South Korean Oreo ad
A provocative South Korean Oreo ad went viral this week, though Kraft insisted “it was never intended for public distribution or use with consumers.” The advertisement, which depicts a baby holding a cookie while suckling on a bare breast, carried the wry tagline “Milk’s favorite cookie.” Kraft contended that the ad, created by Cheil Worldwide, was meant for one-time use at an advertising forum and “has never run in Korea or other markets.” But cynics pointed out that the cookie brand is also celebrating its 100th anniversary this year. Either way, it could have been worse—it could have featured Alicia Silverstone.
Serena Williams Top Spin 4 ad
In 2011 Serena Williams shot a racy commercial for the videogame Top Spin 4, and it was deemed too hot for television. The 60-second ad featured a match between Williams (billed as “the world’s sexiest tennis player”) and Rileah Vanderbilt (“the world’s sexiest tennis gamer”). As the two women played—wearing black leotards and stockings—their grunts and moans are heard in the background. At the end, Williams deadpans, “You realize this is a fantasy, right?” But when the game maker, 2K Sports, pulled the spot, Vanderbilt uploaded the ad to YouTube and tweeted a link to it. So 2K Sports volleyed with an official statement: “As part of the process for creating marketing campaigns to support our titles, we pursue a variety of creative avenues. This video is not part of the title’s final marketing campaign and its distribution was unauthorized.” In other words, the creative double fault was not its fault.
RCDA karate class ad
Afraid your little boy is going to grow up to be a big sissy? What better way to beat it out of him than with karate lessons! That seemed to be the implied message behind a 2010 ad campaign for Key Biscayne’s Academy of Martial Arts RDCA in which boys were depicted doing stereotypical feminine things (such as putting on lipstick and wearing heels). The print campaign was created by the Zubi ad agency, which immediately apologized for images that were leaked when an employee posted them online to get feedback. “I apologize to you and anyone else that may have thought we knowingly allowed these ads to leave the agency,” founder Joe Zubizarreta said in a statement. “The creator of these ads is very apologetic and never intended to offend anyone however, we as the owners, understand that they can be considered offensive and would not under any circumstances have ever let them ever be produced.”
Mary J. Blige Burger King ads
Burger King apologized to Mary J. Blige this month after pulling a new ad featuring her singing about its crispy chicken wraps. The fast-food chain claimed that there was a licensing issue with scrapped commercial—which offended viewers because it played off racial stereotypes—but TMZ captured the spot and put it on YouTube. Blige herself apologized to her fans, saying: “I agreed to be a part of a fun and creative campaign that was supposed to feature a dream sequence. Unfortunately, that’s not what was happening in that clip, so I understand my fans being upset by what they saw. But, if you’re a Mary fan, you have to know I would never allow an unfinished spot like the one you saw go out.” Burger King hopes to have a revised commercial featuring Blige out soon.
“Veggie Love” PETA commercial
Having a Super Bowl commercial banned can sometimes be more effective than getting one on the air. Few organizations have mastered this art better than People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, which purposely creates outrageous ads that will never be broadcast and then releases them online. In 2009 PETA made “Veggie Love,” a 30-second spot depicting women in lingerie getting down with asparagus, pumpkins, and, of course, broccoli. Their message? “Studies show vegetarians have better sex.” Two years later PETA doubled down on the dirty vegetable dancing with an NSFW commercial that purported to show the porny casting call for the “Veggie Love” ad. Warning: if you love eggplant, look away.
Lane Bryant lingerie ad
In 2010 both ABC and Fox declined to show a Lane Bryant bra ad featuring plus-size model Ashley Graham because it was too hot for television. ABC refused to air the cleavage-baring spot during Dancing With the Stars without significant edits, despite that a Victoria’s Secret commercial was shown during the same episode, leading Lane Bryant to wonder whether the network’s real issue was with larger women. ABC fought back, saying, “Their statements are not true. The ad was accepted. Lane Bryant was treated absolutely no differently than any advertiser for the same product. We were willing to accommodate them, but they chose to seek publicity instead.” But Lane Bryant wouldn’t let the tempest in the double-D cup die there—the company leaked documents that proved ABC wanted to censor the ad.
Budweiser beer-and-porn ad
Sometimes it doesn’t even need to be Super Bowl time for a company to create an ad it never intends to be broadcast. In 2009 Budweiser made a viral video of a man trying to buy a six-pack of beer and the latest copy of Tongue and Cheeks magazine. Hilarity—including many bleeped words and blurred images of sex toys—ensues. But for pure comedy, there’s no beating this commercial’s NSFW inspiration: a scene from Woody Allen’s Bananas.
German Sprite commercial
When a German Sprite ad was leaked in 2009, there was little question why the NSFW spot was banned from TV. Blatantly depicting oral sex—including a foamy finish—the spot was denounced in the media and looked like a publicity nightmare for the soft-drink company. Except for one thing: the ad was a fake. Not only was the commercial not produced by Sprite, it wasn’t even made in Germany. Shortly after the video went viral, Brooklyn filmmaker Max Isaacson released a statement claiming responsibility for the ad: “I am frankly quite surprised that spots of this nature were so quickly and easily believed to be legitimate. I hope that all parties involved will understand that this was a simple mistake that went much too far too fast, and that it is now made clear that these were not real commercials, nor were they ever produced with intention of being taken as such.” So it had a happy ending.