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by OppGenetix

The new year comes with a new start. It’s a time to look toward the future, to make goals and resolutions of how to grow and improve in every aspect of life.

It’s also a time of reflection. Some may look back on 2019 feeling like they conquered the year.

Others, however, might reflect on where they failed. Failures can be turned into learning experiences, and in a few rare cases, successes. This is something that can be seen in advertising campaigns, and 2019 was full of marketing fails.

Here are some of the most memorable advertising fails of 2019:


1. Chase Bank’s #MotivationMonday tweet

Chase Bank’s well-meaning advice didn’t exactly go over well with Twitter users in this now-deleted tweet.

Why it was an advertising fail

Chase Bank’s tweet was tone-deaf and ignored the financial realities many people face. Someone’s bank account might be low on funds for more serious reasons, such as paying for a surprise medical bill, as opposed to getting coffee at Starbucks every morning.

This tweet showed a lack of awareness and understanding of consumers’ real financial problems, which is not a great look for a bank — especially a huge one like Chase. It suggests that Chase is out of touch with reality and its customers.


What we’ve learned

Marketing campaigns sometimes fall short when it comes to sensitivity and awareness. It’s likely that in most cases, it’s due to ignorance or a lack of diversity in the room or test audience. As the saying goes, ignorance is bliss, but ignorance is still not an excuse for racist or sexist marketing campaigns, such as Dove’s 2017 social media ads that featured black women turning white after using their products.

In these cases, the brands reach out and publicly apologize and try to do better, though some, like Dolce & Gabbana, fail to improve.

When faced with an ad done in poor taste, the apology is important, but it’s even more important to ensure that there won’t be another one like it. When testing marketing campaigns, make sure the test audience is not homogeneous. The more feedback a brand has, the better. 


2. Peloton Selfie Commercial

While it’s not as rude as Chase Bank’s tweet, the Peloton selfie commercial succeeded in simultaneously alienating and uniting viewers in hating it — and that’s quite a feat.

Why it was an advertising fail

A lot of the hatred for this commercial comes from how out of touch it is. Relatively few people would be excited to be gifted a stationary bike, for starters. Then there’s also the cost of the Peloton to consider, which starts at $2,245 — and that doesn’t factor in the classes that cost $39 per month.

Some viewers were irked that the husband gifted his already-fit wife this gift when she clearly doesn’t need to lose any weight or get in shape. She appears to look the same as she did at the start of the commercial. If people really did want to change their lives with a Peloton, it probably wouldn’t be to lose 4 pounds in a year, as the woman in the ad proudly announces.

Others said this commercial was sexist, particularly with the husband gifting this to his wife (a rude gesture), but it was also sexist when it came down to targeting an audience. A lot of men buy Pelotons, but the husband didn’t use it. The woman is the main focus of this commercial. Peloton failed to reach a good portion of its consumer base with that decision alone.

More tech-savvy viewers took issue with how social media was integrated into the ad. Playing around with social media-style videos can be done well, but this wasn’t the case. People pointed out that parts of the commercial could easily be cut up and thrown into an Instagram ad. 

If those things didn’t kill the commercial, the complete lack of common sense did. The ad ran nationally with no contextual targeting, the woman sent videos to the man she lives with, and she put the exercise bike next to the kitchen island.


What we’ve learned

Peloton is well-known for being out of touch with the masses. In a CNN Business interview, Peloton CEO John Foley said the bike is “crazy affordable,” which is a pretty bold if not inaccurate statement.

It’s important to keep the target audience in mind, and if Peloton was trying to target the lower and middle classes, then it definitely failed in that regard.

However, Peloton could be using its outlandish expectations to garner attention, and if that’s the case, this commercial could be viewed as a success… but considering the fact that Peloton’s stock dropped about 9% after the commercial aired, it’s probably more of a failure than a success.


3. Tesla’s Cybertruck Reveal

Elon Musk’s Twitter account might be a grand example of what as a company CEO should not be sharing (i.e., the SEC fining Musk $20 million for tweeting about Tesla stocks potentially going private), but the Tesla Cybertruck reveal actually might be one of the more effective marketing failures. 

Why it was an advertising fail

For a car that was marketed as bulletproof, the Cybertruck turned out to be lacking in that department.

To prove the bulletproof claim, Tesla designer Franz von Holzhausen threw a steel ball against the car’s window. Immediately, spider-web cracks spread from the point of impact.

Musk said that the Cybertruck had been hit with a sledgehammer before the presentation, which is probably why the steel ball shattered the window.

What we’ve learned

A failure can be turned into a success, and the Tesla Cybertruck is one of those successes. Part of that success is probably due to the appearance of the Cybertruck. It’s also the first electric pick-up truck, and firsts can do very well.

People poking fun at the Cybertruck’s polygon-esque body and the smashing reveal on Twitter and other social media sites made for great free publicity. Bad publicity is still publicity, and sometimes that’s all a brand needs in order for a marketing campaign to take off. (And 250,000 Cybertruck pre-orders certainly don’t hurt, either.)


The 3 big lessons we can learn from these advertising fails are:

  1. Diversify test audiences and reviewing for offensive content 
  2. Know your audience
  3. Try to spin a failure into something people will be talking about for days
OppGenetix Team
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Top 3 Advertising Fails of 2019