The most irritating ads of 2009

LONDON - They may grab our attention and then worm their way into our subconscious, but some commercials are memorable for all the wrong reasons. was voted the most irritating ad of 2009 was voted the most irritating ad of 2009

While 2009 may have been a tough 12 months for the industry, it was a vintage year for irritating ads.

The end of Kerry Katona's contract with Iceland did remove one regular fixture from the annual list, but a host of other brands has joined the fray. The morbidly obese opera singer of the Gocompare ad propelled the brand into
the top spot of this year's howlers.

It was closely followed by Cash4Gold - a company that has become one of the beneficiaries of the recession by encourag­ing impecunious consumers to trade in their trinkets for hard cash.


Which commercials irritated you most in the past year?
2=Cash4GoldBrian Buckley, Hungry Man Productions46
2=Glade Touch 'n' FreshDraftfcb Argentina46
6118 247Rapier34
9=Country LifeGrey London25
11McDonald'sLeo Burnett24
12KingsmillM&C Saatchi22
13BTAbbott Mead Vickers BBDO21
14GilletteBBDO New York20
15=T-MobileSaatchi & Saatchi18
15=PeugeotEuro RSCG London18
15=DolmioProximity London18
18Orange (Monkey)Fallon London15
19=TescoThe Red Brick Road14
21Holland & BarrettWCRS13
22PampersSaatchi & Saatchi11

Adwatch research was conducted from 24-26 November 2009 by TNS. Prompted interviews took place via the internet. Sample of 1011 British adults aged 16-64 were interviewed.

As ever, many of the brands that top the list relish their most-irritating status. Nicholas Hall, head of marketing at, says that, because the campaign is ‘not vanilla' it has significantly boosted the price-comparison site's profile. According to Go­com­pare's own consumer research, there has been a 200% increase in awareness of the brand since the activ­ity started in August.

One of the oldest truisms about market­ing posits that the bigger the brand, the harder the fall. Those that have the biggest budgets and shout the loudest also run the greatest risk of offending consum­ers. However, while McDonald's, Gillette and T-Mobile all make an appearance on this year's list, smaller brands are punch­ing above their weight when it comes to annoying consumers. Of particular note is the fact that three of the top 10 most-irritating ads were produced in-house by relatively new brands - and as well as

The question remains whether being irritating is a successful marketing strat­egy in itself. Proponents of this approach suggest that, like any strong response, irrit­ation equates to aware­ness - the ultimate aim of all ad campaigns. However, Simon White, joint man­aging director of ad agency Grey London, points out that brands that have been accused of irritating consumers in the past - such as Cillit Bang and Radion - achieved a short-term spike in sales, but struggled to maintain this performance in the long term.

This view is echoed by Richard Hunt­ington, director of strategy at Saatchi & Saatchi. He says that while these irritating ads are clearly memorable, whether they can form part of a sustainable commun­ication strategy remains to be seen. Put simply, once a brand has done its best to irritate consumers it is difficult to see where the creative approach goes next.

Given the sharp rise in complaints to the Advertising Stan­dards Authority, it could be argued that consumers are less tolerant of brands on the whole. Not so, according to Huntington. ‘People have become less tolerant of interruption but this is more to do with the entertainment on-demand culture,' he says.

Yet, there has been a shift in advertising strategies during the down­turn and many brands top­ping the list appear to have attended the Alan Sugar school of marketing; by asking their agen­cies to ‘work harder' to help them stand out from the crowd they are effect­ively causing brand­ing overkill, often through the medium of the jingle.

Andy Nairn, executive planning direct­or of ad agency MCBD, believes that it is not enough for
ads simply to raise aware­ness if they are not well-liked. ‘Most peop­le have an awareness of Josef Fritzl, but it doesn't mean they want to spend time with him,' he says.

Nairn points to the success of brands such as Hovis that have fostered a genuin­ely emotional connection to consumers rather than focusing on direct response. ‘The standard of advert­ising has dropped as marketers increasingly believe they are working hard through excessive brand awareness,' he adds.

The last word goes to's Hall, who clearly believes it is better to be on the list than forgotten about. ‘I'd say that the campaign has performed exactly as we'd have hoped so far, and, I'm sure, better than many of those campaigns that weren't memorable enough to make it into the list,' he says. ‘However, as much as you'd like to, you can't please all the people all of the time.' Whether his brand's activity pleases any of the people any of the time remains a moot point.

What you said


@LottieOConor Everyone looks so surprised when he pops up singing. He's a giant fat man in a suit, there's only so much sneaking up he can do.

@afslater Idiotic and Repetitive Idiotic and Repetitive Idiotic and Repetitive Idiotic and Repetitive Idiotic and Repetitive Idiotic and...

@Matt_Jacobs It didn't contain a meerkat.

@rachelhelm Because the stupid jingle sticks in my head no matter how much I don't wish it to be there.

@beccacoldicott It is a not-so-subtly copycat ad cheap in style and would be annoying even if it wasn't a rip-off. Have to mute every time.

@bensaint The words, the music, the jingle - it's dire.

Kevin Gordon Gocompare is like being bazookaed in your living room. Annoy­ing as it may be, I bet it's working very well, and the website is very accessible.
I found my head humming the tune un­controllably while walking in the street. That annoys me because the ad has won me over in spite of myself.

And the rest

Ben Bailey The first one that springs to mind is GIllette. I can only guess there must be internal reasons as to why they keep putting out the ads they do. They're just horrendous. It's quite a feat to constantly make three of the world's biggest sports stars look quite as ridiculous as they do. Cringeworthy.

Stew M It is definitely, the ‘we buy any car dot com' jingle/rave track.

Kit Hunwicks Definitely the Pampers ‘sleep is worth gold'. I'd rather see inside the nappy than watch that again.

Sue Turner Those misery vampires Cash4Gold and CashMyGold. Leaving aside the sheer wrongness of taking advantage of the money troubles of others in these straitened times, artist­ically, they're as compelling as the prospect of a catheter. And to top it all, they make a USP of the ‘branded' envel­opes they provide for the desperate to stuff their trinkets in and post, thereby flagging up that it's something worth nicking, making the job of anyone in the postal/delivery chain of a nefarious disposition that much easier.

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