101 dumbest moments in business: Advertising
The year in shenanigans, skulduggery, and just plain stupidity in the ad biz.
4. Bollocks the yellow moons and green clovers. Get yer fat arse down and be givin' me 50 push-ups, boyo.
Amid a rising tide of child obesity, General Mills launches a campaign that touts the health benefits of not skipping breakfast -- and opting for such famously healthy foods as Cocoa Puffs and Count Chocula. The company even enlists the Lucky Charms leprechaun, who normally sells "frosted oats and colored marshmallows," as part of a new "fitness squad" to explain how breakfast builds muscles and attention spans.

6. Pity. We already lined up Ike Turner to judge next year's event.
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Radio station WQHT Hot 97 in New York City runs afoul of New York attorney general Eliot Spitzer with its "Smackfest" promotion, in which young female listeners are pitted against each other in a violent face-slapping contest to win concert tickets and cash prizes. Station owner Emmis Communications agrees to a settlement of $240,000, with $60,000 of the amount going to a local group promoting awareness of domestic violence.

8. Here's to you, Mr. Insult-Your-Customers Marketing Guy.
In January a new installment of Anheuser-Busch's "Real Men of Genius" ad campaign celebrates "Mr. Discount-Airline-Pilot Guy" for putting "the fly in fly-by-night." When the ad comes to the attention of executives at low-fare carrier AirTran Airways, director of marketing Tad Hutcheson calls the brewer to complain and is put on hold -- where he hears not Muzak but a loop containing the offending ad. AirTran threatens to yank Budweiser from the airline's galleys.

16. It descends from the military-industrial complex. Not so ironically it unleashes grave embarrassment.
"We consider the ad offensive, regret its publication, and apologize to those who, like us, are dismayed with its contents."

-- Mary Foerster, spokeswoman for Boeing Integrated Defense Systems, about an ad in the Sept. 24 issue of National Journal that depicts the CV-22 Osprey in an assault on a mosque accompanied by copy that reads, "It descends from the heavens. Ironically it unleashes hell."

20. He's a perfect 10 -- a 1, plus 9 glasses of sparkling Lambrini!
Having barred alcohol marketing that associates drinking with sex, British regulators block an ad that shows women imbibing Lambrini sparkling wine while using a fishing pole to hook a hunky guy. The Advertising Standards Authority says the ad violates its guidelines because the guy "looks quite attractive and desirable to the girls." It would pass muster if only he were "overweight, middle-aged, balding, etc." The company then runs a version of the ad using a paunchy, chrome-domed model.

29. Men, on the other hand, have a charming self-destructive quality.
Speaking at an ad industry event in Toronto, WPP Group's worldwide creative director, Neil French, says there aren't more female creative directors "because they're crap" and they eventually "wimp out" and "go off and suckle something." French speaks from a stage decorated as a hunting lodge while being served drinks by a woman in a skimpy maid's outfit, of whom he asks, "Could you lean over a bit more?" Two weeks later WPP accepts French's resignation.

34. Bummer. But we're still going ahead with the "Schindler's Shopping List" campaign, right?
Fighting a proposal that would limit superstores in Flagstaff, Ariz., Wal-Mart signs off on an ad in the Arizona Daily Sun that asks, "Should we let government tell us what we can read? Of course not ... So why should we allow local government to limit where we shop?" The ad is illustrated with a vintage photo of Nazi supporters throwing books into a bonfire. Wal-Mart later apologizes, saying it had not appreciated the photo's "historical context."

44. She went on to deny any involvement on the part of Neil French.
In July, Burger King launches an ad campaign for its new Chicken Fries featuring a faux heavy-metal band called CoqRoq. Coqroq.com initially features photos of female fans captioned "Groupies love the Coq." After the captions are removed, Burger King spokeswoman Edna Johnson tells Advertising Age that they were written and assigned randomly by computer software that has since been disabled.

84. And now, 15 words from our sponsors.
In July, Nascar holds an event at Colorado's Pikes Peak International Raceway. Its official name: ITT Industries, Systems Division, & Goulds Pump Salute to the Troops 250 presented by Dodge.

Next: 101 Dumbest Moments in Business: Full list >>

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