New research has revealed the most controversial TV commercials which have sparked outrage across the US, with big names such as Pepsi and Dove making the list.
The findings, compiled by journey advertising platform illumin also includes a new ranking that identifies which states have made the most complaints about TV commercials over the past year – with Arizona making the tenth-highest number of complaints.
The Top Five Most Controversial US Adverts Ranked
1. Pepsi – Global Message of Unity
2. Peloton – The Gift That Gives Back
3. Gilette – We Believe
4. Snickers – Do Something Manly
5. Huggies – Dad Test
The ranking analysed Federal Communications Commission (FCC) complaints data over the last year, looking at both ‘loud’ and ‘indecent’ commercials. The total complaints then scaled against population figures to name the most disgruntled states.
Mark Cluett, director of digital marketing at illumin, said: “Successful advertising is more than just a roll of the dice; it’s about meticulous planning and thorough research to ensure you’re appealing to your target audience along their journey, rather than offending or annoying them.
“The most controversial ads remind us that treading the line between captivating and alienating is an art that demands strategy, tact, and the utmost care. However, even some of the biggest brands make mistakes – as we can see by naming the top five most controversial ads that serve as a great guide of what not to do.”
Pepsi’s “Global Message of Unity” Commercial (2017)
Perhaps one of the most notorious commercials regarding backlash, Pepsi’s “Global Message of Unity” ad received massive criticism for being tone deaf and inappropriate.
The ad featured international supermodel Kendall Jenner handing out cans of Pepsi during a clash between protestors and the police, seemingly saving the day. Viewers complained that the ad trivialized the Black Lives Matter movement, prompting Pepsi to release a statement and pull the advertisement.
Peloton “The Gift That Gives Back” Commercial (2019)
This ad depicted a woman receiving a Peloton exercise bike for Christmas. The woman then records video diaries about how she’s changed for the better because of the gift.
This may seem harmless to some, but critics pointed out the sexist undertones of the commercial when showing a husband pressuring his wife to keep her weight in check. Reports have suggested the backlash caused the company’s stock to decrease in value by as much as $1.5 billion.
Gilette “We Believe” Commercial (2019)
In 2019, Gilette released their “We Believe” campaign, which tried to harness the momentum of the #MeToo movement, challenging “is this the best a man can be?”. This statement was soon critiqued by the public for being tone-deaf.
Customers were left furious at the commercial, with many threatening to boycott the brand altogether.
Snickers “Do Something Manly” Commercial (2007)
The Snickers commercial ran during the 2007 Superbowl and showed two men eating a Snickers bar, leading to an accidental kiss. The men then felt the need to ‘do something manly’ and proceeded to rip out their chest hair – and, in other versions of the ad, even slam their heads under a car bonnet.
The ad received many complaints and caused an outcry among gay rights activists, before being branded as homophobic and pulled from TV.
Huggies “Dad Test” Commercial (2012)
Way back in 2012, Huggies attempted to create a cheeky spot that poked fun at dads struggling to put diapers on their children. Unfortunately, many dads took offence at the stereotypical implication that men are unwilling or unable to care for their child.
Huggies received many complaints, and a petition was even started to remove the advertisement. The brand apologized and even released revamped ads showing confident fathers carrying their babies.
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