Welcome to I'm Not Buying That, the blog where we dissect the woeful mistakes of the advertising industry. I'm your host, CJ Garrett, and I view terrible ads so you don't have to.

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Wednesday, March 30, 2011

I think you missed something there, Hollywood

Advertising can be anything, and everything can be advertising. Weird but true fact.

Something that kinda hacks me off a bit is how advertising can be intentionally misleading, but not outright illegal. Ads can't lie, not blatantly, but they can lie a little by omission. Hollywood is the worst for it. How many times have you watched a trailer or seen a movie poster, and gotten all excited about what looks like the latest action movie, only to go see it and find out that it's really some angsty, arty shit that has less swearing than a rom-com?

....Okay, that could just be me, but you get the idea. I likes me some action and blood - less so the angst. Twilight made me want to throw glitter all over people then punch them to death with an Edward action figure.

Today's little fail is actually hard to see. You'd miss it, in fact, if you weren't paying attention. Take a look at this movie poster:

True Grit was released in December. Pretty good movie, if I recall right. I didn't notice the posters at the time.

You don't see it, do you? This poster, kids, is LYING TO YOU. Top billing for the three dudes, that little picture at the bottom with three figures on horseback - you'd think this is a film about them, yeah? Well, you'd be WRONG. Let's go to Wikipedia...
True Grit is a 2010 American Western film written and directed by the Coen brothers. It is the second adaptation of Charles Portis' 1968 novel of the same name, which was previously adapted for film in 1969 starring John Wayne. The film stars Hailee Steinfeld as Mattie Ross, and Jeff Bridges as U.S. Marshal Reuben J. "Rooster" Cogburn along with Matt DamonJosh Brolin, and Barry Pepper.
What's that I see there? Hailee Steinfeld as Mattie Ross?! Who is this person? Well, if you're familiar with the novel True Grit is based on, or if you've SEEN THE FUCKING MOVIE, you'll know that Mattie Ross is the  main character. She - yes, SHE, this shit wouldn't happen to a male lead - is the 14-year-old girl who hires the U.S. Marshal to go after the guy who killed her father, which is, in fact, the whole goddamn plot in a nutshell. And the actress's name isn't even mentioned on the poster.

Yeah, yeah, I know Hollywood likes to keep the top billing for the stars who'll draw in the most people, but seriously?! This shit is still misleading. If I'd seen nothing but this poster, I'd think it was a western about three cowboys because you left out the fact that the protagonist is a young girl!

I'm cynical enough to believe that it's down to Hollywood sexism - and if anyone's going to tell me that doesn't exist, I reserve the right to laugh my fucking ass off at you - but the bigger concern here is that it's still lying by omission. And that, children, is bad advertising.

The movie's alright, though. And the book too. Here's the original 1968 hardcover, which actually has a picture of Mattie Ross on it OH NOES IT'S CLEARLY A LESSER BOOK BECAUSE THERE'S NO COWBOYS ON THE COVER.


CJ, over and out
Monday, March 28, 2011

Someone Went There

I've seen enough terrible advertising to know that nothing, NOTHING is sacred when it comes to getting attention - even if it's the worst kind of attention, and may get you beaten up repeatedly. Something about controversy makes marketing departments everywhere lose whatever sense they had and produce crap the like of which wouldn't look out of place in a sewer, under a pile of rotting garbage, crawling with rats and flies.

Now, there are competitions for the best ads in the world. As far as I can see, some of them have an odd selection criteria and reward agencies for being shocking instead of being good. Some not-so-ethical designers can even submit adverts that have never and would never get into print or onto a screen, because although marketing departments may get a bit silly sometimes, the legal team of a company know how to avoid shit getting serious.

This advert is a combination of these two ideas. It was never meant to be seen, but seen it was, and the Internet hive mind did not react well. Great tragedies, like a fart in a crowded room, are something you just don't draw attention to in case you get a metaphorical punch to the face. Using a great tragedy in an advert had better be for some kind of humanitarian cause, because quite frankly, only the most noble end can really justify bringing human suffering into the crass world of advertising.

This ad does not fall into that category.

Yeah. Someone went there.

There is more than one in the set, which I am not going to post or link to here. The ads went up on Ads of the World, and were subsequently pulled after complaints.

Now, here's where it gets interesting. The ads were originally attributed to M&C Saatchi, but they threw a total shitfit - here's the reaction of the regional PR, as you can see from the comments here:
I am writing officially from M&C Saatchi. My name is Kim Walker, I am President and CEO of M&C Saatchi Asia Pacific.
These appalling images are NOT the work of the agency and are NOT sanctioned or approved by either the client or the agency. The credits are incorrect and misleading.
They are the private work of a previous employee and were posted without any knowledge of the agency.
M&C Saatchi is mortified and disgusted by these so-called ads and despite not having any participation in theri creation, apologises for the understandable revulsion from those who see them.
IVAN _ please remove them immediately. They are not the work of the agency and to continue to credit the agency is defamatory.
Ivan is the admin of Ads of the World, and he wisely pulled them before the lawyer pitbulls were released. But... check out the start of this article here:

The images, which depict the World Trade Center, Hiroshima and Bhopal tragedies, appear as ads for skincare client VLCC, along with the strapline "Some scars never go." The art director responsible for creating and uploading the work - Chaman Singh - has since been fired by the agency, while the offending work has also been removed from the website.

Oh deary, deary me. (Italics are mine, by the way.) I thought Ms. Walker was implying that these were not done by M&C Saatchi in any way, shape or form initially, but this article kinda implies that an employee of the agency did do them, uploaded them to Ads of the World, and then got their stupid ass fired when the Internet took notice and started to kick up some heavy brand poison. And then the agency sent out this memo talking about a 'previous employee', in the usual damage control fashion that no longer surprises me in any way. (Why yes, I do believe that they're not actually sincere in apologizing - but then again, I am a nihilistic misanthrope who hates everyone.)

Possibly this is something that the guy did on his own time, and M&C Saatchi do deserve some credit for at least trying to make amends, but you know what? This shit is not new. Ads that accelerate past the boundary of good taste and and plain common sense are not new. This is what ad agencies do for a living. I think it's fucking despicable, but that's what we call precedent, kids.

Controversy. Shock and Awe. The Internet generation are so jaded that they won't take notice of anything else. And nothing is sacred.

It shouldn't be like that.

Alright, I know there's no funnies in this particular rant. I've asked Courage Wolf to respond to any whiners as a result.

Also, here's a book that is somewhat relevant and that definitely makes me feel better about all the shitty 9/11 advertising.

CJ, over and out
Friday, March 25, 2011

Penis enlargement? Sign me up!

Normally, I have to say, I'm 100% in favor of penis enlargement. Anything that adds more penises (penii?) to the world is a service to mankind. Did I mention I lost about six hours today reading slash fiction? Dicks. Everywhere.

Never mind. On to the terrible advertising!

See, even though I'm a depraved misanthrope for whom nothing is shocking, 103 inches seems... excessive. The trousers for carrying such an enormous member would need to be specially fitted, for one. The use of a normal urinal would probably require scaffolding. I think sex would probably be amazing, though, if you could convince fifty to a hundred women to lick your schlong all at the same time.

Let this be a warning to all advertisers of penis enlargement treatments: PROOFREAD, for the love of god, or the very least that will happen is you'll get customers with excessively high expectations.

Now, normally I'd only do one ad, but you've been such a good audience, I feel like an encore. Behold!

Yes, kids, if you've got penis, you need to balance that up with vagina. The question weighing on my mind here, of course, is what in hell is the connection between vaginas and bagels; vaginas being the delicious entryway to sexytime heaven, and bagels being the delicious bread that makes your lunch awesome. These things are not alike.

If this was a car ad, I can't help imagining it would say something like "Our cars are like deep grilled pizzas: what's not to love?" It would make as much sense.

...Now I'm imagining a pizza car. DAMN YOU BRAIN!

I searched Amazon for 'penis enlargement' and got this.

Yes, I laughed myself stupid over the name.

CJ, over and out
Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Today's Text-Based Disaster

You know, the nice thing about terrible advertising is that there's more of it than I could ever write about, even if I spent all my time writing. It's like malware, or that spam you get from Nigerian princes who want to help you enlarge your manly flesh rocket - the stuff is EVERYWHERE, constantly taunting me with its lameness.

This blog is therapy, I swear. It's this or go out with a paintbrush and start drawing mustaches on everything.

Anyway, back to business... Today's fail comes to us courtesy of Modern Mechanix, a delightfully steampunk-ish site chock full of random oldey timey stuff.

Needless to say, a headline that blatantly encourages your potential customers to go on a killing spree is not exactly the most sensible course of action if you want to make money. Again, maybe that's not your intention - I still haven't ruled out the Advertising Illuminati theory of world domination through shitty adverts.

Maybe they're focused on a very specific demographic, that of the Unreal-Tournament-playing bug fetishists? The mind boggles. (And google 'Unreal Tournament killing spree' if you don't get the reference - what am I, your mother?)

Anyhoo, here's another computer game all about men killing for money. Enjoy!

CJ, over and out
Friday, March 18, 2011

Breasts: Now in Advert Form!

Whoops, my pageviews are slipping again - that must mean that I should post another long, rambling rant on modern marketing! With more boobies!

So there's this game called Evony. It's some game online that I have never played, nor do I ever intend to. I prefer my games with one of two things in them: blood, guts, limbs, and the dismemberment thereof, or hawt women piloting hundred-foot-tall robot mechs. I do not play games like this:

From MMOHut.com, of course. They like this sort of thing.

Evony came to my attention because the makers seem to be having a bout of the crazies. See, that game up there, while fun for people who are not me, very clearly does not contain any boobies. You can bet that if it did, the boobies would be front and center and hopefully attached to a woman. Their advertising, however, seems to be suggesting something completely different:

The full story is on CodingHorror. Do you see the incongruity here?

  • Disembodied boobies do not appear in Evony.
  • Lacy bras do not appear in Evony.
  • That shade of hot porno pink does not appear in Evony.
  • They can call it free, but they apparently sell over-powered premium in-game items.
  • They can call it the best free web game, but their score of 2.5/5 on MMOHut says otherwise.
  • Play secretly?! Are they really trying to instill a sense of shame in their customer base?

The only things that are actually 100% true in this ad are the words 'Evony', 'Game', 'Play', 'Now', 'Web', and 'Secretly'. It's hard to imagine an advert even more misleading while still being legal. In fact, I'm surprised that the Evony headquarters haven't been ransacked by a legion of angry, horny nerds screaming about how they were promised boobies. And let's not even get into the problem of once again using a woman like a piece of meat on show - seriously, is this ever going to get old?! When the hell are we going to see large, burly men on show for our enjoym-

...Okay, that came out wrong. What I meant to say was, we should seriously think about ending this relentless and unjustified objectification of bodily parts. It's not right. Or something.

Yeah, I'm gonna go with that.

Here's some angry nerd bracelets. If you feel the need to play Evony, think about getting them instead. You might get more boobies out of it, and if you're very good, you might even get a real woman too!

CJ, over and out
Monday, March 14, 2011

Stay classy, Microsoft

I should just write a fucking manifesto on How to Advertise Without Looking Like a Total Douchebag. I think people would find it useful, you know? I would swear a lot. And make fun of stupid companies.

....Or I could just keep spewing out crap on INBT. That would be cool too, wouldn't it? Less effort involved.

Anyway, what with the horrible stuff happening over in Japan, I kinda thought I should just stay quiet for a few days. I know I'm totally distracting you guys with my wit and charm and dashing good looks. But a thing has been brought to my attention that cannot be allowed to pass without comment, or at least without some pointing and laughing.

Microsoft have once again shoved their proverbial foot into it. Here's the story, courtesy of The Stranger:

Yeah, they didn't think this one through at all. You have to admire their evilness, though. Let's dissect this, shall we?
  • They're using a hideous catastrophe in what looks like a cheap ploy to get retweets.
  • They've imposed an upper limit on their donation.
  • The limit isn't even pocket change for them.
I'm not sure what else to say. There's a level of stupid associated with this that makes me think their marketing department took the day off and gave the intern the Twitter password. But it doesn't stop there, oh no. This is Microsoft, kids - they don't do small.

The follow up apology kind of thing said that they were 'sorry that the tweet was negatively perceived'. So, on top of looking like self-serving douchebags, they also apologize in a half-assed, we're-not-really-responsible kind of way. Not sorry for the tweet - sorry for the reaction. Newsflash: that kinda makes you look like a spineless little shit on top of being a douchebag, no matter how much you donate.

I can't believe I need to keep saying this, but your intentions mean NOTHING in marketing. Oh, you're sorry that someone took that ad the wrong way? You never intended to make yourself look like a total douchebag? Tough. You did. Time to put on your big boy pants and make a real apology, and that starts with taking responsibility.

The point of all this is that whatever goodwill they've saved up from Bill Gates' philanthropic work has just taken a major knock. And it doesn't matter that this is just one division of Microsoft - public perception doesn't distinguish between them. It just sees one big corporate entity.

I'm hoping they'll learn from this, but it's not likely.

I'd like to add something funny from Amazon, but in light of the fact that Japan's taken a beating, I think I should add this instead. If you're going to donate to anyone, make it Doctors Without Borders. I'm leaving a button in the sidebar for easy access.
Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Oh Intel, is it time we put you in a nursing home?

I did say even the biggest and oldest companies are capable of major goofs. Today, we have Intel to thank for our chuckles, courtesy of one very odd slogan as captured by Paul Adams on Flickr.

Behold the head-scratching glory!

Oh, Intel. I know you're still insisting that your eyesight is okay, and that smell coming from your adult diaper isn't urine, but really... we know. It's alright to ask for help. There, there. I'll call some nice men in white coats, and they'll bring you to a lovely place where you can sit outside in the sun and chat to the other giant corporations who are also going senile. You would get along so well.

See, there's this thing about reality as we know it. If the future loses its lead to you (as this ad suggests), then you are ahead of the future. This means you are traveling forward in time. Into the future. Which has more future ahead of it that you still haven't caught up to yet. At this point, all normal physics unravels as you try to infinitely jump ahead of whatever future is still in front of you, and, as we all know, there is no insurance in the universe that will cover that particular mess.

I'm afraid I have to call bullshit on that, my friend. You are clearly blowing smoke up our collective asses, or you're blowing a much more fun kind of smoke through your lungs right now. I'm not judging you; I'm just saying, is all. Maybe, just maybe, you should take a step back and think for a while before you get stoned and play Corporate Buzzword Bingo before a serious marketing session.

I could suggest a few snappy slogans, you know. Maybe something like, "Intel: Have You Ever Looked At Your Hand, I Mean REALLY Looked At Your Hand, Dude?"

Do you know they make FUTURE memory for computers?! IT'S BETTER BECAUSE IT'S IN THE FUTURE, DAMMIT!

CJ, over and out
Saturday, March 5, 2011

A new look!

And why not? If I'm going to do this blog, I might as well go nuts.

I'm hoping that it looks as annoying as it was to make. I mean, really eye-watering crap like this doesn't just happen, you know. It takes time, and effort, and some major skills with Photoshop.
Friday, March 4, 2011

Remember what I said about being controversial?

The ultimate irony, kids, is when an advertising company puts out its own ads, and they turn out to be so unbelievably horrible they make you want to vomit all over your nice new shoes. Today, irony, thy name is Virtus Communications from New Zealand.

The image comes courtesy of Seth B. Larsen's blog, which may or may not be dead.

I am struggling - STRUGGLING - to work out where the hell the dead body fits in to a successful campaign. What is it about ad agencies and dead women?! Is this really a selling point? TELL ME YOU SEE THIS TOO.

  • She looks dead. Is she dead? Did he just try to cut something out of her? So. Many. Questions!
  • Those look like hedge cutters in his hand. I didn't realize hedge cutters could make such a clean incision without leaving, oh, a bloody mess for example.
  • I don't get the apron. Or is that a T-shirt? Why is there so little blood on it? Is that a magic wound?
  • Blood isn't yellow, or orange, or whatever color is soaking into the thing she's lying on. 

Oh, I could go on. And on. And dear god, I'd never stop until someone took a set of shears to my back too. Like the trolley - who put bicycle wheels on a gurney? Are we not tired of seeing women being chopped up or killed just to sell us stuff?! Who finds this compelling, and when will they be sent off to the men in white coats?

I've said it before, and I'm saying it here again - you may think that you're being edgy and controversial, but what you're actually doing is spewing out stupid, offensive shit. And, quite frankly, calling you out on your stupid, offensive shit is a public service, because it's not good advertising, and we're never going to get anything better if you keep it up.

I am angry. Here, have a book.

CJ, over and out
Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Zombies and Soda: A Match Made in Heaven

You know, it's not just the little guys that make some planetary-body-sized mistakes in advertising. As a very smart man with wild hair once said, "Only two things are infinite - the universe, and human stupidity. And I'm not so sure about the universe."

(That was Einstein, by the way. Guy knew his shit.)

Today's delightfully weird example comes from Pepsi. We don't have a copy of the advert itself, but here's a picture of their logo at least. Now bear with me, dear reader - I am going somewhere with this.

Presumably that says 'Pepsi' in Chinese, but that's not important right now. You may have heard of this story, but let's recap: supposedly, when Pepsi wanted to expand into the Chinese market, they translated their famous 'Pepsi Generation' slogan in such a way that it turned into 'Pepsi: Brings your ancestors back from the dead', thus frightening the Chinese consumer market and crashing their sales until they took notice and changed it to something more kitschy and friendly.

Oh, the thought of waves of Chinese zombies guzzling Pepsi to keep going just fills my heart with bubbly happy feelings. It's such a huge shame that it's very, very likely to be total rubbish.


Well, of course big corporations make advertising mistakes - that's what I said at the start of this article. It's just not Pepsi in this case. Snopes has the whole story, and the probability that it's just a myth seems high. Pepsi never got their slogan wrong, and never mistakenly lead the people of China to believe their product could create zombies.

What really interests me about it, though, is that Pepsi haven't confirmed or denied it. They could certainly set the record straight any time they wanted, and if it were really hurting their business, you can bet your collective ass they would in a micro-second. Big corporations are like that, you know. They love their money, and not getting their money turns them into giant, whiny babies.

So, I have a theory. Pepsi haven't said anything yet because (and this will wreck your head) it's good, free advertising!

Think about it. It's a story that travels all on its own, without any effort from them. It doesn't really show their product in a bad light. It's goofy, and funny, and it gives people a 'hur, hur, dumb company' feeling without actually turning them against the company. Effective viral advertising is the pinnacle of marketing, and it's harder to nail than Cleopatra in a chastity belt, so my considered opinion here is that they would be completely INSANE to say a word about it. One mention from them that it's bogus, and all those sites and news blogs and whoever would probably stop repeating it.

Of course, there's the Snopes article, but they leave some wiggle room for it to be true. Personally, I think one of their Chinese staff noticed that the slogan could be translated that way when Pepsi were initially expanding into the market, and he said it to a friend, who said it to another friend, repeat ad infinitum, and the story found its way onto the net in the usual course of things.

...I've just realized that Pepsi may not like this article. If I stop posting, you may assume that their soda goons have found me and taken away my computer. In the meantime, I went looking for something on Amazon that can bring people back from the dead, but apparently they don't sell resurrection kits for humans. Here's one for plants instead.

CJ, over and out

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