15 Epic Marketing Fails [Funny]

Sometimes it’s so obvious you can’t see what you’re doing wrong.

Every now and then, you need to look at some really bad marketing to know that you’re doing it right. Or just to laugh at the stupidity of advertisers and ad placement people (what are they called?).

So to follow up on our last “bad marketing” post – 13 Epic Marketing Fails – I’m going to expose a few classic faux pas as a warning to be extra careful when you put an ad out to the world.

Today’s categories:

  • Ad placement fails: When combining your ad with another causes chaos.
  • Acronym fails: If you’re going to make an acronym for your name or event, please, please please double check what it means.
  • Miscellaneous horrible marketing: These can’t be categorized – except maybe with the word WRONG.

Enjoy, cringe, laugh, cry.

Ad placement fails

1. Sign after sign fail

Before you pay through the nose for your ad placement, consider what’s coming next.

Hope is about 100m ahead in this case. I wonder how many alcoholics felt a moment of “you’re not alone” followed by, mmmmmm wine.

2. Braille fail

Ummmm. I get that it’s probably for people buying on behalf of those without sight, but the irony is somewhat ridiculous. I guess with a screen reader it could work to an extent – but paying for an ad like that? Seems kinda wrong. And really? “Never seen before?” #ouch

Touch screens don’t have bumps yet. Pick your medium when placing an ad.

3. Meth or speed?

Wow. Talk about co-marketing. These guys should go into business together. I’d love to be the dude that pastes these things on the billboards – he must have the funniest job in the world.

4. Search engine – baseball not found

Come on now! A Search engine (Yahoo) ad placed right next to section 404 in a sports stadium. Is this meta genius or just something for us to laugh at? I’m laughing FTR. But kudos to Yahoo if they specifically asked to be next to that section to try and generate some kind of viral brand exposure. #doubtful

Ball not found. Please search again.

5. Obesity for a dollar fail

Health food?… Yeah! Obesity?… No! McDonalds FTW!!! I mean really. Is the goal to confuse people? Or just cause arguments in minivans between parents and children.

6. Bad timing Twitter fail

I have to give them points for having an electronic banner with a live Twitter stream. And congratulate the photo taker for their epic timing. Doesn’t look so good for those 3 news anchors tho.

Acronym fails

7. WTF were you thinking?

Surely you could rearrange this and it would still make sense, right? Must be a generation gap thing.

8. Overemphasis fail

Okay, so you accidentally have a bad acronym for your business. Don’t make it worse! Although it’s probably a very effective interruption marketing technique, whether intended or not.

9. Ride the what?!

How could you not catch this one? I’m starting to think there’s a movement of inappropriate interruption ad companies that rely on creating controversy. #conspiracytheory

And with the row of women below the ad! Could it really be any worse?

10. Don’t bring this guy home to mom

Really? You are so old you don’t know what this means? My version: Memories I‘d Like to Forget.

Miscellaneous horrible marketing

11. Benefit statement fail

Looking to buy a car? Keep your eyes peeled for the women’s prison, we set up shop right beside it to enhance our trust value.

12. Naming fail

I heard someone say recently that branding and the name of your product doesn’t matter, just get it out there and see how it goes. I disagree, and this demonstrates it perfectly. How much education do you need to know that these are BANANAS!

13. Racist toothpaste?

Words #fail me…

14. Some things shouldn’t be free

I’m guessing the banner designer for this promotion got fired.

Insulting much?

15. Obvious fail

There’s only so much real estate on your packaging or landing page. Make the most of it without pointless references to things people already know. For cats? No sh*t Sherlock.

Who knew cat toys were for cats?

The world is broken…

— Oli Gardner

About Oli Gardner
Unbounce co-founder Oli Gardner has seen more landing pages than anyone on the planet. He’s obsessed with identifying and reversing bad marketing practices, and his disdain for marketers who send campaign traffic to their homepage is legendary, resulting in landing page rants that can peel paint off an unpainted wall. A prolific international keynote speaker, Oli is on a mission to rid the world of marketing mediocrity by using data-informed copywriting, design, interaction, and psychology to create a more delightful experience for marketers and customers alike. He was recently named the "The 2018 Marketer to Watch," in the under 46 category, by his mother.
» More blog posts by Oli Gardner


  1. Marie

    Bad marketing? Really? I would buy some of those long, yellow things. And I would facebook, tweet and tell everyone I saw that day that I had just gone to that shop and bought a long yellow thing. That could quite possibly keep me amused, intermittently for most of the day :D

    • Oli Gardner

      Haha, yeah I totally would too. Would be fun to have a whole store full of descriptions like that – I’d love the job of coming up with the names. :)

    • Cooper Maruyama

      Agreed. Not only did it get posted on this site, but we all saw and discussed it. So, seems they are doing something right. “bad press is good press”.

      These are funny though.

  2. Max

    Just FYI, that “404” on the outfield wall is referring to the distance from home plate, not a seating section.

  3. Beth

    We recently had side by side billboards in our town. On the left: ad for McDonald’s extra thick fries. On the right: ad for the local hospital’s heart and vascular center with the headline “It wasn’t indigestion”.

  4. Yoav Burger

    Hysterical post, Oli. Great examples of what not to do – I especially like the product placement catastrophes. So more people learn from your examples of what NOT to do, I have included your post in ‘Best of the Web’ http://bit.ly/j3bestweb, Facebook http://buff.ly/TVwkOC and Google+ http://buff.ly/TVwjdx. Thank you.

  5. Mark

    There’s a union with a “Lower Mainland Area Office” in Vancouver. I once spent the evening in their LMAO Auditorium! In fact, once I saw the sign, that’s exactly what I did.

  6. Illiya Vjestica

    These are classic Oli. My favourite still has to be No. 5. ‘Obesity for a dollar fail’.

    I’ve seen it many times before but it never gets old. I think it is so classic a marketing fail because of the opposing messages including the cause and effect ;-)

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  8. Calgary Designer

    I like long yellow things dipped in chocolate.

  9. Eduardo

    Great pictures! I’m still laughing….

  10. TwerkStarz

    Generally I don’t learn post on blogs, however I would like to say that this write-up very forced me to check out and do it! Your writing style has been amazed me. Thanks, quite nice article.

  11. Conversion King

    The fact of the matter is, as horrible as these marketers are at their jobs, the inadequacy of these campaigns have made them famous to an certain extent. We have collected them, posted them and enjoyed them… Because of that, we remember the brands and we share it with our friends. Now isn’t that the ultimate goal of us marketers?

  12. Web Design Firm

    Thanks Oli I had a few good laughs. My favorite was the first one.

  13. Jeremy Wallace

    I wonder if any of the marketers / designers who were putting these pieces together realized what they were doing / planned it! A junior media planner might be having a good laugh over this somewhere!

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  15. Julius

    Nice list of fails! I love collecting funny marketing fails too. It’s the reason why I started my blog “Marketing Shmarketing”. Here’s a sneak peek – 12 epic QR code fails http://marketingshmarketing.net/post/123828169596/12-epic-qr-code-fails

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