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The Worst Ads of 2010

It seems advertisers are hell-bent on making the commercial breaks that separate fans from Mad Men and Jersey Shore the longest, most excruciating minutes of our lives. In the last year, we've suffered through Progressive's painful spokeswoman Flo squawking about insurance and awkward State Farm ads that remind us in depressing terms just how bankrupt we all are from the recession ("Our real national past-time? Saving money!").

Thankfully, The Consumerist has been keeping track. Out today are their nominations for the Worst Ads of 2010, a list of some of the most mind-blowingly stupid commercials plaguing America's airwaves. We've pulled a collection of some of the worst—head here to vote for your favorites, er, least favorites rather.  



Staples: "Wow! That's a Low Price!"

Why: Wow! That's a loud yell! About a dumb joke! And no one's actually buying anything! And hey! Now another guy is yelling!

Progressive: "Flo Dishes Out Discounts"

Why: ... With a side of botulism! Or at least it feels like it when everyone's wacky aunt attempts to make insurance fun 'n' quirky!

Honda - Mr. Opportunity - "Paparazzi"

Why: The hack-y cartoon character that looks like he stepped out of the funny papers in 1970 wouldn't be so bad if he was just the embodiment of a good pun. Missed opportunity.

Quiznos: "Singimals — Starring Kittens"

Why: So, wait. The sandwiches are made of cat food? There's actual cat in them? Confused. Not hungry.

State Farm - "Pocket Agent"

Why: The dynamic between these two is just terribly awkward. I don't want a State Farm agent, and I certainly don't want one in my pocket.


1-800 Dentist: The last woman on Earth you'd want in the elevator with you

Why: It's impossible to watch without cringing.

5-Hour Energy: Mr. "Do You Know What 2:30 Feels Like?"

Why: For an ad showing how groggy we feel at 2:30, this spokesperson is pretty perky, jumping from one cubicle to the next. If I worked with this guy, I'd chug a bottle of 5-Hour and slap him in the face.

McDonald's: The "Not Until I've Had My Coffee" jerkface

Why: Joke's on him when he's an obese diabetes-suffering Grimace-lookalike by age 35.

Wendy's: That "Pico De Gallo!" loudmouth

Why: "You know when it's real" is Wendy's tagline. Too bad this back-and-forth between two of the fast food chain's employees feels totally fake and, well, annoying.  

Nationwide Insurance: The World's Greatest Spokesperson In the World

Why: The crappy cousin and poor rip-off of the Dos Equis and Old Spice guys.

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  • Bob

    None of these are the worst.
    No. 1 The Axe ad for some kind of antiperspirant product that shows some guy with water gushing from his armpits, spraying people in the face, and so on.
    No. 2 The Degree antiperspirant ad with the women in a bubble who shies away from sitting next to people and runs when she sees someone she knows. The voiceover says something to the effect of, "If you perspire heavily, you don't like to get close to people."
    No. 3 The birth-control pill ad that list a bunch of names for panties, and then says, "Whatever you call them, it's a drag when spotting ruins a pair." Meanwhile, a willowy, neurotic-looking redhead about 18 wanders around her clothesline, hung with 2 sheets and about 40 pairs of panties, caressing the sheets, with a cat-who-ate-the-canary grin on her face.
    The first one is just in horrible taste, and the first two use the kind of sleazy social-stigma exploitation that should get their head offices firebombed. As if we didn't have enough neurotic, Febreeze-spraying princesses running around washing everything with Lysol, smearing Purel on everything, thinking of the world as a disgusting, unsanitary, unhygenic place, and making their children mentally ill. Now they want to drag young men into the same kind of insecurity about their perspiration. As if we didn't have enough white-collar cubicle-refugees who never figured out how to do any physical work or which end of the screwdriver is the business end.

  • Geoff

    I love the new Allstate ads - as a creative director, I always appreciate seeing a fresh approach to a really mature brand. Mayhem is fresh. I wish I'd thought of that!

  • Geoff

    The reason we keep seeing ads like these - whether you love them or hate them - is simple: Recall scores. When advertisers measure the ads which are recalled by focus groups, the really annoying ones get through -- because they're really annoying! (I kind of dig Flo, myself.) As far as targeting goes, one of the funniest explanations of the Quizno's ads I've heard is that they are targetted to stoners - makes sense!

  • Donna Kozik

    Re: The Honda commercial -- there's a related one that has the cartoon character dancing and says opportunity is KNOCKING. Knocking must be said a couple of times in that one. Knocking is not a word I'd wanted associated with my car product.

  • Richard Geller

    I'm in violent agreement with those who find these annoying and gosh-darn awful to watch. But the bigger question is, are they effective? Surely, Fast Company counts some savvy ad-exec types among its readership. What about it? Do they totally suck or do they not totally suck? Because, collectively now, we appear to be dumber than a bag of hammers, so what if (insert scary music) they're targeted just right...Mercy!

  • Chris Reich

    The ONLY thing that matters in advertising, apart from ethical representation, is results.

    Are these ads generating sales? Flo apparently is.

    Some statistical information would have made this an interesting article instead of merely an expression of someone's taste.

    Chris Reich

  • Johnny Scott

    Flo is the most beautiful woman on the planet. She is so attractive to me. Pretty much the only woman on TV that I react to in that way. There's just something about her cute naiveté combined with the fact you can tell she's older than her make up and perky personality let on - let's me know Flo's a real minx. It's the character Flo that I find attractive - not so much the actress. DAMN FLO you're a real woman.

  • Mark Linder

    (from London)
    I thought most of these ads were refreshingly clear and to the point. Let's not be too enamoured of English or European ads -- they "entertain" because culturally it is impolite to be direct and open about American value that is aspired to around the world. There are only nine propositions in advertising, and many English ads are #9, WTFIT? WTF is that?

  • David Molden

    Ads are dumming down that's for sure, but the people behind them are not so dumb - its about share of mind - locking the brand into your unconscious mind - often by repitition alone. Its surprising how many people will respond to this, unable to control their thinking and emotions, and make the distinctions around products that result in smart purchases. Its one reason why there's so much debt - lack of control over emotional spending. Some of us cringe at these ads (me included) but until more people raise their level of conscious awareness, make better distinctions and smarter buying decisions, the ads are here to stay.

    David Molden

  • Sean Meyer

    Totally right. Ads are dumbing down, just to accommodate for the plummeting intelligence of society. And I think some of these ads are poor, but the worst of the year? The only ad up here, that I cannot see hitting any target is the Honda ad. If anyone thinks Geico ads are poorly constructed, you are a straight todd. They have one of the largest increase in market shares, and the majority of people still think they are the largest insurance agency in the world. And for Quiznos? Subway completely dominates the sub biz, and their only chance to steal some users is for a drastic campaign. Just because an ad doesn't work on you, doesn't mean that it failed. All it means is, it wasn't for you. So, Boomers can keep joking on Quiznos spots for being obnoxious and I will remind you of the "I Have Fallen And Can't Get Up" commercial that is meant for you.

    P.S. this was not directed at you David, I was just adding on. Knucks.

  • Kevin O'Hara

    Dumbing down? Plummeting intelligence of society? Not sure I agree with all that…

    Try selling insurance by comparing the benefits of your products vs. competitors' products AND getting brand recognition AND getting them to call or visit your website - in 30 seconds. I'm either bored to death or forgot who you were.

    Cheers to these brands for being just that, Brands.

  • Nate O'Shaughnessey

    I agree, a 30 second spot is only long enough for them to get your attentiona and stick in your head. I'td be great if they could divulge some great truth about their company, but most companies don't have one, they are just trying to make money by cutting costs and raising revenue, nothing really intrinsically Epitomous about that.

    I dont' think ads are dumbing down, I remember being a kid in the 80's and there were some pretty annoying ads: MicroMachines, Cookie Crisp etc, LifeAlert.. but they worked then, and they work now. It's not about impressing viewers on an intellectual level, its about getting their company stuck in your head, buying airtime in your subconsious playlist. Unfortunately, that's just how it is. Because as David Molden mentioned, collectively raising our conscious awareness is the only way marketers will stop throwing these at us. Even now, I can't get those stupid Quiznos cats out of my head... It doesn't make me hungry right now, but the next time I am hungry, which luckily for them comes every few hour sanyway, I will have the Quiznos brand at the front of my Mind, because it's been bouncing around the back all day. and the brand that puts itself at the front of your mind when the buying decision actually happens, is the brand that sells. Because lets face it, we make impulse decisions daily, withouth thinking it all through and weighing the pros and cons and all that. We just buy what we want to... it sounds simple, but establishing what we "want" happens in our subconscious long before that decision takes place.

  • Bestfriend2u

    Without a doubt it's the Quiznos commerical. I don't know who they hired as their agent but they should fire them. The McDonalds commerical comes in second about the coffee. The the wrost one not listed here is GEICO's little piggy commerical.

  • Bernard Farrell

    The US TV advertising world could learn a LOT by watching the better ads from Europe. They make most US ads look like something from the dark ages.

  • Antranig

    The Flo/Progressive commercials, with the spooky white background seriously remind me of people who just died in a horrible car accident and are stuck in hell trying to figure out a way to get back to life by getting car insurance.

  • Peter Frost

    Why so negative a topic? Why not cover Best Ad effectiveness too?

    I believe the Progressive/Flo and Staples/WOW ads are very effective. They are attention grabbing, memorable, evoke positive intent and work in terms of increasing market share for their sponsors.

    Can't argue with the Honda, Quiznos and Geico sentiments

  • Bugs Moran

    I'm sorry but how does the perennial worst ad campaign, and I might add, the worst possibly of all time get over looked here?
    Geckos? And Car insurance? Blow up your TVs.
    AIred over 400 times a day nationally, a brutal assault on intelligence and patience.
    If congress really wants to do something important before becoming "lame", find a way to eliminate this bane from our daily existence.
    I wouldn't use Geico if they gave me the insurance for free.
    2nd: ANY ad that uses a song from the 60s/70s/80s. I couldn't care less that the composer/publisher has OKed its use, bring back real ad jingles, put some very talented ad writers back to work, and stop destroying every lingering memory we have of better days.

    Bugsy NYC


  • Nate O'Shaughnessey

    60's 70's 80's.... Better Days?
    that's just nastalgia.

    Talk about annoying TV... the "Happy Days" theme song; that has got to be one of the most annoying songs of all time. But unfortunately, it's still in my head... I hate it, but it worked...

    If you're going to blow up your TV for all the annoying stuff on it, you should most certainly blow up your computer.

    Also, I like the gecko. Unfortunatley, Progressive had a better price for me 6 years ago, the last time i priced it out, and they've been great since, so I like the Gecko, but ads only have so much pull in the end.