Small talk

The Absolute Worst Facebook Ads In 2020

If you have been on Facebook long enough, you are sure to have seen some bad ads on the platform. Some might make you cringe, others might make you scratch your head and there are a few that will just make you shake your head.

With so many businesses advertising on Facebook, there are bound to be some Facebook marketing fails. While you certainly would not want to dwell on the misfortune of others, these terrible Facebook ads can be worth your time. Many of them offer great examples of what not to do when you advertise on Facebook.

This post will cover some of the worst examples of Facebook advertising from the past year, 2020. We will take a look at what went wrong and provide pointers to help you avoid ending up on one of these lists. We’ll also walk through some general steps to making your ads more dynamic.

Making Your Customers Feel Bad


The ad above asks users if they are afraid of being ugly. The ad fails because – aside from the obvious spelling mistake – it will make many in the target audience feel bad and insecure. Positive emotion is a better way to inspire action. Not to mention there are some serious issues with the wording.

Using pain points can be a good way to get customers to click on your ad, but it s

houldn’t be something that hurts their feelings. You introduce a problem and provide a solution. The product seems a little sketchy to begin with, but they still could have taken a positive approach. Instead of the headline focusing on how ugly the user might be, you turn it around and make it about beauty.

Offending the Public


This one is a post and not an ad, but it offers a great example of what not to do with your Facebook marketing. PureGym shared a post to mark Black History Month with a “12 Years of Slave Workout”. You can already imagine how this would not go over well, but it gets worse when they compare the difficulty of the workout to slavery.

As bad as the post is, there are some good ideas behind something that was executed horribly. To start, they are trying to use a seasonal event in the marketing. That can often be a good idea. They also tried to link the ad to something in pop culture, which can also work well. 

The problem is the content. Even with the best of intentions, the ad comes across as insensitive and trying to use one of the horrors of history for marketing is almost certain to fail. The best way to avoid this type of mistake is to have a review process for every post. One person might not see the problem with a post that could be offensive to many, but a review process will probably catch the issue. Getting a second person to review the content probably would have prevented this post from going live.

Missed Language Targeting


This ad is in Japanese but it is being shown to people that do not speak the language. The advertiser probably picked a targeting option that included people from outside of Japan. Regardless of the language your ads are in, it is a waste to have them appear before users that do not speak the language.

To avoid this issue, you just need to refine your targeting. If you are targeting based on interests, pages or some other broad category that could cover people outside the language group you are covering, you need to make sure to apply language-based targeting.

A Little Too Random 

The online shopping platform Wish prides itself on having an insanely wide variety of products for very low prices. These ads show just how strange some of those products can be. The problem with these ads is that they are sending people ads featuring products that are just random and without consideration of whether the user might have any interest. Sure, some people will click because the products are so weird, but most of them won’t buy.

Being random, the ads waste money. You want to develop different audience segments and send them ads that feature products they might be interested in. The key to avoiding this mistake is to develop different target audiences and figure out what those audiences want from your business. It takes time and effort, but it is worth doing.

You can learn a lot from the best Facebook ads, but the lessons from bad ads are often more important. At best, bad ads are a waste of money and at worst, they can damage your reputation.

There are other Facebook ad mistakes that may not be as obviously offensive but can still have a negative effect on lead generation. For instance, 


Not Having a CTA

Every Facebook ad has a goal of conversions.

Whether that’s measured in engagement (i.e. likes), app downloads, or purchases, a successful advertisement includes a clear CTA and callout within its copy.

worst ads of 2019 - PPI Check Me

PPI Check Me missed the mark with their Facebook ad, which has no discernible CTA at all.

The only option in this example appears to be to follow the link that is listed in a light (indiscernible, in our opinion) grey below the ad copy.

When you launch your strategy, be sure your copy directs users to a clear call-to-action.

Include the CTA button directly within the ad, and use your text to include a callout of the product or service that will compel people to convert.

Failure to Hook the Customer

There are certain psychological principles that govern the success of a Facebook ad.

Color psychology is one such example.

You can use color to elicit certain emotions, grab visitor attention, and more.

color psychology in the worst ads of 2019

Check out this comparison.

On the left, 17hats shows what happens when design misses the mark.

Despite using compelling copy, the ad fails to compel users to even click through because of its monochromatic appearance and generic stock image.

The fact is, 85% of people will make a purchase decision based primarily on color.

You need to draw people in that are both aware of your brand and those that are not with bright and bold graphics.

Try using this ad color guide from Wishpond and A/B testing what works best for your brand’s Facebook ad strategy.

Always, though, include an eye-catching, colorful image that gets the attention of both new and current customers.

Not Adding Any Value

Before someone will take action on a Facebook ad, they need to feel that doing so will provide some kind of benefit to them.

The value can be tangible, like a promotion offering a coupon code of 25% off.

It can also come from solving a customer problem or pain point.

However you build value, make it explicit when launching your Facebook ad strategy.

worst ads of 2019 - Freshdesk

Freshdesk gets close to providing that value with their visual and copy that emphasizes the software’s convenience.

The questions you need to answer in your Facebook ad strategy are: Why should someone be interested in your offer and what even is your offer?

Connect the dots for your customers in the headline, sub-headline, and caption so they know the value.

Having Too Much Text

Good Facebook ad copy should be short and sweet.

And this applies to not only the headline and link description, but to the text on your ad image, too.

Facebook prefers ads that have little-to-no image text.

Once you start adding more, there is a risk your ad will get shown to fewer audiences.

And that’s exactly what happened with this next ad.

Unbounce example

Unbounce is the unfortunate ad example of choice here.

Their ad doesn’t necessarily seem like it belongs among the cringiest Facebook posts at first glance.

But, Facebook rated their image:text ratio as too high.

Why is that?

Well, their ad image is essentially all text on a monochromatic background.

The one image present – the book – also contains text.

So how can you avoid landing on a list of the worst internet ads for a mistake like this?

Facebook has a handy tool that checks the amount of text in your ad and rates it on a scale from low to high.

This can help you see if your ad will reach too few people, and adjust it if that’s the issue.

Visuals Gone Awry

Any successful Facebook ad strategy incorporates a graphic (i.e. video, static image, carousel) that grabs the user’s attention. Besides being eye-catching, the visual should also relate to the brand or promotion.

This probably isn’t news to you.

However, we’re emphasizing it because the image really is that important. One of the worst things you can do is create a Facebook ad that has a blurry, indecipherable, or messed up image. 

Half Moon Yoga example

The blurry image is difficult to read and fails to catch the viewer’s attention thanks to its transparent filter and lack of color.

Both of these qualities make the image itself entirely ineffective while taking attention away from the goal of the advertisement as a whole.

Don’t fall into the trap of a poorly-conceived ad image.

Instead, include a visual aid that supports the objective of your Facebook ad strategy.

Additionally, make sure it is a high-quality image devoid of too many additional details, like this rainy photo.


Small talk

5 Unbelievably Bad Marketing Mistakes Made By Companies In 2020

2020 presented challenges in marketing that a lot of us didn’t see coming. While crisis communication plans are a must, most don’t include precautions for a global pandemic.

While some brands rose to the challenge, others took a bad situation and made it worse. 

A marketing project that falls flat is one thing, but a few of these unbelievably bad marketing campaigns of 2020 might keep customers away through the new year. 

Here, we’ve gone through some of the roughest marketing campaigns of 2020.  This isn’t an exercise in ridicule, but rather a helpful way to learn from some of the brands that definitely moved to damage control mode after these flawed approaches. Don’t just read through these examples. Take note of elements that might exist in your marketing plans. Let these hard-learned lessons be your guide to a better strategy. 

The challenges of 2020 aren’t going away. We’re still all reeling from the COVID-19 outbreak and its impact will be felt for years to come. Your marketing plan is going to include considerations learned in 2020 for the foreseeable future, so it’s important to keep good and bad lessons in mind when shaping marketing plans for the future. 

Without further delay, let’s get into some of the roughest 2020 marketing campaigns that left consumers and peers in the industry scratching their heads.

1. McDonald’s Backtracks on its Golden Arches Campaign

Image Credit: McDonald’s via

Early in the pandemic, a phrase we didn’t yet have much familiarity with became one of 2020’s most popular two-words: social distancing.

If you recall back in March 2020, we didn’t yet know if masks helped. We weren’t sure if we should be spraying down our groceries with disinfectant. But we did know that staying apart helped curb the spread of the Coronavirus. 

McDonald’s and their hired Brazilian agency, DPZ&T, decided to shed light on social distancing by separating the two Golden Arches famously associated with their fast food restaurant. 

The decision to change the company’s logo was not made lightly. The impact of its message was intended to highlight what we could all be doing to make a positive impact on public health. 

Instead, the public detested the move as all show and no substance.


Many social media users expressed their negative reactions to the Golden Arches campaign with accusations that McDonald’s wasn’t interested in supporting its team members.

Many reflected on interactions at the fast-food restaurant where employees didn’t seem to be practicing sanitation habits or provide customers with a safe drive-thru experience. 

The lack of a public-facing plan towards handling COVID-19 for employees and customers was a lesson many marketing professionals learned early on in 2020. 

Brands like McDonald’s who attempted to show solidarity through marketing content rather than transparency learned quickly that talking the talk wasn’t going to cut it. 

Real success in marketing strategies during 2020 would come way of clear messaging, shared safety guidelines, and safety standards that keep employees and customers in mind. 

2. Corona Seltzer and the Poorly Timed Marketing Push

Image Credit: Corona

Hard seltzers are everywhere now. It’s no wonder so many beer companies, like Corona, decided to get in on the game made famous by Truly and White Claw. 

That said, launching a new line of products is tough. Especially during a global pandemic. And especially when your brand name happens to be similar to a new virus sweeping the globe.

When the COVID-19 pandemic put much of our lives on hold, travel was one of the first things to go. That meant a likely stop to vacations too. 

As the end of winter led to a new season, many wondered if Spring Break would be impacted. Spoiler alert: it wasn’t, and much to the detriment of popular destination communities. 

Nevertheless, Corona and their ad agency Constellation launched Corona Seltzer in 2020 with the tagline, Coming Ashore Soon. Yikes. 

Aside from the clear association with COVID-19’s arrival to North America via overseas travel, Corona’s marketing strategy highlighted Spring Break activities heavily. Some of which they still ran to promote the new product line. 

This is a great example of a brand deciding too much work was done to completely abandon a marketing campaign. As it turns out, losing time and resources spent to develop this campaign would have likely been less harmful than running it as it was. 

After the ads debuted, Constellation stock dropped 6% and sales for Corona Seltzer were well under expectations. For everyone involved, it was a failure. 

This goes to show how crucial it is to keep in mind the lasting impact of a marketing campaign. Yes, abandoning a well-funded and developed strategy is tough, but you have to ask yourself whether the alternative is worth it. 

3. Taco Bell Launches Nachos Party Pack at Possibly the Worst Time

Image Credit: Taco Bell

Back in 2019, Taco Bell chose select locations to test sales of a new Nachos Party Pack. For a low price, you can feed many mouths. Sounds great right?

The only problem is that the launch of their new item was set to come on December 26, 2020. Yes, this was after the holidays where we were all asked to stay home if possible and avoid get-togethers. 

The problem is that the holidays were only part of the problem in December 2020. Many areas were experiencing record hospitalizations from COVID-19 patients. LA County was even turning away patients arriving at area hospitals. 

All of this was happening and the launch, which was announced back in September, was still set to go. Ads for the Nachos Party Pack even showed groups of people together inside eating. 

TV Ad:

At a time where buffets and indoor dining was limited to help curb the spread of COVID-19, an ad depicting get-togethers of friends sharing a meal from the same box of nachos was probably not the best move. 

Simple changes like depicting families enjoying the box would have fit better, but Taco Bell stayed with their original plan. 

Sometimes a full refresh of a marketing campaign seems taxing, tiring, and maybe even wasteful when it comes to time and money

Still, it’s almost always worth it. Taco Bell immediately got criticized for not seeming aware of the current social climate surrounding get-togethers.

It wasn’t like they didn’t know this was the spirit of their ads. It’s front and center in the name of the product. A Nacho Party Pack immediately brings to mind parties. 

They even named things like holiday parties and sports watching parties as reasons to take advantage of their new deal.

The trick with a launch like this in 2020 is that it seems to encourage doing what health officials are asking everyone not to do. Everyone has free will, but plenty of people saw the ads and wondered why sharing food with others at a time where COVID-19 seemed to be getting worse was a good move. 

The answer: it wasn’t a good move. 

Confusing ads that take attention away from a product and put the consumer’s mind on things like pandemics, danger, and fear are never going to reach the goals you hope. 

4. Burger King Ruins our Appetite

Image: Burger King

In 2020, many felt safer eating at home when they decided to let someone else do the cooking. Some states didn’t even allow indoor dining.

The takeout movement of 2020 led to many relying on delivery and drive-thrus in a big way. Fast food became an even more competitive market than usual.

These industries are a great example of how to properly pivot during unexpected events in the world. 

There’s no doubt that brands like GrubHub and DoorDash grew in a big way during 2020. They couldn’t help that a global pandemic was happening. 

They could, however, take the dismal state of the world and try to work tangible solutions into their efforts. Solutions like offering no delivery charge for local restaurants on the platform. 

There’s no doubt that chain restaurants recognied the power of takeout and drive-thru services as well. Those two things are integral to the fast-food industry. This led to a very competitive year for all businesses in the sector.

As companies tried to jockey their way into a stronger position, Burger King decided to focus on their natural ingredients. Good idea, right?

Well, it is if you don’t rely on mold to prove that your burgers are fresh.


Burger King moved to offer plant-based options and a more diverse menu over the past few years. It’s working out well for them.

The concept of a burger with no artificial preservatives is definitely worth highlighting. The only problem is that they did so by showing their food get moldy.

While, yes, this does prove you don’t use preservatives, it also really doesn’t make me thing, “I want a Whopper.”

Intentions are only part of planning a successful marketing campaign. The execution comes from ensuring you’ve considered how consumers will react.

I don’t know how they didn’t catch on that this doesn’t give us much of a hankering for Burger King.

If anything, I don’t have much of an appetite at all now.

5. Airbnb Loses Sight of Housing Crisis While Trying to Support Its Hosts

Image Credit: Airbnb Community Blog

The most difficult aspect of 2020 was keeping things in perspective. There’s no doubt that Airbnb hoped to inspire positivity for its hosts with its Kindness Card campaign.

The effort called on Airbnb customers to send a “thank you” card to hosts on the platform. Included was an area where you could add a donation to their business.

While it’s true that the travel industry took a huge hit during COVID-19, this effort to help those who rent their home to others was a bit shortsighted. 

Many pointed out that amidst eviction moratorium and record unemployment that calling for donations to rental owners might not look very “aware.”

As expected, the effort didn’t earn Airbnb a lot of kudos. At a time where they should have been pivoting their efforts in positive ways, this didn’t bode well for an already disappointing 2020. 

Again, intentions aren’t everything. Executing a proper marketing campaign comes down to everything from what people will think to how you introduce the campaign to the public. 

Don’t let these bad marketing campaigns of 2020 scare you. Instead, let’s go over a few lessons we can take away from these worst case scenarios. 

After all, the troubles of 2020 didn’t magically go away when the clock struck midnight on New Year’s Eve. 

There’s still a lot of work to be done to make 2021 the first year of real recovery following last year’s endless stream of bad news. 

How to Avoid Disasters Like These Unbelievably Bad Marketing Campaigns

 In hindsight, these bad marketing campaigns seem like no-brainers. A lot of them leave us wondering how they ever made it as far as the implementation phase. Even in years without a global pandemic, these marketing mistakes still happen. 

During strategy meetings, a few things can happen that lead to marketing disasters like these. Most notably, a lack of diversity in opinions and insights can let groupthink lead the way straight to a bad campaign. 

The integrity of a brand, its products, and even its clients can deteriorate when a bad marketing strategy does damage in the way these campaigns did. Sometimes, the solution to avoiding these problems is as simple as hiring a trusted and established marketing agency.

A mistake is only a mistake if you don’t learn something from it. Then, it becomes a lesson. We can learn a lot of lessons from 2020’s most miserable marketing campaigns. 

By learning from the mistakes of 2020 that others companies made, you can start to shape your future plans. With the help of marketing experts with experience in assisting brands reach their full potential, 2021 could be more than a rebound year.

It could be your year to end up on a best marketing campaigns list. Better than the alternative, right? 

Common sense, creative thinking, and not copying the mistakes of the examples above. That’s a great start to what could be a great year for your business. 

How To Guides

5 Best Tactics To Promote Your Online Store

Starting a retail business is easier than it ever has been. Thanks to ecommerce, you don’t need a brick-and-mortar store and all of the accompanying costs. As long as you have products to sell, you need little more than a laptop and an internet connection to start an online store.

While getting started might be the easy part of online retail, raising brand awareness and attracting customers can be difficult. You don’t have the benefit of finding a prime physical location and relying on foot traffic. You have to learn how to promote an online store if you want to have success with an ecommerce business.

Any online seller can learn to promote their store using digital marketing tactics, and you do not even need to break the bank to do it. You just need a little time and a willingness to learn. If you’re interested in starting your own business, there are a few important things you need to consider. Money Brighter has lots of advice on starting, disclosing, and closing LLCs.

Optimize Your Site for Search Engines

Search engine optimization (SEO) is one of the fundamentals of online store marketing. Without a physical location, you won’t get foot traffic, so you need to generate internet traffic. With SEO, you enhance the content on your site with the goal of increasing visibility in and traffic from search engines. 

One of the most basic steps in optimizing for search engines is to target the keywords and phrases people use when they search for products like yours. Using these words and phrases in the content on your site can help to make sure your pages come up in relevant searches and boost the search ranking of pages. Beyond keywords, you can expand your SEO strategy with factors like title tags, meta tags, meta descriptions, internal linking, external linking, backlink strategies, image optimization and more.

Build a Social Media Presence 

Social media should be a part of the marketing strategy for any online business. Social media sites offer a simple way for an online store to communicate with customers and provide information about your brand. 

The first step is to open accounts with the platforms your customers use. After that, you need to develop a content strategy and post regularly. It is also important to remember that social media is not all about the hard sell. Create content that is engaging while showing the personality of your brand. You could also encourage user-generated content to get your customers involved with promoting your online store.

Create Content That Offers Value

Content marketing is another key to having success in the online marketplace. Once again, this isn’t about creating content that is going to push the sale directly. Instead, you want to create content that will offer value and attract customers to your brand.

One good option is to create content that teaches customers how to use the type of product you sell. You could also consider buying guides that will help customers find the right product for their needs. This type of content can generate traffic by helping customers solve a problem and it can be a way to establish your site as an authority in the industry.

Work on Email Marketing

Email is hard to beat if you are looking for marketing tactics that deliver value. It is a low-cost way to communicate with customers and it can offer significant returns when it is done right.

Start by building your email list. One of the best strategies for email marketing is to offer a small discount for signing up. Something as little as 10% off can go a long way toward helping you collect email addresses. You could also consider offering referral bonuses to encourage sharing your brand with friends.

Once you have a list, you will need to develop a content calendar to ensure a steady flow of emails. Send your subscribers emails about sales and promotions you have coming up. If you have new products coming in, make sure to send an email to raise awareness.

Paid Online Marketing

While there is a lot you can do to promote your online store with little to no cost, you can take your digital marketing to the next level by paying for ads. Beyond expanding your reach, online ads can be a great way to target the customers that will offer the most value to your online store.

If you are already on social media, you can find significant value in advertising on platforms like Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and Pinterest. Beyond social media, you could also consider Google Ads. Search engine ads can be good for moving your advertising to the top of the search results and it can be a smart way to supplement your SEO efforts.

While it is possible for any business owner to promote an ecommerce store, you need to recognize that it is not something that is going to take off overnight. You need to have patience and be willing to stick with it as you build on your efforts over time. You may even want to consider hiring professionals to deploy a more comprehensive strategy so you can focus on running your online store.