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Year's Worst Ads Get What's Coming to Them: A Tracy Award

Dec 30, 2010 – 1:50 PM
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David Moye

David Moye Contributor

Eli Manning has the same number of Super Bowl rings as his brother, Peyton, but he has something his big brother doesn't: an extra Tracy Award.

But don't expect brother Peyton to be jealous in the slightest: The award is only given to the worst ads in a given year.

This year, an Oreo TV ad for the cookie's Heads or Tails brand that featured Eli Manning, along with Shaquille O'Neal, Serena Williams and Apolo Anton Ohno, was one of 11 ads that made the final cut for this dubious honor.

According to Salt Lake City ad man Tracy Crowell, who bravely named the awards after himself, even though he doesn't vote on the final winners, the Oreo ad deserves the Tracy for "Best Simultaneous Destruction of the Last Shreds of Dignity Shaq, Apollo Ohno, Serena Williams, and Eli Manning Had Left."

The awards are in their second year of existence and, perhaps not coincidentally, an Oreo ad featuring Eli and Peyton was one of last year's winners.

"Peyton was smart enough to get out of it this year," Crowell said. "This ad is really dumb, but it was carried over from last year, so maybe it sells. That is the bottom line."

Crowell says 2010 delivered a bumper crop of bad ads, "each bad in their own unique way."

He suspects that many of the agencies may have felt compelled to live up to the mantle of Don Draper, a hard-drinking super-creative ad man on the AMC TV show "Mad Men," an acclaimed drama that takes place in the 1960s.

Tracy Award trophy
Crowell Advertising
This cheap plastic trophy -- resale value, 37 cents -- is given to the 11 ad agencies responsible for the year's worst ads.
"All of these ads are trying too hard to be clever and creative, so they come across as stupid," Crowell said.

The Don Draper influence may have been taken literally in another ad that Crowell thought stunk. Ironically, it was a print ad for Summer's Eve brand of feminine hygiene products that suggested that women who used it would have more confidence in a job interview.

"It slams women and people in general," Crowell said. "I thought the feminazis would be all over this."

As far as anyone can tell, they weren't, but Crowell is awarding Summer's Eve the "Best Casual Sexism Since 1963."

Another ad that was fresh meat for the Tracy Award judges was an ad called "Consequences" that was made for the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine that attempted to promote the importance of a vegetarian diet.

The ad showed a dead man with a hamburger in his hand and his feet slowly turning into the golden arches of McDonald's.

"It's preachy and stupid," Crowell said. "I do anti-tobacco marketing, and you can't be preachy fanatics. The people who commissioned this aren't so much shooting themselves in the foot as they are taking an atom-bomb suppository."

Still, Crowell believes the main consequence of this ad isn't to swear people off eating meat, but to demonstrate how a bad ad gets made in the first place.

"Most bad ads happen because the client forced it to be that way," he said. "That's the problem with creating an ad by committee."

Crowell says all of the ads that won Tracys are examples of throwing good money after bad ads and suggests to companies that insist on making bad ads to do it on the cheap.

"If you're going to make a cheesy ad, keep it simple and make sure everyone is in on the joke," he said.

Speaking of which, Crowell plans to send official Tracy Awards (basically a very cheap plastic trophy that costs about 37 cents) to the chief marketing officers of the various brands.

They might actually be appreciated.

"I sent these trophies out last year and not one was returned," he said with a laugh.

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