7 of the Worst Ads of 2017

By Ashlee Dixon, December 14, 2017

When 2016 ended we were all hopeful. “It’s finally over,” we all shouted (and sighed) in relief. But little did we know that 2017 would bring another rollercoaster year of changes. In addition to political drama, fake news, and celeb deaths, 2017 gifted us with some of the worst ads in recent memory.

I may not be the Copyranter, but there’s no denying how awful these ads came out, despite the good intentions behind them. 2017 brought to light several sensitive topics, and these ads hit every one of them.

1. Kendall Jenner and Pepsi

There’s a reason Kendall Jenner and Pepsi are number one on the list. And it’s not that Kendall is caught up in yet another PR disaster (ahem Fyre Festival). I personally love the Kardashians, but come on Kendall. After viewing the final product, you never thought to yourself, ‘Wow, this isn’t what we had in mind?’

Related Post: 5 Steps to Branding Like a Kardashian

Although their intentions were respectable, the finished product was a disaster. Either way, Pepsi had it taken down just as fast as it went live. Regret is all that’s left behind along with commentary from others like this YouTube video.



2. Dove’s Racist or ‘Dirty’ Ad 

During a time when our society is having a Black Lives Matter movement, Dove does this. What were you thinking, Dove?

Related Post: Brand Reactions: The Right (and Wrong) Way to Respond to a Disaster


Source: Facebook

Dove’s advertisement was created to depict being ‘dirty’ and using Dove’s body wash to ‘clean’ oneself. They intended for their audience of all shapes, sizes, and color to connect with them. Didn’t get the reaction you expected, did you Dove?

Not quite sure how you let this one go live.

3. SheaMoisture

Another controversial ad for the books, SheaMoisture made its traditional black customer base livid with their #allhairmatters campaign.



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SheaMoisture is known for being one of the only products created by a black woman with black women’s hair care needs in mind. Comparing the discrimination black women face when wearing their hair naturally to someone with red hair was appalling to their loyal demographic. Having the option to dye your hair is very different than being bullied about your texture and style.

As a brand dedicated to women of color, SheaMoisture should’ve known better.

4. Dove’s Body-Positive Packaging

Yes, Dove is on the list again. Their PR team has had a rough year. Skin color wasn’t the only message they wrongly conveyed. Their Real Beauty packaging campaign didn’t do too hot either.



Want to be reminded that your body doesn’t fit the ‘ideal’ body shape? Why not get a bottle of Dove body wash perfectly shaped as your pear-like body and be reminded of it: Every. Single. Time. You. Shower.

Sorry Dove, but you’re not going to make body shaming happen.

5. Bristol Taxi Firm

A Bristol taxi company encountered a sticky PR situation when they released this ad campaign, which was intended to stop people from drunk driving. With women's rights and sexism being sensitive subjects this year, they should’ve taken a step back before hitting publish.


Source: Babe

Many accused the campaign of reinforcing harmful gender stereotypes and sending the message that women are to be judged only for their physical appearance. To be fair, the campaign also included an advertisement of a man with the same slogan, but still.

Lesson: If it even skims the surface of sexism, do not under any circumstances hit publish.

6. Windex

Ads are getting sappy these days, playing on our emotions. Emotional advertising works because we’re more likely to remember how we felt while viewing it, but sometimes agencies get it wrong.

Take this Windex ad for example. You feel for the father who watches his baby girl grow up into a woman who no longer needs him the way she used to. Sure, we see a few scenes of shiny glass, but how does this pertain to life-changing events?



Sorry Windex, you’re reaching a little too far.

7. Gatorade

Gatorade had a particularly emotional ad for Mother’s Day, one that could bring tears to even  the most heartless of humans. Director Robert Nyerges used his own experience of his mother dying from pulmonary hypertension. It’s touching and overall, a great ad.



The problem? You could easily misinterpret the ad and link Gatorade to heart disease.

Now that we’ve got that out of our system, let’s just all agree: Next time you have an idea, gather mass opinions before publishing. A PR disaster is much harder to bounce back from than tweaking an ad before hitting publish.

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Ashlee Dixon

Ashlee Dixon

Ashlee is the former Content Writer and Digital Specialist for eZanga and its ad fraud management platform, Anura. She is a graduate of the University of Delaware, where she earned a bachelor’s degree in English. On weekends, you can usually find her curled up next to her cat and watching Netflix with a glass of wine in hand. More Articles by Ashlee Dixon