Every company needs a mascot. But some don’t always make the best “branding” decision. Whether you’re talking about an insurance company, a carmaker, a breakfast cereal, or a credit card, there are loads of annoying icons out there to champion the cause of an entire brand.
Here are the 16 Most Annoying Ad Mascots on TV Today, as we see it. Do you agree or disagree? Make sure to sound off in the comments section below.
1. Flo from Progressive Insurance
No one likes buying insurance, so if you’re going to run a nationally televised campaign for the stuff, you’d better do better than Flo. Played by actress Stephanie Courtney and dreamed up by the guys at Boston marketing agency Arnold Worldwide, Flo not only suffers from an unfortunate association to a specific time of the month for women, she also has an over-the-top fake smile and commercials that are stuffed with bad jokes.
2. Dancing Hamsters from Kia
Hamsters are bad enough pets. We don’t need them selling us cars, especially the kind that throw in a cutesy dance attempt while doing so. The Hip-Hop Hamsters look and act like fur-ball versions of the Village People, for the 21st Century of course, and you’ve got the David & Goliath agency to thank for it. But what do we really know? Currently, Adweek.com is running a poll that shows the hamsters with a 64% favorable rating. Crazy!
3. Peggy from Discover Card
Tudor Petrut, the Romanian born actor who brought Discover Card’s Peggy to life, will probably never be able to live this one down. While continuing to chase superstardom at the fringe of the acting and screenwriting business, he works as a high school algebra teacher, while having his biggest job-the inept off-shore customer service representative for a faux competitor of Discover Card-also remain his biggest curse.
4. Erin Esurance from eSurance
Note to eSurance: you can come up with however many spy/superheroes that you want, but you’re still not going to excite us about a product that only pays when we are dead, sick, or injured. Special Agent Erin Esurance was a pink-haired animated woman posing as an agent for auto insurance. The attempt to sexy up the profession was a little insulting to consumers, as it tried to divert us from the main reason we even consider purchasing insurance to begin with.
5. The Duck from Aflac
Aside from first being voiced by Gilbert Gottfried, a man who’s made “annoying” his career, the Aflac Duck is the biggest one-trick pony in the history of TV marketing. The company changed course in 2011 to voice-over artist Daniel McKeague, but the gist of the joke is the same it’s been since 1999 when the Duck first appeared. There are only so many laughs you can get out of a misunderstood duck shouting the name of the insurance company over and over again. It may finally be time for the company to go the way of the Priceline negotiator and kill this little fella off…for good!
6. Mr. Mucus from Mucinex
Yes, depicting snot as a cartoon will make it more palatable…uh no, it won’t! These green globs of gruff talking phlegm have been getting ousted by Mucinex for a while now, along with the lunches of anyone unfortunate enough to see their commercials. Still, he can move medicine. Since his inception, the little green guy has had a pretty “healthy” impact on the corporate bottom line. Since launching the branding initiative in 2005, Mucinex has enjoyed a 61% increase in sales.
7. The Band from FreeCreditReport.com
Remember back when the FreeCreditReport.com guys were actually funny? If so, then you’re thinking about the commercials they did pre-2009. Since that time, as a result of the government getting tough with Experian (the site’s owners), about “deceptive marketing practices” that were used in the ads, the company had to change their ads. As a result, the company has replaced the original band of slackers and the quality has gone down the tubes noticeably! This is why you may have to search high-and-low for the new commercials on YouTube. Tip: Don’t bother, not worth it.
8. Fruit Guys from Fruit of the Loom
The Fruit Guys have shown up in a number of Fruit of the Loom commercials over the years, usually singing some song about underwear. The most obnoxious was the collaboration with Vince Gill, who’s pretty annoying in his own right. Mix these two together, and you’ve got an ad that makes us never want to wear underwear again. However, it does not end there. As recently as late 2011, the Fruit Guys were still churning out skid-mark worthy harmonies (pardon the pun).
9. Mr. Opportunity from Honda Clearance
Take an already potentially annoying art form known as opera and mix it with a bland, boring cartoon of some white guy with lame dance moves, and what do you get? One of several annoying ads in the Mr. Opportunity Honda Clearance ad campaign, that’s what! If this guy were any more drab and boring than he is, he could run for President. It’s a crying shame that Honda, with its large advertising budget, felt this was the BEST they could do.
10. Orbit Chewing Gum
“Fah-bulous!” The Orbit Chewing Gum girl has been played by Vanessa Branch and now Farris Patton since the company’s “Dirty Mouth” campaign started more than a decade ago. Looks like we’re in the minority thinking this is one of the most annoying ad campaigns in TV history. A lot of people like the toilet humor. Then again, a lot of people seemed to like the Austin Powers movies. Doesn’t mean the series should go on.
11. Foghorn Leghorn from Geico
Foghorn Leghorn would have to be the least-liked Looney Tunes character in the bunch. An obnoxious Southern hick rooster, who can’t just shut up and get on with the sentence, he has been tapped over the years by Kentucky Fried Chicken and Geico as a spokesperson. While his antics may be serviceable in a Merrie Melodies cartoon, he’s downright, I say “downright,” aggravating in the world of advertising.
12. Poppin’ Fresh from Pillsbury
More commonly known as the Pillsbury Doughboy, this little guy has a high-pitched squeak of a voice and makes a really obnoxious laugh whenever you poke him in the belly. While the laugh is fine for one commercial, compound that over the course of close to 50 years and more than 600 commercials, and you can see why those of us 30 or older can’t stand him.
13. Gecko from Geico
Created by The Martin Agency and first appearing in 1999, the Gecko of today isn’t what he used to be. He was originally voiced by Kelsey Grammer of the TV show “Frasier,” and his annoyance at being confused for Geico because he was a gecko was somewhat clever. Now he suffers from over-saturation and a horrid Cockney accent. (And no more Grammer.) Constant advertising on Hulu Plus has also gone a long way in destroying this little guy’s likability.
14. Mr. Six from Six Flags
Six Flags could not have foreseen the creepiness factor of Mr. Six when they originally commissioned the tux-wearing elderly gentleman with the huge glasses and the slick dance-party moves from Michigan ad agency Doner Advertising. Or maybe they could have and just didn’t care. Despite trying to retire the gent in 2005, the Internet, particularly YouTube, has kept the geezer alive through a multitude of parodies. Eventually, Six Flags re-embraced him and even gave him a sidekick (Little Six).
15. Yella Fella from Yellawood.com
Give the folks at Great Southern Wood one thing: they sure do know how to design an ad campaign around nostalgia. Their “Yella Fella” mascot, who wears yellow cowboy attire and rides around the range beating the crap out of people, who don’t use his product hearkens back to the God-awful Saturday matinee westerns of Roy Rogers and Randolph Scott. Unfortunately, they’re also marred in bad puns and a potbellied hero, who is anything but convincing.
16. Dusty the Dusthole
The Nevada Department of Air Quality Management’s “Dusty the Dusthole” campaign, brought to life by Las Vegas native Alan Burd, turns off-road enthusiasts into one of the most vilified groups in the state. Pretty sad stuff when the state has much bigger problems to worry about, such as one of the highest unemployment rates in the country. Instead of using the advertising monies on something constructive, Nevada feels the need to produce stereotypically offensive messages about a relatively harmless group of hobbyists. Good job there, guys.