Shock Value to Strange Concepts: 30 of the Most Bizarre Ads Ever Created

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1Taco Liberty Bell

Taco Liberty Bell

On 1st April 1996, Taco Bell spent $300,000 on ads claiming that they purchased the Liberty Bell and named it Taco Liberty Bell, and achieved $25 million in free publicity. The White House Press Secretary got on the joke, saying the Lincoln Memorial was turned by Ford into Lincoln-Mercury Memorial.

2. In 2018, Ikea ran a print advert which had a very unique technology. It gave 50% discounts, if you urinated on it and were found to be pregnant, for a crib.

3. Burger King launched a $40 million ad campaign in November 1985 called "Where's Herb?" The idea was to find a character named Herb who'd never been to BK. Other chains pointed out that if Herb wasn't at BK, it meant he probably liked other chains' burgers more. Burger King’s profits fell by 40% in 1986.

4. Japan's love of salmon as a sushi staple is a result of a successful Norwegian marketing campaign in 1986. Raw salmon sushi wasn’t consumed in Japan before that because the Pacific salmon had parasites.

5. In 2012, the advertising campaign for a UK energy drink called "Pussy" was banned as sexually explicit and offensive. Pussy energy drink ad slogan was: "The drink's pure, it's your mind that's the problem."

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6Fiji Water

Fiji Water

Fiji Water once ran an ad campaign stating "The label says Fiji because it's not bottled in Cleveland". The city of Cleaveland responded by testing both Fiji water and their own tap water. They found 6.3 micrograms of arsenic in Fiji water, and none on their own.

7. We pair orange juice with breakfast due to a marketing campaign by Albert Lasker (known for Lucky Strike) to save the struggling citrus industry. He convinced American housewives not only to buy oranges, but to make juice with them by hand, and to buy the juicers needed to make it.

8. In the 1980s, Dominos Pizza had a campaign centered around "The Noid". It was discontinued in 1989 after a mentally ill man named Kenneth Noid took Dominos Pizza workers hostage after he thought the ads were a personal attack on him.

9. In 2012, Dunkin’ Donuts launched an ad campaign in Seoul, Korea where scent spray devices installed on buses would release a fragrant coffee aroma when triggered by the sound of the DD radio jingle. The campaign reached more than 350,000 people, and sales near the bus stop increased by 29%.

10. The diamond engagement ring fever was invented by an ad campaign in the 1930s. Before that few Americans proposed with the precious stone, and the price of diamond was falling.

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In 2006, M&Ms created an ad campaign offering 2 million dark chocolate M&Ms for the one who returns "The Scream" (a famous painting that was stolen just two years prior in Norway). Just days after the campaign, the painting was found by the Norwegian Police.

12. In 2009, Burger King launched a campaign that if you unfriended 10 friends on Facebook you were entitled to a free whopper. The ex-friend would receive a message explaining that their friendship was less valuable than a whopper.

13. Breakfast wasn’t regarded as the most important meal of the day until an aggressive marketing campaign by General Mills in 1944. They would hand out leaflets to grocery store shoppers urging them to eat breakfast, while similar ads would play on the radio.

14. MTV would have folded in 1983 if Mick Jagger hadn't agreed to say, "I Want My MTV" in front of a camera and allowed it to be used in MTV's iconic "I Want My MTV" ad campaign. That ad campaign saved the network from ruin.

15. The “Live Better Electrically” Gold Medallion program was one of the most effective marketing campaigns of all time. As the cost of electricity decreased in the 1950s, General Electric and Westinghouse sponsored a marketing campaign to promote electric appliances. Medallions were awarded to electrified homes.

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Reebok’s first major ad campaign featured two obscure decathletes. They were featured in several Super Bowl ads in 1991. The ads pitted them to see who was the world’s greatest athlete and who would win the Olympic title. After being made superstars, one failed to qualify and the other got bronze.

17. The idea that walking 10,000 steps a day is best for your health has no basis in science but instead started as a marketing campaign for a Japanese pedometer (Manpo-kei, "10,000 step meter"), released after the Tokyo Olympics in 1964. The 10,000 number was selected because it sounded good.

18. About hundred years ago Listerine was marketed and used as a floor cleaner and a cure for gonorrhea. It wasn't until the 1920s, when it was pitched as a solution for “chronic halitosis”—an obscure medical term for bad breath, which wasn't considered an issue until then—that it became a huge success.

19. In the 1990s, Subaru realized that it was surprisingly popular with lesbians, and decided to develop a campaign subtly, but specifically, targeting that core group, helping to push gay and lesbian advertising from the fringes to the mainstream.

20. The Energizer Bunny ad campaign did not lead to increased sales. In fact, Energizer's sales fell. It is speculated consumers associated the bunny with Duracell batteries and purchased them instead.

21Hate us on Yelp

Hate us on Yelp

Botto Bistro, an Italian restaurant in San Francisco, started a campaign "Hate us on Yelp" to become the worst-rated restaurant in Yelp. It also offered a 25% discount to customers who gave it a 1-star review on Yelp.

22. The slogan "Don't Mess with Texas" began as an anti-littering campaign in 1985 targeted at "bubbas in pickup trucks" who littered beer cans out of their vehicles and ordinary Texans who believed that littering was a "God-given right."

23. As part of a marketing campaign in 2012, Nestle posted a photo on Instagram of a person in a bear costume playing drums, using Kit Kats as drum sticks. Nestle removed the photo shortly afterward amid controversy that it looked like "Pedobear."

24. Japanese people traditionally eat at KFC restaurants for Christmas dinner. This tradition is so popular that customers must place their Christmas orders 2 months in advance. This all started with the Japanese marketing campaign in 1974 called “Kurisumasu ni wa kentakkii!” or Kentucky for Christmas! Now over 3.6 million Japanese families eat KFC chicken on Christmas every year.

25. In 2004, American video game developer company Bungie started a viral marketing campaign called I Love Bees which had participants from all over the world answering pay phones found by decoding GPS coordinates and times from the website. Hundreds participated, and not a single phone call was missed.

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