Convincing the Masses

If not cautious, highly financed advertising campaigns can quickly crumble like a fallen empire. Here are just a few examples of marketing gone wrong.

Drink Up

Sometimes, it’s hard to change something people love so much. In 1993, Pepsi launched Crystal Pepsi with a huge nationwide ad campaign, including buses wrapped entirely in ads and a Super Bowl commercial featuring the Van Halen song, Right Now. The company made millions in initial profits (perhaps sparked by customer’s sheer curiosity about the taste of a clear cola), but fell so fast that the company stopped making the beverage within months. The failure of the drink was even spoofed on Saturday Night Live. Today, Crystal Pepsi isn’t even mentioned on the Pepsi website.

Box Office Bombs

Despite all the advertising revenue poured into movies like Gigli, Waterworld, and I Know Who Killed Me, ultimately they will live in infamy for their poor box office performance. There was one movie, however, that bombed worse than the rest: 2002’s The Adventures of Pluto Nash. Not even Eddie Murphy could make the star-studded comedy bearable, leaving a final net loss of almost $93 million.

Caution: May Contain Ingredients

In 2004, Pizza Hut began enlisting the help of blonde-bombshell Jessica Simpson to star in their television commercials. Since then, she has starred in three of the company’s commercials advertising various promotional pizzas. The shock came in June of 2006 when Jessica admitted to Elle magazine that she was allergic to wheat, cheese and tomatoes!

Guerrilla Marketing

Marketing to young demographics can often be tricky. When the adult cartoon Aqua Teen Hunger Force was going to be made into a widescreen movie, Cartoon Network wasn’t sure how to market the movie, especially since there was no real premise to the show. They ultimately decided to enlist the help of Interference Inc., who wanted to try a nontraditional style of marketing. The result was small LCD panels featuring one of the show’s characters that were placed randomly in public areas around the city of Boston. The lack of a slogan or release date on the panels made many people (including the Boston Police) believe the devices were bomb threats. Cartoon Network immediately issued an apology and Interference Inc. coughed up the $2 million to reverse the damage it caused.


The city of Houston thought they made a great partnership when they sold the 30-year naming rights of their new baseball stadium to Enron for $100 million in April 1999. This quickly turned into a nightmare as the Enron scandal surfaced less than two years later. In a rush, the city bought back the contract for $2.1 million and renamed the park Astros Field in 2002. Unofficially, however, fans mockingly called the field “The Field Formerly Known As Enron” until it was renamed “Minute Maid Park” a few months later.

Failed Coinage Coup

The U.S. Federal Reserve can’t seem to give up on the idea of a $1 coin. Since the release of the $1 bank note in 1963, there have been four attempts to cycle a $1 coin into mainstream circulation: 1971’s Eisenhower dollar, 1979’s Susan B. Anthony dollar, 2000’s Sacajawea dollar, and recently the 2007 Presidential dollar coins have all failed to win over the public’s pocketbooks. Although coin currency has been successful in many other countries, the U.S. is the only country to keep the paper bill in circulation while attempting the new program—possibly the reason the coin hasn’t stuck. Of course, the Federal Reserve has continued to profit from selling the coins as collectors’ items, so it may not be such a failure after all!

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Reader Comments

Wednesday, August 27, 2008 at 2:28 PM
Jake C. says:
Thanks Anon,

The inspiration for it was Charles Cooper's blog about the failure of New Coke and my bitterness toward the US dollar coins. Unfortunately, I thinks that's the last article I'm going to write for the magazine, so that I can focus primarily on the design of the issue.

Jake C.
Art Director
America's Best
Wednesday, July 30, 2008 at 9:00 PM
anonymous says:
I loved this article

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