting, logo, photography, or advertising campaign work you can contact me here for a custom quote!

Liesl Kadile

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