The Worst of 2020: 5 Ads That Ought to be Forgotten

2020 was a tricky year for all of us. COVID-19, BLM protests, and the US Presidential Elections made headlines.

When it came to advertising, many businesses were successful in navigating through it all, while several others failed to hit the right note.

Last year brought an opportunity for brands to show solidarity with customers through ads, but some came up with tone-deaf campaigns that missed the mark.

In this post, we are going to review some of the worst ads of 2020 that portrayed terrible ideas and did not connect with the target audience at all.


1. Der Neue Golf – Volkswagen

The video shows a dark-skinned man being pushed around and flicked into a store by giant white hands. The store is titled “Petit Colon” which roughly translates to “Little Colonist.”

The ad was deemed racist and Volkswagen acted quickly to pull it down from Instagram, but once it’s on the internet, it can never truly disappear..

Volkswagen’s executives, Elke Heitmueller and Juergen Stackmann issued apologies and launched an investigation into how the ad slipped through the cracks.


2. The Most Selfless Act of All – Equinox

Equinox’s The Most Selfless Act of All was developed by Droga5 and produced by Believe.

The video features a museum worker telling the myth of Narcissus to children. He is shown looking at his reflection, lifting rocks, and carrying an old man to safety.

The ad is bizarre and puzzling. There is a glamorous dance routine at the end on Troyboi’s “Do You” to create a fantastical, technicolor sequence to glorify Narcissus’ vanity as a gift to humanity.

Read more: 20 Best Christmas Commercials of All Time


3. Going Away Party – Genesis

Going Away Party was a Super Bowl LIV ad featuring John Legend and Chrissy Teigen.

The couple are shown hosting a going away party while calling out different people for having old habits and personalities.

It fell short of audience’s expectation and came in at number 28 on USA Today’s Admeter.


4. It’s About People – Frito-Lay

It’s About People was created and produced by Frito-Lay’s in-house team in 2020.

The video displays messages and steps taken by the chip brand during COVID-19, such as creating 3,000 full-time jobs, donating $15 million to relief funds, and providing meals to 20 million children across America.

The consensus is that ad comes off as pretentious and contradictory. Frito-Lay claims it is an anti-ad, but at the end of the day, it’s still an ad.

While the steps the company has taken during COVID-19 are laudable, the holier-than-thou attitude does not sit right with the audience.

Also, read: 10 Best Sports Commercials of All Time


5. Fix the World – Snickers

This one might be a hot take. Snickers normally nails it with its ads but Fix the World missed the mark.

The video shows that the world is going through different modern problems, such as autocorrect, babies being named after produce, and grown men riding scooters.

The ad comes off as tone-deaf. Snickers is laughing at world’s turmoil and claiming to fix it by offering people a giant bar of chocolate, but it doesn’t focus on its own issues.

On top of all that, it was reported last year that Snickers’ parent company, Mars cannot be 100% sure that its chocolate doesn’t come from deforestation of West Africa.

Overall bad look for the company.

Final thoughts

These are our pick of the worst video ads of 2020. Advertisers can learn a lesson or two from these marketing campaigns that missed the mark.

In a bid to go off-beat and creative, these ads made it to our list of bad marketing examples that brands should never try to replicate.

But if you have an idea for a video, and you don’t want to fall into the same trap like these ads, then give our video strategists a call and see how we can help you in standing out from the rest!


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Posted by Adil Ashraf

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