Earlier this week Cadbury had to withdraw an advertising campaign, which urged children to dig for treasure after archaeologists said it encouraged people to break the law (view the full story here).

This isn’t the first time an ad campaign has had to be pulled due to a badly thought out idea. We’ve scoured the internet to find some of our favourite examples of engaging advertisements and also some of the biggest mistakes, which ended up crossing the boundaries of good taste and design.

Vehicle Livery

The Good

  • Copenhagen Zoo
    This memorable wrap created by Y&R, Denmark for Copenhagen Zoo is guaranteed to grab people’s attention and get them talking. It shows a giant constrictor snake squeezing the complete Copenhagen citybus.
  • National Geographic Channel
    Sticking with the animal theme, this bus features shark jaws printed on double doors that appear to swallow up any passenger that steps inside. Where many others would see the door as a restriction, this particular designer has not only creatively incorporated it, but made it a key feature of the design.
  • FedEx
    Entitled the “Always first truck”, this clever design was created by Miami Ad School, Germany for FedEx. The concept behind it is to show that they are always ahead of their competitor, DHL. It’s  brilliantly executed and if you look closely you can still see the Fedex truck through the DHL truck’s windows.
The Bad
  • Unknown
    The designer of this advert failed to take into account that vehicles have moveable features (we’re talking doors and windows!) that once adjusted can make a professional design look not quite so professional anymore.
  • Starbucks
    The global coffee chain were left red faced after the sliding door on their van sent out a completely different message than they had intended. Somebody took a photograph and before you know it, the picture had gone viral for the world to see. This just goes to prove that as a designer you have to think of every eventuality to make sure you are never caught out.

Print Design

The Good

  • Belgian League of Alhzeimer
    This newspaper ad shows the ink dissolving or being brushed away, much like the memory of those living with Alzheimer’s Disease. The caption simply reads: Today 85 000 Belgians won’t remember what they read in their newspaper. Let’s support them.

  • Band-Aid
    Good advertising is all about simplicity and strong imagery. This ad campaign for Band-Aid Flexible Fabric shows how their plaster will stay on even after you transform into The Hulk. It also gives the message that even the strongest, most indestructible characters need plasters every now and then.

  • Moms Demand Action
    This powerful ad uses shock tactics to get its point across. The advertisement is questioning the logic which bans chocolate eggs to protect the safety and health of the kids, but does not do anything about ownership of something as deadly as assault weapons. It is a conversation starter and by using innocent children in the ad it resonates with many parents and inspires them to take action.
The Bad

  • Match.com
    In 2016 the dating site found itself in hot water after an advert placed in the London Underground left many commuters with a bitter taste in their mouth. “If you don’t like your imperfections, someone else will.” the text read, on top of an image of a woman with red hair and freckles. The wording of the ad had caused hostility on Twitter from redheads and non-redheads alike and Match.com were forced to issue an apology

  • Pepsi
    A co-promotion between Pepsi’s Hong Kong division and Japanese clothing maker A Bathing Ape started out with promise. However, by using Pepsi’s typeface the Aape “A” ended up looking a whole lot like an “R.” So Aape became Rape. Ooops!

  • Dunkin’ Donuts
    Dunkin’ Donuts has apologised after it ran an advertisement in Thailand featuring a woman in “blackface” make-up. The advert, which was used to promote the donut giant’s “charcoal donut”, was called “bizarre and racist” by a leading human rights group.

So what have we learnt from these examples? Firstly, a great deal of thought has to go into the design, from thinking about the functionality to making sure that the message is clear and can’t be misconstrued. For advertising to be effective it has to resonate with consumers by ringing true and delivering a meaningful message.

Every project should be checked and then double-checked. Getting a fresh pair of eyes on the design can also help to give a new perspective and spot any errors that may have been missed. Following good design principles means that projects can confidently be sent to print without any nasty repercussions.