10 Notoriously Bad Ad Campaigns Nathan For You Could've Fixed

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Catch Nathan for You Thursdays at 10/9c on Comedy Central or anytime on the Comedy Central app.

For the past two seasons on Nathan For You, Comedy Central star Nathan Fielder has done an amazing job helping small businesses by creating some buzzworthy marketing campaigns, including creating a viral video for a petting zoo and offering up a way for a liquor store to legally sell booze to underage customers. Even as we enjoy the start of the third season of Nathan For You, which airs Thursdays at 10/9c on Comedy Central and on the Comedy Central app, we have to wonder why Nathan isn’t using his business degree to help even bigger corporations achieve even greater sales success by taking advantage of his outside the box thinking. Just think of how these 10 companies could have avoided controversy and ridicule with even a little bit of Nathan’s help.

1. Burger King’s “Where’s Herb?” campaign

Nothing about this mid-’80s promotional effort by Burger King went right. Created by the ad firm of J. Walter Thompson, the idea was to get customers to flock to the restaurants in hopes of finding Herb. Trouble was, no one knew what he looked like. So even after peppering TV, radio, and print with information about this nerdy dude who had never eaten at Burger King along with the reward of $5,000 for finding him, people didn’t know what to look for. And by the time they did reveal his face, during an ad break in Super Bowl XX, no one really cared anymore. After three months, BK dropped the campaign and dropped J. Walter Thompson as their ad firm.

2. Hyundai IX35

This little U.K. television ad got the Korean car company in a whole heap of trouble. In it, a depressed man attempts to commit suicide by locking himself in the garage with his Hyundai IX35 running. But as the ad reveals, his car doesn’t produce enough harmful emissions to get the job done. Naturally, this was met with a lot of outrage, forcing the company’s European office to yank the thing from circulation and issue an apology.

3. Hawaiian Tropic KKK ad

To sell a few more bottles of suntan lotion in Argentina, Hawaiian Tropic’s ad agency Grey Buenos Aires conceived of an ad (which ran in the South American edition of Rolling Stone) in which two members of the Ku Klux Klan are seen dragging away an unwitting dude because his skin is so dark. You know, from tanning. Protests ensued, the ad was pulled, and the agency and the magazine’s advertising department had to walk it all back.

4. Calvin Klein’s pervy ads

How bad does an ad campaign have to get for the FBI to open up an investigation about it? Try placing young models in various states of undress (but still wearing Calvin Klein jeans) in a wood-paneled room, have an unseen adult ask them questions and give them directions, and shoot the whole thing like some kind of illegal pornography. The company faced a firestorm of criticism, but that didn’t stop them from making more poor marketing decisions like the 1999 billboard ads featuring pre-teen boys and girls in their underwear.

5. New Coke

It’s everyone’s favorite go-to example of a company’s pitiable attempts to jazz up an already existing product in unnecessary ways. The efforts by Coca-Cola to introduce a new “formula” to their sugary drink was apparently spurred on by them losing some sales ground to Pepsi. The sickly sweet taste of this new concoction had the reverse effect, turning people off and the company losing more money. They quickly bounced back with the introduction of Coke Classic and have taken only minor chances on new flavors and concepts since. (see also: Crystal Pepsi)

6. McDonalds’ “I’d Hit It” campaign

Imagine going to one of your favorite websites and seeing a banner ad featuring a young man eyeballing a cheeseburger followed by the tagline: “Double cheeseburger? I’d hit it.” Now you’re imagining that young man doing some pretty awful things to his food. According to the fast food chain, they simply had no idea that “hit it” meant what it actually meant. Or they’ve got some awful fetishes that we want to know nothing—or everything—about.

7. Quizno’s spongemonkeys

Words can’t accurately capture the horror that are these strange creatures that Quizno’s trucked out in order to entice people to eat their sandwiches. At best they could be described as combining the awfulness of Annoying Orange with the surreal animation of Tim & Eric Awesome Show Great Job!. These didn’t cause any controversy, just terrified and annoyed the hell out of people trying to watch their favorite TV shows.

8. Motrin’s baby slings ad

Johnson & Johnson had their corporate heart in the right place with these ads, but their head wasn’t listening. The pharmaceutical giant presented an ad that suggested that moms who carry their babies around in slings are sure to get more neck pain and backaches from hauling those little monsters around, so they should take Motrin! Well, the mothers of the online world came down upon the company with great vengeance and furious anger on Twitter and the company halted the campaign in its tracks.

9. Reebok’s “Cheat on your girlfriend” ads

Sometimes you wonder if a company knows that it is producing a piece of marketing so awful just as a way to stir up some interest in their wares in the wake of the controversy. At least that’s what it seemed like when Reebok chose the tagline “Cheat on your girlfriend, not on your workout.” It achieved the rare trifecta of being tone-deaf, misogynist, and sexist, and the shoe company had to withdraw all their ads featuring the language.

10. Microsoft’s OMGIGTP ads

Who are the ad wizards who came up with this idea? To sell potential buyers on Internet Explorer 8 and its “in private browsing” option (you know, for hiding your porn predilections from your spouse), Microsoft put together an ad wherein a woman borrows her husband’s laptop and begins to violently vomit on the floor and on her spouse. It was graphic, gross, and featured, of all people, Dean Cain. The only wise decision the software giant made was to make this ad online only.

Catch Nathan for You Thursdays at 10/9c on Comedy Central or anytime on the Comedy Central app.