While most video ad campaigns these days center around funny or cute stuff, some cross the line of good taste. After watching videos like 8-Bit Harlem Shake go viral, it’s no surprise that advertisers are clamoring to produce their own 8-bit ads. But sometimes, brands take things too far. Video ads could be counterproductive if you don’t know what you’re doing with them.
Of course, there’s plenty of creativity in all of them, but reality has a dark side. When you think about creating your next piece of content, consider how video ad templates in an online video editor can help refine your vision and properly push the envelope.
Don’t stop until they say stop. And more importantly, don’t get hit with charges of sexism or racism along the way. How did all these brands blow it?
Here are 10 video ads that went way too far.
#1: “Low Blow”
Pretty much everyone has seen The Most Hated Man in America, and it isn’t pretty. If ever there was a case study into how NOT to make effective video ads, Rodney King deserves top marks. The ad made such an impression on people that they began to mimic his mannerisms for years after.
It really didn’t help that when he went to court he defended himself by saying he had been provoked into beating his wife. Somehow, I don’t think she felt very provoked. As far as funny videos go, it makes great fodder for YouTube but isn’t appropriate content for brand advertising online or anywhere else.
#2: “What Happened?”
This video ad is for a product that says it can help with acne. The creators of these types of ads often use an attractive woman to target guys that are looking for a way to get rid of acne, which seems like a perfect market.
However, instead of demonstrating how their product will fix an existing problem (since there isn’t any information about what exactly causes acne), they make “What Happened?” seem like some kind of romantic thriller- not at all helpful or relevant.
Imagine if they had put together something more informative, maybe even showing how easy it is to use their anti-acne device? Instead of scaring people away, they could have explained clearly what happens when you don’t treat your acne and potential ways your product could cure it.
#3: “Low Blow Redux”
A much-anticipated boxing rematch between Oscar De La Hoya and Felix Tito Trinidad ended in controversy in 2000. De La Hoya lost in a majority decision, even though many pundits thought he clearly won. There was so much interest surrounding this bout that HBO decided to televise it instead of pay-per-view for free.
But what should have been happy news for De La Hoya turned out to be bad press, as Puerto Rican newspaper El Nuevo Dia made its own Spanish version of The Low Blow commercial- and an offensive one at that.
In it, Mexican fighter Julio Cesar Chavez is training De La Hoya by hitting him repeatedly on his groin with a baseball bat until he falls into tears. When Mayweather hears about it, he comes up with a plan: He tells De La Hoya’s wife and children that they will get $5 million if they can persuade their husband/father not to fight. The video finishes off with Mrs. De La Hoya ripping her wedding ring off her finger and tossing it into her husband’s face- quite literally throwing away money just because she loves him so much.
#4: Low Blow Reversed
In one of the ad industry’s most infamous examples of going too far, Volkswagen ran a 2003 Super Bowl commercial that featured a vulture-like character picking apart an SUV, before it revealed that it was not a Cayenne but a VW New Beetle.
In retrospect, VW’s ad agency should have known better. The company had been run into bankruptcy by its earlier attempt to emulate U.S.-style automotive excess with its German engineering campaign in 2001 and 2002.
The result? A brutal 17% falloff in sales in a year when auto sales were soaring overall. It seems consumers don’t really care how you compare your car to competitors if they know you can’t deliver on that promise- because all you want is their money anyway.
#5: “It’s Just Business”
The first time I saw, “It’s Just Business,” I was at a bar with some friends. We all had two large pitchers of beer and were hoping to enjoy an afternoon of laughs. That didn’t happen.
Instead, we sat dumbfounded as one member after another of our party became convinced they were dying. At first, my brain reasoned that this must be part of it; maybe there is something in those beers?
Nope. Admittedly, it takes a few minutes for “It’s Just Business” to go where it goes (that wouldn’t make much sense otherwise). But once it gets there you will not forget it…no matter how hard you try.
#6: “An Insult on National Television”
An online video editor could have prevented comedian Gilbert Gottfried from making an offensive remark on live television. This is not to say that he didn’t feel it would be funny, but if he had recorded some test cuts, he may have decided against it.
#7: “Van Damme vs. Horse Trailer”
For nearly 30 years, Jean-Claude Van Damme has made his living kicking ass in feature films. But in 2014, with his star on the decline and Van Damme not getting any younger (and thus harder to insure), he starred in what many believe was his career low: a 15-second ad for an auto-trailer company that kicks off with an excruciatingly long shot of JCVD staring into camera, with his arms crossed against his chest, as elevator music plays.
At roughly 10 seconds, there’s a burst of action as a hand reaches out from under a blue tarp and shoves Van Damme backward before reappearing again moments later. It feels like it goes on forever.
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#8: “Money Means Nothing, Really!”
Soda is full of sugar. Sugar makes us hungry, and hungry people eat more than non-hungry people.
And when you’re an executive at Pepsi, all you care about is selling soda to Americans. So naturally, you want to be sure that your calorie-dense product in front of as many eyes as possible.
But how do you justify having a 99 percent market share? Simple: You talk incessantly about how great it is for America. Not only will we give you money for making our society fatter and sicker- we’ll actually pay for it!
You may not be able to turn a blind eye to that kind of corruption. But Pepsi executives can’t see anything else.
#9: “Hiding Behind the Constitution Doesn’t Help Anymore”
Subway’s Jared Fogle doesn’t seem to understand that we’re no longer living in a place where we need to hide behind flimsy excuses and Constitution-based political rhetoric.
It was embarrassing when he made an excuse about his weight by saying he had a medically supervised diet for obesity. It was even more awkward when his lawyer used semantics regarding child pornography laws as an excuse for him committing such crimes.
#10: “Don’t Try This at Home”
You might be laughing at how funny it is to use a guy’s chest as a trampoline. But what would happen if he hit his head? Yes, he did get up and walk away with some pain; yes, it was all done in fun; and yes, they do push the envelope often on late-night shows like SNL.
However, that doesn’t mean your business should start by injuring one of your employees.
Final Word on Creating Proper Ads on an Online Video Editor
Content marketing is always evolving. And it’s not an easy game to play. That’s because if you don’t come up with anything original, you could just as easily go viral for all of the wrong reasons. Luckily, you can test drive an online video editor to make sure your content is just right.
It’s no longer sink or swim with the vast array of platforms that offer an online video editor. You can create something from scratch or start with a template you select. The best part is that it saves you time, money, and embarrassment.
That doesn’t mean that all of your ads need to be risky. But if you take some risks along the way, we think you might find something fun.