The 7 Worst Tech Ads of All Time

Tech companies are good at many things — like making tech products — but marketing those products is often a different story. While there have been some truly iconic ads over the years, there have also been some major fails. Get your popcorn ready.

A Lifelike Painting Shows You How to Use the Palm Pre (2009)

It’s 2009. The iPhone and Android are starting to take over the smartphone world. Excitement is building for a new option, the Palm Pre. Then the commercials start airing on TV, and, well, they’re lackluster, to say the least.

The ads feature actress Tamara Hope talking to the camera in an almost whisper. She’s in front of a backdrop that looks like it should be the wallpaper on a Windows computer. In the multiple ads, she talks about reincarnation, deja vu, and syncing contacts. The vibes are real weird.

Robert Downey Jr. Explains What “HTC” Stands For (2013)

Nowadays, HTC is but a distant memory in the tech space, but back in 2013, the company was still doing pretty well. With devices on every carrier, it had become somewhat of a household name, but what did “HTC” stand for? Whether or not anyone was asking that question, HTC decided to drop $1B to let Robert Downey Jr. answer it.

In a series of ads, RDJ appears in strange scenarios that depict different definitions of “HTC.” The most notable may be “Hipster Troll Carwash,” but others included “Hold This Car,” “Humongous Tinfoil Catamaran,” and “Hot Tea Catapult.” Clever, but maybe not the best way to sell phones.

A Little Kid Asks “What’s a Computer?” (2018)

Apple is known for being very good at marketing its products, but no one is perfect. In 2018, a kid in a purple puffer jacket asked the simple question: “What’s a computer?” The internet didn’t like that.

In the ad, the kid goes about their day doing various tasks with an iPad Pro, an Apple Pencil, and a keyboard case. The ad ends with the child’s neighbor asking, “whatcha doin’ on your computer?” to which they reply, “what’s a computer?” People did not like the implication that the iPad could replace a full computer or that the iPad itself isn’t a type of computer. Apple eventually removed the ad from its official YouTube channel.

Creepy Guy Stalks a Girl With the Samsung Galaxy Gear (2013)

In 2013, smartwatches were a budding new category, and Samsung was trying to show people why they needed one in their life. The company decided to go with the archaic angle of “use our product to get the girl,” but it came off as very creepy.

In the ad, a guy with a Galaxy Gear smartwatch demands a girl give him her number and takes photos of her skiing without her knowledge. As the ad progresses, he shows off what his watch can do and wins the girl over a watch-less loser. It ends with him winking at the camera as he embraces the girl. Eww.

A Terrible Song Tries to Sell Song-Building Software (2013)

Using a song that was created with the song-building software you’re trying to sell sounds like a good idea, in theory. However, it only really works if the song is good. This is where Microsoft utterly failed in its 2013 ad for Microsoft Songsmith.

The ad starts with a dad complaining about how he needs to create a campaign to sell glow-in-the-dark towels for his job. His daughter, sitting at the kitchen table on her laptop, begins singing, and the two continue to go back and forth in an extremely awkward and not particularly good song about Songsmith. It’s a tough listen.

Sprint Puts the Camera on its CEO (2008)

It’s never a good sign for a company when it decides to put its CEO in commercials. That’s exactly what Sprint did in the late 2000s. The ads featured CEO Dan Hesse casually talking to the camera in various environments — in black and white, for some reason.

While the ads are not poorly made, they really miss the mark. The last person people want to hear talk about the price of phone plans is the millionaire/billionaire CEO. Portraying him in black and white in “every man” situations feels very inauthentic. Sprint was struggling, and these ads certainly didn’t help its situation.

Asus Mispronounces its Own Name For Laughs (2010)

The name “Asus” is not easy to pronounce, and the company is apparently aware of this fact. Asus decided to lean into this with an ad that featured a pair of women who love Asus computers but think the company name rhymes with “passes.”

The women approach two men and ask if they’re into “Asus” (pronounced like “passes”). The eager men confirm they do indeed like that part of the body, followed by the women pulling out a couple of Asus laptops. It’s never a good sign when you’re watching an ad, and you wonder, “How did this get made?”

There you have it. Not every tech ad can be Macintosh 1984 or “Dude, You’re Getting a Dell!” Sometimes, it’s possible to go too far outside the box, and a memorable ad isn’t always a good ad.


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