Controversial Ads that Landed Big Brands in Trouble

Advertising is all about capturing the attention of the masses and a number of times brands land up making advertisements that become controversial and led them receive much criticism.

Here, we have listed the 10 amongst those, called up as controversial commercials qualifying a few of the big brands to get into trouble.

1) GoDaddy Promotes Puppy mills

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It was one of the most polarizing ads of 2015. The commercial featured a puppy that got lost; anyhow it found the way back home to reunite with the owner. However, she sent that back as she sold the puppy on a GoDaddy-powered website.

The ending caused the much uproar as the owner was only happy to see it back because it was now sold out.  The animal right advocates said that this promoted puppy mills and showed that the brand was supporting inhumane breeding. The internet was set on ablaze as so many people took to Facebook and Twitter to express their disapprovals.

2) Starbucks, Race Together Campaign

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In 2015, the Seattle based coffee chain launched a new campaign to address the race relations by writing ‘Race Together’ on the side of customers’ cups. The campaign had drawn sharp criticism online, many people commented on the lack of diversity and pathetic attempts by greedy corporation. The social issue is not meant to be raised to draw benefits in the business.

3) Volkswagen

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In 2015, the big brand was exposed for cheating emission tests on diesel cars in the US for the past seven years. The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) filed a lawsuit against Volkswagen, the promotion advertising campaign deceived the customers for its “Clean Diesel” vehicles. FTC alleged that for making these false claims and violating the Clean Air Act, the car company would have to pay potential fine up to $61 billion.

4) L’Oreal, Youth Generating Products

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In the year 2014, the cosmetic brand came under the limelight for stating, L’Oreal Paris Youth Code skincare products which were “clinically proven” to “boost genes” and give “visibly younger skin in just seven days”. The claims were completely false and unsubstantiated as per the FTC (Federal Trade Commission).

And later the brand was banned by FTC, for making such assertions about ‘anti-aging’ without providing competent and reliable scientific evidence substantiating such claims.

5) Red Bull Gives You Wings

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The big name was sued in 2014 for its controversial slogan, “Red Bull gives you wings”. This tagline was used for nearly two decades by the company. They claimed that the consumption of this caffeinated drink could improve the consumer’s concentration and reaction speed. This issue came in rise when Beganin Caraethers (one of the several customers) claimed that he has consumed Red Bull for over 10 years but he had not developed any ‘wings’ or powers. The issue was settled when they agreed to pay out a maximum of $13 million which included $10 to every US consumer who had purchased the drink since year 2002.

6) Walmart Coke Price Hike

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In 2014, Walmart over-charged customers in more than 117 stores in New York for Coca-Cola. According to Corporate Crime Reporter, the staff allegedly lied about the reasons for the price-hike that they have a sugar tax. The supermarket chain advertised a nationwide sale on the soft drink charging $3.50. The investigation was conducted by New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman and he concluded that the company violated New York State’s General Business Law 349 and 350.

7) Flora Margarine’s Anti-gay Ad

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In 2013, margarine firm came under fire for a homophobic advert. It compared that it is better to take a bullet to the heart than having son who is gay with a tagline ‘You need a strong heart today’. Flora, owned by Unilever came under a barrage of criticism from the gay rights group. They claimed that the advert was homophobic, offensive and inappropriate.

8) Dunkin Donuts

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The Dunkin Donuts franchise in Thailand faced much criticism in 2013 for running a campaign which caused much uproar for featuring a woman in ‘blackface’ make-up. The advert was used for the promotion of giant’s ‘charcoal donut’. This was considered ‘bizarre and racist’ by a leading human rights group. It displayed reminiscence to 19th and 20th century stereotypes which existed for black people.

Later on, brand recognized the insensitivity of targeting racism.

9) Kellogg’s Rice Krispies cereal

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The brand faced crisis in 2010, was accused of misleading the customers about the product’s immunity boosting capabilities. They were asked to halt all the advertisements by FTC (Federal Trade Commission). They displayed that by consuming the cereal child’s immunity will improve with 25 percent daily value of Antioxidants and Nutrients like Vitamin A, B, C and E. The case was settled in 2011 when Kellogg agreed to pay the fine of $2.5 million to the affected consumers.

10) Olay, anti-aging 

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In the year 2009, in an advertisement of its definity eye cream, Olay came under much trouble. It featured former model Twiggy, looking completely wrinkle free. She looked a lot younger than she actually was. According to the Guardians, it was stated that the ad was retouched. It was banned by The British advertising regulator ASA, after receiving more than 700 complaints against. The spots were digitally altered and gave a misleading impression of the effect the product can help you achieve.

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