5 Controversial Ad Campaigns

It's not just Peloton. These are five ads that went viral for all the wrong reasons.

The most controversial ads of recent times and why they failed

Have you ever seen an advert that has left you scratching your head? Well, you’re not the only one. With so much competition for attention nowadays, controversial ads are becoming more common. Brands have to be bold to be heard – and sometimes they teeter the line with outrageous work. Some agencies have even gone so far to create work they know will get banned to gain maximum publicity with minimum marketing spend. Others have absolutely no idea the impact their work will have when it plays in the wider world. While fortune can favor the risk takers, the ad industry is littered with examples of bold ads that have backfired. Theses ad sparked widespread derision.


The exercise equipment/media company faced major backlash for its ad, The Gift That Gives Back — a 30-second spot which has been widely mocked online as being sexist, out of touch, and dystopian.


In 2017, Pepsi's Live For Now Moments Anthems spot featuring Kendall Jenner was pulled in less than 24 hours of its premiere – amid accusations the soft drink giant appropriated protest movements.


In this 2017 Facebook ad for Dove body wash, a black woman removes her shirt to reveal a white woman. The brand was accused of racism and whitewashing over the online ad campaign. Dove later admitted it had “missed the mark.”

Dolce & Gabbana

In 2018, Dolce & Gabbana faced backlash over 3 videos featuring an Asian model struggling to eat Italian food with chopsticks. Amid calls to boycott, the luxury company was forced to cancel its fashion show in Shanghai and their products were removed by several retailers.

Carl's Jr.

In 2015, the fast food chain's ad featuring model and actress Charlotte McKinney going au naturel had audiences calling it sexist – and brought the hashtag #WomenAreMoreThanMeat.