Ultimately, the goal of advertising agencies is to sell product. At times, how they do that comes down to how creative they want to be. In some cases, the advertisers choose to be outrageous just to get people’s attention, and now and then some advertisers go too far, and their commercial is banned outright. Or, if they did air, they only played in certain areas of the world, because what would be considered cheeky on one continent may be too risqué in another. These are 10 banned and controversial commercials that are also pretty freaking funny.
Actress Kim Cattrall has almost 90 acting credits to her name, but she is most famous for playing the sexually assertive Samantha Jones in Sex in the City. So when she did a Nissan ad to be aired in New Zealand, her use of vague innuendos was very much in line with the persona she had carved out for herself in the show. Even though Cattrall doesn’t say anything particularly dirty and only used double-entendres, the national advertising board in New Zealand received a number of complaints and the ad was pulled.
9. For Goodness Shakes
UK-based protein drink maker For Goodness Shakes made this ad in 2013 to show the awkward situation of shaking your own drink in public. Along with just trying to sell a healthy drink that you don’t have to shake, it also works as a public service announcement about being mindful of your facial expressions when performing actions that could easily be misconstrued. But not everyone was a fan of the commercial. An advertising watchdog group received just one complaint about the commercial and after watching it, they said that it is possible that it could be offensive to a large group of people, so the ads were pulled. For Goodness Shakes didn’t…ahem…yank it themselves.
8. Six Nations Rugby Championship
When it comes to sports rivalries, it’s nice when your team wins, but it’s almost better when your rival loses. That sentiment was expressed thoroughly in the promotional video for the 2012 Six Nations Championship rugby tournament. Rugby fans from Ireland, Wales, and Scotland were asked who they wanted to lose in the tournament. Without a doubt in their mind, they all said England. The clip was pulled by the BBC because they thought it might come across as anti-English. A re-cut version was later aired where with English fans discussing who they hoped would lose, but it lacked the punch of the original.
This 1999 commercial from Sweden ran mostly in Europe. It didn’t air much outside of the continent, simply because it would have been too taboo in more conservative markets, even though it is rather tame by today’s standards. The ad features a woman trying to hide an affair from her husband, only to find out he has a shocking secret of his own.
So while it only aired in Europe, it was quite popular in the gay community. In 2001, it was voted the “Gayest Commercial of All-Time” by the users of Gay.com and Planetout.com.
6. Soesman Language Training
Have you ever been in a group of people who are speaking a language you can’t? At times, it can make you paranoid. Are they openly making fun of you? Are they laughing at you because of your ignorance of their language? If you’ve never thought that before, you might after seeing this 1999 advertisement from the Netherlands for Soesman Language Training. Since the language in the video is about on par with an HBO show, it clearly would never air in any country where English is the first language. Which is too bad, because that song is quite catchy.
5. Zazoo Condoms
Parents will tell you that children are absolute miracles, but they will also admit that, at times, their children can be downright demonic.
Of course, when people are “lost in the moment,” and about to have some fun, they don’t consider the possibility that those few minutes could lead to a bratty kid eight years down the road. Taking advantage of that short-sightedness, this banned Belgian commercial for Zazoo Condoms vividly connects those dots. Because after all, if catching a deadly, or life changing, disease wasn’t scary enough, then how scary is creating the life of a monstrous kid? It gives a whole new meaning to the term “life sentence.”
4. Smart Beep
Why is it that you always have to fart when you’re on a first date? The one upside to the problem is the amazing feeling of relief you get when you have a few seconds to yourself so that you can “steam press” your Levi’s. The woman in this ad from 1999 has that split second of heaven and is quickly horrified when she realizes she isn’t alone in the car.
Apparently this ad was a bit too crude to air during the Super Bowl, which was being broadcast on Fox that year. And yes, Fox is home to shows like Family Guy, The Simpsons, and the mother of all crude (modern) sitcoms, Married…with Children, yet they didn’t think a fart joke was appropriate to play during breaks in a football game.
Ikea created a series of five darkly humorous ads directed at messy and disorganized people. They mostly played across Europe, but not much outside of it. Some of the ads include a woman losing her baby amongst her clutter, a young man killing his date because a fork was hidden in the couch, and a young child playing with a poorly hidden sex toy. While fairly dark, the ads are actually kind of possible, and even realistic, if you know a person that lives in complete and utter disarray.
This ad from 2007 featuring two men accidentally sharing an intimate moment over a Snickers bar aired during the Super Bowl XLI, but it was pulled after Snickers got complaints about it. The complaints weren’t actually over two men kissing during the Super Bowl. Instead, gay rights groups had a problem with the ending where the guys have to do something “manly.” In the TV ads they rip out their chest hair, and on the website, they had an ad where they attack each other. The gay rights groups said that the ad promoted anti-gay bullying and it wasted a funny and progressive premise in a matter of seconds. Perhaps the people making the ad didn’t have a Snickers bar around, and the ending was suggested by a hungry guy that was acting like Archie Bunker.
1. Rolling Rock
This 2003 commercial for Rolling Rock beer has an action movie sequel attitude when it comes to depicting men getting hit in the crotch – more is better. And unlike a lot of action sequels, this commercial succeeds with its ambitious scope. The ad is about a baseball that breaks the laws of physics and seeks out men’s junk like a heat seeking missile. The ad was made to air during the Super Bowl, but it was banned. Supposedly, it wasn’t banned because of the excessive nut shots, it was banned because the imagery at the end looked a bit too phallic for the censors. Because, you know, people certainly weren’t thinking about penises before the end of the commercial.