Category Archives: Badvertising

Badvertising: “I’ve Fallen—and This Time YOU’D BETTER LISTEN!”

In this installment of MarketSmiths’ Badvertising we examine whether using scare tactics in marketing is a plus or a minus. As usual, DO NOT TRY THIS AT HOME!

Life Alert’s Horror Commercial Scares the Bejesus Out of Everybody.

In 1989 a Life Call (now Life Alert) ad—featured a little old woman named Mrs. Fletcher who had fallen off her walker and she uttered perhaps the most famous line in advertising history: “I’ve fallen and I can’t get up!” The commercials became an instant hit, but not for the reason Life Alert wanted—to trumpet the benefits of their senior safety alert system—but because they were so campy that they were funny. Dozens of parody ads appeared, mocking the commercial.

Well, their latest commercial isn’t funny at all, in fact it’s straight out of American Horror Story and it’s scared the crap out of everybody. The spot clearly preys on the anxiety that all seniors who live alone must fear: that life goes blissfully on outside your door while you lay on the cold stone floor, helpless, certain to die at the bottom of the stairs. Welcome to your worst nightmare grandma!

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Thousands took to Life Alert’s Facebook page to complain, beg and plead for them to take the commercial down. “My own grandmother fell and cracked her hip and we brought her to the hospital immediately, but this just makes me feel so awful inside I start crying,” writes one. “I’m 17 years old and this is way too scary. I don’t want to see anyone in that much pain and crying when I’m just trying to enjoy my day. Please take it off the TV.” A petition was created on www.change.org.

Perhaps a bit defensive after decades of being openly mocked and ridiculed, Life Alert‘s initial reaction was to basically tell everyone to suck it up and just be glad that they didn’t make the commercial even scarier: “We’re sorry you feel that that way,” a spokesperson said, “but what you see as insensitive and disturbing is a realistic representation in which many elderly identify with and/or have experienced. In our business… the guilt these families feel is very real and far worse than any commercial that you feel is in bad taste… we hope that you will remember this commercial when it comes time for a family member who may need extra help. Thank you for taking the time.”

Things began to spiral out of control. A “Boycot Life Alert” page was even started on Facebook… Life Alert countered with claims that they were the good guy: “Our goal is to wake people up to the realities of what is going on with the elderly and to get a medical alert system as a PREVENTIVE measure, not a reactionary result to a tragedy.” Regardless, in October of 2014, with mounting public pressure and negative publicity, Life Alert decided to pull the spot and replace it with one much more inoffensive that simply shows the Life Alert button being used and the medical alert button wearer saved. Ho-hum, back to being mocked…

Using scare tactics (however noble the intention) in order to sell a product comes with inherent risk of backlash, and scaring the hell out of children and making them cry is not really the best way to get your point across, unless you’re Wes Craven.

 

Badvertising: The Ego Has Landed.

In this installment of MarketSmiths’ Badvertising we look at the importance of managing public image, and question whether “any publicity is good publicity” is true or not. As usual, DO NOT TRY THIS AT HOME! LeBron James’ PR Stunt: Fail? Success? YOU DECIDE! Back in the summer of 2010, basketball superstar LeBron “The King” James…Continue Reading

Badvertising: Peaches and Golden Suds

In this installment of MarketSmiths Badvertising, we’ll take a look at why one of the world’s largest beer brands felt the need to pick on the little guys. As usual, DO NOT TRY THIS AT HOME! Although it’s now owned by Belgian-based InBev, Budweiser remains among the most iconic brands in America. But lately it’s…Continue Reading

Badvertising: “Party on, eh!”

In this installment of MarketSmiths’ Badvertising we examine what happens when big corporations fumble at social media. As usual, DO NOT TRY THIS AT HOME! Molson’s Facebook Fail Back in 2007, at the dawning of social media, Molson Coors Brewing (the third-largest U.S. brewer behind Anheuser-Busch and Miller) tried to get the party started by…Continue Reading

Badvertising: Too Funky Fresh?

In this installment of MarketSmiths’ Badvertising we examine what happens when corporations try to be too clever with their marketing—and get busted big time. As usual, DO NOT TRY THIS AT HOME! Sony PlayStation’s Fake Fan Site (and its bad spin) Back in 2006, a guy who went only by the name of “Charlie” created…Continue Reading

Badvertising: Crimes and Misdemeanors!

In this installment of MarketSmiths’ Badvertising we examine the time that American Apparel made a very odd flirt with celebrity endorsement. As usual, DO NOT TRY THIS AT HOME! American Apparel’s Weird Woody Allen Billboard When one thinks of American Apparel’s approach to marketing one usually envisions soft-core porn photos of scantily-clad women in provocative…Continue Reading

Badvertising: High-flying Hijinks

In this installment of MarketSmiths’ Badvertising we look at pranks posing as promotions and the cons of using controversy to market your wares. As usual, DO NOT TRY THIS AT HOME! Spirit Airline’s Slippery Oil Promotion It’s a fine line between trying to be cute and trying to drum up free publicity by creating a…Continue Reading

Badvertising: What’s Up, Doc?

In this installment of MarketSmiths’ Badvertising we examine Pfizer’s bogus doctor ads starring Dr. Robert Jarvik, inventor of the artificial heart. Funny thing is, Jarvik never practiced medicine. As usual, DO NOT TRY THIS AT HOME! Pfizer’s Physician Pflim-Pflam Pfiasco “I’m glad I take Lipitor, as a doctor and a dad. Lipitor is one of the most researched…Continue Reading

Badvertising: Plane Wrong

In this installment of MarketSmiths’ Badvertising we look at what happens when you exploit one tragedy in order to draw attention to another one. As usual, DO NOT TRY THIS AT HOME! The World Wildlife Fund’s 9/11 Major Fail Warm and fuzzy thoughts about endangered animals. A mission to save the planet. Cute little panda logo.…Continue Reading

Badvertising: Just Kidding Around

In this installment of MarketSmiths’ Badvertising we examine what happens when a company decides to act as their own advertising, design, marketing, and copywriting services agency. As usual, DO NOT TRY THIS AT HOME! St. Louis Cremation’s Weird, Confusing, Creepy, Kid Ads Probably the last thing you want is for people to call you up…Continue Reading

Badvertising: Kicking The Bucket

In this installment of MarketSmiths’ Badvertising we examine Malaysia Airlines’ notorious “bucket list” promotion, launched despite the airline’s two hugely publicized and tragic flights. As usual, DO NOT TRY THIS AT HOME! Malaysia Airline’s “Bucket” Backfire Bucket list is a phrase that means: “a list of things to do before dying,” and it originates from…Continue Reading

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Digital Strategy by MadPipe
Photography by Chellise Michael

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