The 6 Most Tasteless Ad Campaigns

Published April 21, 2011
Updated January 17, 2018

From the embarrassingly funny to the outwardly banned to the downright offensive, here is a list of the most tasteless ad campaigns from around the world:

The 6 Most Tasteless Ad Campaigns: Groupon Tibet Commercial

Groupon’s $2 million ad during this year’s Super Bowl takes the cake for its tasteless depiction of an international crisis. Featuring Oscar-winner Timothy Hutton, the ad makes light of the political unrest in Tibet as it promotes cheap deals on Tibetan curry. It was vilified far and wide, alienated millions of viewers and was, unsurprisingly, pulled from screens.

World Wildlife Fund Green Agenda

[WARNING: Distressing images]

In 2009, a leaked billboard and accompanying video from the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) made its way online. The ad promoted the green agenda by re-enacting the horrific 9/11 attacks in NYC, showing more planes aimed at the towers, and finishing on the slogan, “The tsunami killed 100 times more people than 9/11. The planet is brutally powerful. Respect it. Preserve it”.

Apparently the ad was originally conceived by the Brazilian division and never meant to air. Needless to say, the ad sparked uproar, with even the WWF condemned it as tasteless and offensive.

Kotex Beaver Commercial

In 2008, this Australian tampon commercial was heavily criticized for showing a young woman towing along her beaver (guess what that stands for?) during her day out. Though completely bizarre, a little painful to watch, and despite receiving over 200 complaints by viewers, authorities refused to ban it. Apparently they didn’t think a woman and her beaver were very threatening.

The 6 Most Tasteless Ad Campaigns: Banned Durex Condom Ad

A man being followed by an army of semen that trample him to reach his date but end up trapped in a giant condom instead? Not hard to see why this one was dubbed tasteless and subsequently banned. It’s part funny, part cringe worthy, and all kinds of wrong.

British Trident Gum

Relying on some truly offensive stereotypes – namely an incoherent diatribe by a man with a Jamaican accent – this British gum ad received over 500 complaints and was banned in 2007. The ads were deemed tasteless for promoting racism and ridiculing Caribbean people and their culture.

Thai Black Herbal Toothpaste

A giant black man towers over a young Thai girl, gracefully climbs a pole to retrieve her balloon, is shunned by the girl’s mother, sleeps on a giant toothbrush and turns into toothpaste, all to prove that looks can be deceiving. It’s pretty bizarre, utterly tasteless and was rightfully banned for its racial stereotyping.

Mamta Bhatt
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Bhatt, Mamta. "The 6 Most Tasteless Ad Campaigns.", April 21, 2011, Accessed May 18, 2024.