Creating a piece of advertising – whether print, film, digital campaign or the traditional mailer, is a collaborative effort that requires the perfect marriage of product, strategy, creative and the all-important consumer insight.

It’s a process that has pretty much remained the same except that the consumer is now a much more slippery animal, bombarded with choices, equipped with more knowledge and thus much savvier when it comes to what they spend their money on.

That’s why big money is spent on “Data collection”, “Focus groups”, “Conversation monitoring”, “Psychographics” and other terms that sound like they come from a vaguely sinister government mind control experiment.

And because consumers are savvier, and possess tools to spread their discontent far and wide nowadays (hello, social media), each advertisement a company pushes out runs the risk of giving offense and going viral for wrong reasons.

Gone are the days where a brand could blatantly put out something like the super sexist ads from the 1950s (the frequently lauded Mad Men era).


And while increased access to education means that many societies have become more open, others have evolved to become more rigid especially when it comes to religion. Brands had to evolve accordingly. Certainly, one would never see Guinness targeting Malay consumers in Malaysia today like they did in the 1970s.


But it would be impossible for brands to get it right all the time, so lets take a look at some ads that have missed the mark recently!

Zara Love Your Curves


This ad sparked lots of facepalming – for many years now there has been a movement to empower women to love their bodies as they are. Big, small, in every colour, shape and size. But this addition from Zara seems bizarre – for an ad that seems to advocate loving one’s curves, the models appear miscast. Or the headline is incomplete – “Love your curves, whether you have them or not” may have worked better.

Pepsi Kendall Jenner

Pepsi made a huge faux pas earlier this year that had all of internetdom buzzing in anger. Tone deaf to say the least, it’s poppy, hipster version of a protest with a Pepsi solving all problems in the end had detractors up in arms, saying that it trivializes a serious issue and is insulting to people who had made tremendous sacrifices to fight for their rights. Pepsi has since apologized, saying: “Pepsi was trying to project a global message of unity, peace and understanding. Clearly we missed the mark and we apologize. We did not intend to make light of any serious issue.”

Bata Indian shoes


Back home in Malaysia, this ad achieved brief viral fame when a netizen spotted it in a Bata store and posted it on Facebook for all to see. The message was seen as racist, or condoning racism. Why are these shoes for Indian school children only? Then should there be shoes for Chinese and Malay school children? Bata has since released a statement that this ad is meant to celebrate the heritage of Bata. The shoes in the ad were first released in 1936, in India, for school children!

Escarves Parody

You may have seen this video on your newsfeed in the last two weeks or so and like many netizens, felt incredulous that the heroine appears to be washing her hijab with shampoo (because it is wrong to show any hint of hair when one is a hijab wearer). Many Malaysians are upset that it’s a sign of us being “backward” and kowtowing to rigid religious rules. However, the ad is actually a parody made to promote hijab scarves and is targeted at people who grew up in the 90s. It’s well produced (and funny), and hey I checked out their Facebook page so in this case it can be argued that this ad is simply meant for a very niche audience! What do you think?

Do you know any other ads that missed the mark recently?
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