THE WORST AD I EVER MADE: No matter how many awards they have displayed on their mantelpieces, all of adland's creative directors boast at least one turkey in their portfolios. Camilla Palmer speaks to some of the industry's finest about their stinkers

One would imagine the natural response of most creatives -

notorious for their perfectionist tendencies - to the question "What's

the worst ad you've ever made?" to involve two words and the click of a

line being disconnected.

After all, no-one likes to admit to a clanger, especially when you're an

established creative chief with a good job, a solid reel, an adoring

floor of creatives hanging on your every word and a reputation to


However, as Campaign has discovered, there are lots of people out there

with enough turkeys under their belts to put Bernard Matthews out of


Adland's best have been phoning in with their personal favourites, which

admittedly were made when they were young and should have known


But what is it that makes a bad ad? Saatchi & Saatchi executive creative

director, Dave Droga, says a combination of bad art direction and a poor

script (if they ever get through to the production process) will always

create a howler.

And he adds that a dreadful idea and poor planning won't be resurrected

by sharp shooting or good post-production. However, it is possible for a

great idea to completely bomb in production.

Droga recalls the first ad he oversaw when he became the creative

director for Saatchi & Saatchi Asia in the mid-90s: "It was a cute

script, involving a traffic-light face-off between two drivers, one in a

fast US-style car and the other in an ordinary little banger. But the

concept was ruined because the gearbox fell out of the fast car. It was

the only one in the whole of Malaysia, so a replacement was out of the

question, and the ad looked appalling because people had to push the

damn thing away from the lights instead of it ripping up the


The examples from Ogilvy & Mather's creative director, Steve Dunn, and

Mustoe Merriman Levy's executive creative directors, Mick Mahoney and

Andy Amadeo, are also testament to how nice ideas on paper can "lose it"

in reality.

Other times, the pressure of deadlines causes a pap-overload. Mother's

founder Robert Saville recalls "singing handbag" ads - named after the

Flexible Friend spots for Access in the 80s - which were often created

when time was at a premium. "The Fruit and Nut ad is a prime example of

this - we came up with the idea in an hour. And it shows," he says.

Most creative directors agree that the fear of losing the business is a

good ingredient for creating a dreadful ad. "Ultimately, our goal is to

keep their business, and if that means throwing something together in

time, then that's what happens," one senior creative, keen to stay in

his job, says. "The rub is when you turn out shit and they quite rightly

recognise that and you lose the account anyway."

PETER SOUTER - Lunn Poly, Get Away!

Remember the nauseating ads which aired in the early 90s for Lunn Poly

from WCRS which played on the strapline "Get Away!", resulting in the

disappearance of one of the actors or objects? Well, you can thank

Abbott Mead Vickers BBDO's executive creative director, Peter Souter,

for them. "The campaign was really successful, and thrived on the high

number of spots we churned out. We must have made one at least every two

weeks," he recalls. "I thought they were brilliant - as a young

creative, it was great to see your work on TV. It was enough to make you

call your Mum and tell her to switch on." Souter also recalls an ad

during his early days at AMV for Delta Airlines featuring an array of

planes in the sky: "It was unimaginative stuff. The blurb played on the

number of people who worked for the company across the world. I'm not

sure if it was anything to do with us, but that number decreased by

10,000 every time we ran a new ad."

ROBERT SAVILLE - Cadbury's Fruit and Nut

Mother's founder Robert Saville has a whole host of ads he'd rather

forget about. One, made while when he was a copywriter at GGT, was for

the Cadbury's brand Fruit and Nut. "Yes, the one with the dancing bar of

chocolate singing maniacally at the office worker," Saville groans.

Other gems include a spot for Renault starring a gang of diamond thieves

who like their getaway car so much they can't bear to ditch it. "But my

favourite has to be one I did at Publicis to promote old Disney movie

classics. On paper, it sounded great - we had a giant projection screen

on to which we played clips from the films. In front of the screen,

children gambolled in white jumpsuits, with the action projecting on to

them, to tie in with the 'Lose yourself in Disney' strapline.

Unfortunately, the director painted them all white before we got there,

including their hair, and forbade the playing of music during the shoot,

so what we actually had on the screen were a bunch of zombies walking

around like the living dead. The client fired us immediately."

STEVE DUNN - Lasky's

The Ogilvy & Mather executive creative director, Steve Dunn, let his DIY

imagination run away with him rather too quickly when he made a suitably

dreadful TV commercial for the electrical retailer Lasky's in 1981. He

claims the commercial was so bad it was a miracle that he kept his job

and the agency, Leagas Delaney, retained the account. Dunn and his then

partner, John Bedford, settled down to work out an idea with "standout"

springing from the strapline: "A word of advice. Lasky's." "We developed

a script based on the cartoon characters The Numbskulls, which involved

lots of little people in a man's brain operating his every move, and

whatever situation he found himself in, they would control him," Dunn

remembers. A live action model was planned, and the night before the

shoot, Dunn went off to inspect it. "The second I saw it, I knew we were

doomed. There was this huge, 30-foot head, which was so badly made that

it looked like a giant egg," he despairs. "The Willy-Wonka style people

looked like a troupe of bog cleaners and their acting was more wooden

than a muesli bar. To this day, it remains an example of how badly ideas

can convert from paper to production."


Miles Calcraft Briginshaw Duffy's executive creative directors, Paul

Briginshaw and Malcolm Duffy, chose an ad they'd created at CDP to

launch the privatisation of the water companies in 1990. "It was a big

budget, 60-second launch for the first big utility privatisation, so we

were very excited. But the rest of the UK population thought the idea

was ludicrous, as we soon found out when we came to make the ad. There

was so much public opposition that we had to ask 12 directors before we

could find one who would do it. It was the same story with the actors."

There was further trouble to come, as the creative concept involved a

complicated portrayal of Handel's Water Music being piped round it to

show UK consumers they could buy shares in the water companies. "When we

went to Wales to film, we were expecting lakes brimming with lovely

water. But there was nothing there in the reservoirs as it hadn't rained

for three weeks," Briginshaw mourns. "To top it all, we were plagued by

protesters. We'd move off somewhere to look at another location, and

signs saying 'Get off our water!' would appear out of the blue. It was a

nightmare. It turned out to be a dog of a commercial, but seemed like a

good idea at the time."


The executive creative directors at Mustoe Merriman Levy, Mick Mahoney

and Andy Amadeo, are convinced making bad ads are a rite of passage for

most creatives. They should know, for they wrote and art directed the

relaunch ad for Prize yoghurts while at DMB&B. "We wanted to parody a

Gillette ad, making these pots of yoghurts the equivalent of the new man

of the 90s," Mahoney says . "It was an animated spot, and we mistakenly

thought we could get these lifeless objects to emote, even though they

had no faces, arms or legs. The strapline was 'How deep is your

pudding?'," Amadeo laughs . The ad showed yoghurts acting out cheesy

scenarios such as cuddling a baby yoghurt pot, sharing a manly hug with

Dad yoghurt pot (you can tell by the stick and grey moustache), riding a

motorbike to a sunset-strewn cliff and getting married -to a cherry.

"The whole ad was diabolical, but we were young and thought it was

brilliant at the time," Mahoney admits.

PAUL GRUBB, DAVE WATERS - Cadbury's Biarritz

Grubb and Waters of DFGW have no trouble recalling which ad in their

portfolio is the worst. "We were at GGT when we were given a brief for

Cadbury's Biarritz chocolates - the Miami Vice of confectionery as

opposed to Granny's Dairy Milk," Dave Waters recalls. Taking the

trademark blue triangular box as inspiration, the two wrote a campaign

to show the difference between Biarritz and other, less exciting, brands

by showing what happened inside and outside the Blue Triangle. "Inside,

you drove a speedboat and had beautiful girls crawling all over you or

drove a Ferrari; outside, you were in a pedalo with your Mum or stuck in

a traffic-jam on the A30," he says. "It looked fantastic on paper, and

really effective when it was filmed, but it was totally ruined by the

soundtrack - an adaptation of a Barry Manilow song renamed In the Blue

Triangle. We were mortified. Funnily enough, you don't see the product

on the shelves any more," Waters muses.

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