181 voters

The Worst Viral Marketing Campaigns

Updated January 4, 2021 393 votes 181 voters 37.4k views18 items

List RulesVote up the worst viral marketing campaigns that failed the hardest.

It's the 21st century and weird viral marketing campaigns are everywhere. It used to be that you could walk down the street and not worry that every passer-by was trying to sell you something. But now, everywhere you look, you've got to worry that you're being tricked by viral marketing. The best kinds of viral ads are the campaigns where you don't even know you're being advertised to. Volvo, Old Spice, and Dove come to mind when we think of companies with the best viral ads, but that's not what we're talking about here.

This list is made up of the dregs of viral marketing - the worst commercials that don't even know what they're trying to sell and the public stunts that backfired horribly. This is the list of the worst viral marketing fails ever.

On a day to day basis, the average person is inundated with a bazillion pieces of advertising, and it's on the companies themselves (or their marketing firms) to make their ads stand out from the white noise that permeates the air. But usually, the disconnect between the people at those companies and the people they're marketing to makes for some epic fails. 

Take a look at these viral marketing fails and vote on which ad campaigns failed the hardest.

  • 5

    The Hyundai Ad That Featured A Guy Trying To Harm Himself

    We imagine the meeting for this ad went something like this: 

    Ad Exec 1: How do we let people know that our new cars let out fewer emissions than ever before?
    Ad Exec 2: Easy. We show a guy trying to harm himself with carbon monoxide poisoning. 

    Then everyone high-fived. The insensitive car ad was pulled shortly after it made it to air.

    Bad ad?
  • 6

    Olive Garden's Random Act Of Pasta

    Video: YouTube

    In 2014, Olive Garden quietly released a video of a man using his $100 "Never Ending Pasta" Pass to feed homeless people and a bunch of Redditors ripped it to shreds. Other than people on Reddit, no one seemed to care about this ad.

    Bad ad?
  • 7

    The 'Aqua Teen Hunger Force' Boston Bomb Scare

    In 2007, the world was a naive place and people didn't automatically connect small LED panels resembling characters from Aqua Teen Hunger Force to viral marketing. Instead, they thought they were explosives. The scare proved that there was a widening generation gap between government officials and consumers.

    It also showed that lo-fi methods meant to generate buzz could come at a higher price than expected. 

    Bad ad?
  • 8

    The 'Code Blue' Alert That Nobody Used

    Video: YouTube

    At best, Coors's "Code Blue" campaign was a confusing mess that never should have existed. In a nutshell, it offered consumers over the age of 21 to send their friends a "Code Blue" alert over Facebook, inviting them for a beer. Nevermind the fact that this was in 2008 when you could simply text your friend and ask them out for a drink.

    Maybe we, as hip young ironic millennials, should bring "Code Blue" back into the cultural lexicon?

    Bad ad?