Bad Advertising

Babies in cellophane, lead for kids, bad advertiser turned propagandist Edward Bernays, Tom Vu, the Marlboro Man, Joe Camel, Pizza Hut’s moon advertising plan, and more!

Sorry for the slight lateness of this one — we had a pretty severe tech problem to recover from and so editing took quite a bit longer.

Music: “Try Wheaties” (the world’s first jingle!) by The Wheaties Quartet



23 Responses

  1. Phillip Morris, along with other tobacco manufacturers, were required to produce anti-smoking commercials as part of the Master Settlement Agreement to settle a claim by state attorney generals that sought to recover costs that states spent on health care for smokers. You have to buy into the MSA to sell cigarettes in the US.

    Conveniently, this gave states a bunch of money to spend on stuff (usually not health care), and blocked new companies from entering the tobacco market, solidifying the tobacco cartel.

  2. You guys really should check out the Gruen Transfer ( and which has been running in Australia for the past 5-6 years now. It’s a panel style show hosted by comedian Wil Anderson and he has four guests typically, two of which are regulars. The regulars are a couple of ad guys from different ends of the spectrum, one is all about creativity (Todd Sampson) and the other is about big business (Russell Howcroft). I’m probably not describing them very well, but that’s the gist.

    They cover ads and ad campaigns from Australia and around the world, looking at the techniques that are used and why various campaigns were run and critiquing them. Fascinating stuff.

    Especially interesting is when they run a series before an election, as they are doing now (and did before the US Presidential one last year), because they look at the political campaigns and spin doctoring and they have a few pollies and spin doctors on the panel.

    One rather neat thing they do is to invite ad companies to make up a pretend ad each week and get the panel the vote on them (The Pitch, it’s called, to sell the unsellable). Excellent, caustic examples of what they asked for have been:

    * an ad for mandatory euthanasia
    * an ad to convince Australia to invade New Zealand
    * an ad to support child labour
    * an ad for cosmetic surgery for kids
    * an ad for steroid use in sport
    * an ad for banning all religion

    And during the election shows (they retitle themselves Gruen Nation for these), they ask for political ads on various topics (e.g. make party leader 1 look good).

    They called themselves Gruen Planet for two series, “focus[ing] on corporations’ and governments’ global media strategies and public relations”, and they did a series around the 2012 Olympics called Gruen Sweat (man, that was interesting! I may never want to support the Olympics again!).

    Gruen was the guy who invented malls too, which is why they chose the name.

    Anyway, it’s really fascinating and I’m sure Jenna would appreciate it given her line of work (what happened to microbiology?! Please keep doing shows on horrible bacterial diseases!).

    BTW, is that Dick Hammer guy the father or grandfather of Arnie Hammer, the guy from the latest Lone Ranger flick? I could not believe his name. I mean, really?!

  3. What a great episode! Adding to Dr. J’s derision for douching, I heard a comic’s routine a while back who said that a vagina was like an oven, “it’s self cleaning!”
    Brilliant stuff from you folks as always!

  4. One thing about Marlboro: The Marlboro Man was invented in the 50’s when Philip Morris started marketing Marlboro as a “men’s cigarette”. One of the ad campaigns from Marlboro’s era as a “woman’s cigarette” featured babies:

  5. Loved Crazy People. Need to watch it again. While not entirely about advertising, I think that Idiocracy had a number of great jabs at commercialism and consumerism.

    Probably one of the best commercial subversions ever, Shiny Suds.

    One of the most questionable commercials to ever make it on TV, the Super Soaker Oozinator.

    Hmm, so you’ve got a pump-action watergun that you jack as it shoots ropes of gooey, snot-like material into the faces of young children. i can only imagine the thought process of someone at the meeting. “You know, this looks an awful lot like a Japanese fetish video. But if I say anything I’m admitting that I know about that sort of thing. Maybe I’m just reading too much into it. I might not be saying what everyone else is thinking, I might be going out on a limb here.”

    And the best fake ad for store-bought spaghetti sauce.

    “Ragu: it’s like ketchup farted on pasta.”

    Great show!

  6. Great show! Dr. Jenna’s mistranslated ads were among the funniest things I’ve heard in a while.

    I have a couple of things to “ad”. (See what I did there?)

    The Increasingly Poor Decisions of Todd Margaret has a lot of spoofs of modern advertising, including attempts to get their drink promoted by a sports star and, in the following clip, trying to get the advertising of the drink to go viral:

    It is kindof a funny show, but not great. The writers portray a very cynical view of sports drink advertising, which can be funny at times, but sometimes the show is over the top.

    Another program that should be noted is the CBC’s Under the Influence by Terry O’Reilly. It can sometimes take a cynical view of the ad industry, but usually it just explains how advertising campaigns are made. It is good to listen to, so you know what tricks the ad men/women are up to.

  7. While “Branded” might not have gone over very well, one ad-centric film that’s always made me smile is “Logorama” (, which casts well-known logos as characters (and more) in a story that turns very messy very quickly. It’s all over in about fifteen minutes, too, so the joke doesn’t really get a chance to outlive its welcome.

  8. That was hilarious!
    Can’t believe you guys didn’t mention the old sitcom “Bewitched”. Samantha’s rather dense husband Darren was in advertising. He always needed to come up with an ad campaign for a big client, couldn’t think of anything, something witchy would happen (like getting turned into a donkey) and when it sorted itself out in the end, it would be the inspiration for his so-called “brilliant” ad campaign (which usually didn’t seem all that great IMO).

    1. That reminds me that Arthur Dent worked in advertising, which he said was more interesting than his friends suspected. 🙂 Not badvertising exactly but close.

      1. And, of course, the marketing division of Sirius Cybernetics Corporation, which is made up of “a bunch of mindless jerks who’ll be the first up against the wall when the revolution comes.”

        I only vaguely remember reruns of “Bewitched” — so vaguely that I didn’t even know he remember Darren worked in advertising!

  9. What? All the talk about tobacco advertising and you missed “Thank you for smoking”! Perfect fit for the approach of changing the message.

    1. We mentioned “Thank You For Smoking” in our Tobacco episode. It was brought up during this recording, but we cut it since all we did was mention that we’d already talked about it.

    1. I never saw that one–but I do remember the Carmen Miranda ones from the early ’70s. Nice to see the hat was the same.

  10. Love the episode. As for the Lysol Douche: the wording suggests that this was most likely subtly promoting a contraceptive method. ie. douching after sex was seen as a way to kill sperm. Birth Control advertising had to nortoriously be sneaky.

    1. We did discuss that, but I believe it was cut for time. Congratulations, your mind is also as twisted and aware of the funnier side of tragic events as ours are…..

  11. There’s another Australian TV show relevant here that I hope is being remade in other parts of the world. It’s The Checkout ( and it educates people about consumer rights through info/comedy skits. All of the consumer protection law they refer to is Australian, but it’d be very easy to translate to anywhere else that has consumer protection laws. Well worth the watch.