So another week has hurtled by, and it’s Friday. Well it is in Australia anyway. Time for a laugh or three.
Some of the funniest Advertising F*** Ups aren’t visual. They are in the mis-translations from one language into another. No, not the mangled English on menus – though Lord knows they’re great – but what happens when a professional marketer just, er, gets it wildly wrong. Here’s a selection of the best of the best
1. Coors put its slogan, “Turn it loose,” into Spanish. Where sadly it was read as “Suffer from diarrhoea.” We all know to our costs that enough beer can do that, but really?
2. Scandinavian vacuum manufacturer Electrolux used the following in an American campaign: “Nothing sucks like an Electrolux.” What might have worked well and wittily in Europe definitely produced a wry raised eyebrow or two in America.
3. Clairol introduced the “Mist Stick”, a curling iron, into Germany only to find out that “mist” is slang for manure. Not too many people had use for the “shit stick.”
4. When Gerber started selling baby food in Africa, they used the same packaging as in the US, with the beautiful Caucasian baby on the label. Later they learned that in Africa companies routinely put pictures on the label of what’s inside, since many people can’t read. Oops.
5. Colgate introduced a toothpaste in France called Cue … which was also, confusingly, the well-known name of a notorious porno magazine.
6. An American T-shirt maker in Miami printed shirts for the Spanish market which promoted the Pope`s visit. Instead of “I saw the Pope” (el papa), the shirts read “I saw the potato” (la papa). Unless they really meant potato, in which case, wtf?
7. Pepsi’s “Come alive with the Pepsi Generation” translated awkwardly into “Pepsi brings your ancestors back from the grave”, in Chinese. Given the cultural horror surrounding ghosts in Chinese culture, Coca Cola couldn’t have been more delighted.
8. Frank Perdue`s chicken slogan, “it takes a strong man to make a tender chicken” was translated into Spanish as “it takes an aroused man to make a chicken affectionate.” And … we’re going to leave that one right there, thank you very much.
9. When Parker Pen marketed a ball-point pen in Mexico, its ads were supposed to have read, “it won’t leak in your pocket and embarrass you.” Instead, the company thought that the word “embarazar” (to impregnate) meant to embarrass, so the ad basically read: “It won’t leak in your pocket and make you pregnant.” Phew.
10. And, in Mexico, after a year of awful sales Chevrolet discovered back in the 1970s that “Nova” – the name of a popular car in the USA – in Spanish simply means “does not go.”
11. In an attempt to extend the success of its “Got Milk?” campaign from the U.S. to Mexico, the American Dairy Association’s Spanish translation for its famous “Got Milk?” slogan was “Are You Lactating?”
12. In a promotional campaign for UK-owned “Schweppes Tonic Water” in Italy, a mistranslated advertising copy encouraged thousands of Italians to mix their gin with “Schweppes Toilet Water.” Thirsty anyone?
13. In 1987 when American fast food giant Kentucky Fried Chicken (KFC) opened their first restaurant in China, they accidentally translated KFC’s famous slogan literally and so “Finger-lickin’ good” when translated to Chinese read: “Eat Your Fingers Off!”. Nice mental image.
14. In Germany, when Starbucks launched its ‘latte’ and encouraged coffee lovers to ‘Enjoy your morning Latte’ many locals found it amusing because while latte means ‘milk’ in Italian, in German it is a slang term for an erection. Who knew? Well, someone should have.
15. Oh those crazy, wacky Swedes. Naming a work bench meant for children “FartFull” wasn’t the greatest idea in the world. In Swedish, “Fartfull” simply means “speedy” but in English …
But surely the best ever example was Japanese manufacturer Mitsubishi naming a car the Pajero in spanish-speaking markets in South America.
In most parts of Central America and the Spanish Caribbean (and Chile as well) to masturbate is to pajearse. Pajero, or pajillero (“one who does paja“) in Spain, is therefore a masturbator (wanker) and also can imply a weakling or a fool, due to a cultural association of masturbation with mental weakness.
Worse: in certain regions, such as Argentina, Chile and Uruguay, pajero (fem. pajera) can also refer to someone who is lazy (similar to the American English sense of a “jerk-off”). And in Guatemala and Honduras it means “liar”. In Costa Rica, Colombia, Venezuela, Honduras, and El Salvador, hablar pajacan “to talk nonsense”.
Helplessly, Mitsubishi explained that Pajero was derived from a South American wildcat, but the car became a running joke. In the Americas and in Spain, the vehicle was rapidly rebadged as the Montero, but the mistake has passed into cultural history.
One can’t imagine why: “Buy this car, and announce to the world that you’re a lazy, weak, good for nothing, habitually lying wanker who talks nonsense” was at least original.
But it wouldn’t be Wellthisiswhatithink if we didn’t offer you a clutch of FAIL visuals as well. So here you go. Bonus time. Have a great Friday, everyone. And don’t write any silly ads.
But the winner of this round is …