10 brands with great ads but questionable products

Lipstick on a pigClients tend to get the advertising they deserve. Sometimes, perhaps, they get better than they deserve.

After chatting with folks in the media and marketing industry in Asia, Mumbrella has come up with 10 brands that you could argue have achieved what a lot of people think marketing is all about – putting lipstick on a pig.

Red Bull
The world’s most popular energy drink, whose name was copied from Thailand and the product reformulated and repackaged by an Austrian firm in the late ’80s, has sponsored a man to jump from the edge of space, has a Formula One racing team and a record label, does lots of gnarly stuff with extreme sports and makes some really rather nice ads…

…but Red Bull does not give you wings. It gives you heart palpitations and tastes of cough syrup.

The world’s largest bank has produced some of the most memorable global advertising in history, and dominates the gangways of the world’s busiest airports with its eloquent take on what makes the world different and similar, in as many languages as you can think of…

…but it also takes an enormous amount of grief from its customers, this one included, because its bank cards don’t work outside the country where they were issued unless you clear it with the bank first, making a mockery of its memorable “The world’s local bank” slogan (which unsurprisingly has been scrapped). Also, HSBC’s internet banking portal is as user friendly as a bowling bowl with no finger holes covered in goose fat.

Djarum Super Clove Cigarettes
Djarum has the sort of marketing budget that could only feature in the dreams of Indonesia’s tourism department, which is what this ad appears to be for.

Smoking one of these things is like putting your lips around an exhaust pipe belching burning hot cloves.

Department of Tourism, the Philippines
It is, indeed, “More fun in the Philippines”. Once you actually get to the wonderful places the DOT is advertising, like the underground river in Puerto Princesa, the Chocolate Hills of Bohol and the pristine white beaches of Boracay, which have been beautiful packaged in the award-winning campaign by BBDO Guerrero.

But sadly most holidaymakers still have to go through Manila to get there.

If the traffic doesn’t make you wish you hadn’t left the airport, the pollution and the sense that you’ll get kidnapped any minute just might. The shopping malls wouldn’t be half bad – if it wasn’t for the metal detectors outside that give the impression that the city is awash with guns. Which it is.

Turkish Airlines
Turkey’s national carrier, which is the world’s 4th largest by the number of destinations it flies to, might have enough money to sign the world’s best footballer and the world’s best basketballer player…

…but the airline seems to have blown too much money on marketing and left little to spend on the things that ferry its customers about, which are cramped and dirty, according to some agency staffers. The aircrew are rude and, even less forgivebly, Taverna music is played constantly on overnight flights.

Tinseltown knows how to make a great trailer with a nifty bit of editing…

…it’s just a shame that the trailers are usually better than the films themselves.

Hollywood blockbusters seem to be getting more lowest common denominator, as a panicking industry clings to a tired, cynical formula to get bums on cinema seats.

There are probably too many examples of amazing trailers for terrible Hollywood films to fit on the internet. And yep, most of them are for sequels or remakes. Matrix Revolutions. Superman Returns. Transformers 3: Dark of the Moon. Texas Chainsaw Massacre. I would include A Good Day to Die Hard (Die Hard 5) in this list, but the trailer failed to polish the turd that was the 98 minutes of my life that I’ll never get back.

All the cutesy visual effects in the world by classy French ad agency BETC are not going to disguise the fact that…

…in the countries where people can afford a bottle of Evian, they could get this stuff out of a tap for free.

The Church of Scientology
An ad campaign that ran around this year’s Super Bowl had echoes of Apple’s ‘1984’ masterpiece. And its public education videos that warn of the dangers of recreational drugs and prescribed pharmaceuticals have a touch of persuasive artistry about them.

But the Scientologists cannot claim to have a squeaky clean image, which is why they are trying to shrug off a reputation for being secretive, controlling and believing in alien ancestry.

Old Spice
Old Spice may have produced a campaign that adland still hasn’t shut up about three years after it won the film grand prix at Cannes…

…but 46m views on YouTube does not stop this deodorant smelling like a drunken uncle who’s fallen in a fermenting barrel of pot pouri.

Bawang hair growth shampoo
This ad won’t trouble awards juries, but you can’t lose with Jackie Chan.

But I’m not convinced his product actually works. Believe me, I’ve tried it.

Ad agencies, is there so such thing as a questionable client? Or are they all wonderful as long as they pay you enough?

Robin Hicks


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