Here, then, are 10 of the worst ads of the past 10 years:
1. White Castle: Pole-Dancing Pig
In a grotesque take-off of the movie "Flashdance," a human in an ill-fitting pig costume gyrates suggestively before a sparse nightclub audience and hoses itself down with a dark red liquid that is supposed to be barbecue sauce, but is more reminiscent of the splattering of blood that awaits any pig destined to become one of White Castle's new pulled-pork sandwiches. Mouth-watering, this commercial is not.
2. Lamisil: Toe Fungus Monster
"Do you have discolored or flaky toenails?" asks an announcer. You'd better hope not, because merely watching this squirm-inducing ad is torture enough. An animated fungus with shifty eyes named "Digger the Dermatophyte" pries open the big toenail of a foot that could conceivably be yours. After the squeaky sound of your nail being ripped from its toe bed, Digger D crawls inside and wriggles around, gloating all the while that "clippers or those surface treatments you try on your own" will never bring relief from fungus ... or from this ad.
3. Method: Scrubbing-Bubble Perverts
Fortunately, this disturbing ad was pulled after massive complaints. The ad was from Method, in support of the Household Product Labeling Act that would help you know what kind of residue was left by those Shiny Suds you've been using that do a "shine-tastic job." The idea was that the animated scrubbing bubbles of this Brand X shower cleanser are so toxic, they keep hanging out in your tub even when you're trying to take a shower the next day. A gang of them harasses a naked woman, making catcalls, leering, and frightening her. Then they demand that she perform for them with a bath implement: "Loofah loofah loofah!" This ad is a matter for the CSI: Sex Crimes unit. If you find it funny, let me guess: you're not female.
4. Skittles: The Curse of Midas
Two teens think it's "awesome" that a careworn black man sitting despondently at the library turns everything he touches, including a stapler, into a clattering cascade of Skittles. "Is it awesome," asks the man solemnly, "when you can't hold your newborn baby boy in your arms?" Despite the commercial's attempt at offbeat humor, it comes off as ineffably sad. Candy is supposed to be fun, not made from the flesh and blood of an infant or full of metal shards from a stapler. Ad Age named this one of the best commercials of the decade. I have to disagree.
5. Quiznos: Filthy Toaster Oven
"Not that again!" declares Scott, a much put-upon Quiznos worker, when a giant flaming toaster oven puts the moves on him. "Put it in me, Scott. It's over a foot of flavor," says the toaster in an insinuating male voice. It was bad enough when Quiznos sent us those "spongemonkeys" that looked like dead rats with rigor mortis, but this sleazy ad for the Toasty Torpedo sandwich is enough to gag on.
6. SalesGenie.com: Stereotyped Pandas
In this animated throwback to a time when ridiculing other races was done a lot more casually, two pandas with excitable Chinese accents fret that their business, "Ling Ling's Bamboo Furniture Shack," will go under. That would leave them, as the cartoon sadly demonstrates, gnawing with exaggerated buck teeth on their own bamboo furniture. I doubt that this ad for "100 free sales leads" appealed to any Asians when it debuted during Super Bowl 2008. Or to anyone capable of feeling shame.
7. McDonald's: R&B Stands for "Race Baiting"
The Golden Arches haven't had an easy time pandering to (oops! I mean "catering to") the African-American market. There was that web banner ad in which a black guy announced, "I'd hit it," because McDonald's was too clueless to know that the phrase meant "I'd like to have sex with that double-cheeseburger." Now check out this insulting ad: a faux R&B music video in which a black woman who's been cheating on her man won't let him touch her "crispy, juicy McNuggets." Using soulful music to make fun of your customers is certainly a radical new marketing approach, but I doubt it will work.
8. Carl's Jr.: Paris Hilton Washes Up
Paris Hilton doesn't have enough meat on her bones for us to believe she actually swallows the one bite she takes of a Spicy BBQ Burger in this ridiculous soft-core ad. Wearing scanty leather mistress gear, the hotel heiress suds up a car and slithers all over it, slo mo. Then she crawls across the garage floor to take that one big mouthful of a fast-food sandwich. Because when you're washing your car, naturally you think of eating a soggy burger that's been sprayed with sudsy water, and eating it on the floor of a grease-stained garage. Right?
9. Extended Stay Hotels: Who Airs Out the Cushions?
"No place makes you feel more comfortable," says this stinker of an ad for Extended Stays Hotels. It shows a succession of satisfied customers farting away in the comfort of their hotel rooms. That's all very well for them, but who'd want to reserve the rooms once these old farts check out? Call me crazy, but I'd prefer to patronize a hotel known for its clean sheets.
10. Visa: That's Right, Be a Cog
The Visa Check Card welcomes you to an Orwellian America: a mindless, fascist state that runs like clockwork. The only person gumming up the works is the fellow who tries to pay with (gasp!) cash. When the guy hands over actual dollars, everything grinds to a halt and everyone gets mad at him. Visa has a lot of nerve making this duplicitous commercial. It doesn't even pretend that you should carry plastic as a personal convenience. Instead, it says that if you don't get in line with the other lemmings, you'll make it inconvenient for others. Never mind the ruinous ways in which easy credit has hurt our society and cost people their homes and livelihoods, or the brisk traffic in identify theft from credit-card fraud.