Smartphone marketing wasn’t all that good in the early to mid 2010s. Many companies didn’t know how to appeal to their customers and resorted to bad gimmicks and even worse storylines in their ads, eliciting reactions from the uncomfortable smile to the full-on cringe. In this article, we’ll look at ten of the cringiest smartphone ads we’ve seen, or at least the ones that have been preserved online — some have unfortunately been indefinitely lost.
Oppo N1 stalker TVC guy
The first perfect example of a creepy ad that is certainly in bad taste is this Oppo N1 stalker commercial. No matter how cute and inoffensive the camera guy seems, he’s still taking pics of the actress from afar without her knowledge, flipping the camera back and forth to even take pics inside the van, and then he somehow has the nerve to show her the photos he took without her knowledge and she likes them? Errr, yikes.
Smartphone ads have tried everything to make the phone as exciting as possible, but I don’t recall any of them pushing the envelop as much as Oppo and its humanized Color OS ads. Add the tasteless innuendos about software protecting a woman from harassment and accompanying a man to bedtime, the bad acting, the even worse voice dubbing, and you have two ads that were instantly deleted but shouldn’t have been uploaded in the first place.
LG Dual Screen upskirt trick
Not to let Oppo outdo it on the stalker/creeper front, LG Poland’s TikTok shared then quickly deleted this obnoxious video of an old guy taking upskirt photos of a young woman, and deceiving her by pretending he was just taking selfies using the Dual Screen module on his phone. Having been on the receiving end of unwanted and uncomfortable 50+ year-old male attention, I can assure you, this is no fun joke.
LG G Flex mutant hand phone
Back in 2014, LG was trying to convince everyone that the way it curved its G Flex’ display was so much more natural than the Samsung Galaxy Round. The way it went about it, though, couldn’t have been worse. There’s the hand-mouth-ear chimera, the bad beard, the feeding of the mouth, the healing of the skin, and… let’s say the bonus scene after the credits is even worse..
HTC’s Hold The Crown rap
HTC has had its share of bad commercials, and one of those that we don’t remember fondly is the “Hold the Crown” rap anthem. You’d think the gold HTC pimp chain and sad lyrics making fun of other companies would be enough, but there had to also be a bad robotic voice, two Peter Chou references, and a ridiculous gym battle between two guys dressed as an iPhone (5S?) and HTC One M8.
HTC’s Humongous Tinfoil Catamaran
Bringing Robert Downey Jr. as a celebrity endorsement didn’t seem like a bad idea until HTC decided to mix it with a “Here’s To Change” slogan that involved a humongous tinfoil catamaran, a hot tea catapult, and a Hawaiian tickle ceremony.
Xiaomi Mi 9 SE cheating boyfriend
In the same vein as LG’s bad-taste TikTok ad is this low-budget Xiaomi Mi 9 SE Twitter ad, featuring a guy trying to cheat on his girlfriend while she’s lying next to him, then getting caught because… he moved to adjust his phone in hand?! Xiaomi took it down soon after it was published, but not before it was immortalized by the internet.
Lenovo P90 and a grizzly bear
Bear with me while I try to make some sense out of this Lenovo P90 commercial. While I do appreciate the overbearing puns, I fail to understand why we needed to see two parts of an anthropomorphized bear’s story as it goes from zero to hero, complete with scooking, work meeting, and stationary bike examples. I guess this is still better than treating a phone software as if it were human — cough, Color OS, cough.
HTC’s Cellami drug commercial
And last but not least, we have HTC’s One M9 drug-like ad, which describes the symptoms of the “biphonal displeasure disorder” spoofing a real mental disorder in bad taste.
Although bad commercials are nowadays the exception more than the rule, and smartphone makers appear to be more aware of the acceptable ways to market their product, it’s fun to look back and see how terrible phone ads were in the early to mid-2010s, and how many silly gimmicks had to be employed to grab buyers’ attention.