Look, we get it – print ads are often meant to make the viewer double-take. Which is all well and good, as long as it's for the right reasons. But it's a fine line between simply shocking and shockingly bad – a line that this bafflingly misjudged effort from Channel 4 is very much on the wrong side of.
The bus ads, conceived to advertise bodily reality TV show Naked Attraction (we'll leave you to Google the show's premise at your leisure), turns unsuspecting passengers into the punchline – and, unsurprisingly, people aren't happy about it. Check out the best print ads of all time if you want to see how it's really done.
The ad (above) features text with arrows point at seats on the upper deck of the bus, declaring that the passenger either "Loves Naked Attraction," "Hates Naked Attraction," or, indeed, "Loves being naked". We'd have assumed that Channel 4 didn't need us to tell it that attributing such labels (particularly the latter) to people unconsensually probably isn't in brilliant taste. But somehow, these ads got cleared for use – and slapped onto the sides of tons of busses.
What the hell is this creepy bus ad? You can’t just label non-consenting passengers like that. Does @Channel4 not know how many sexual assaults take place on buses? pic.twitter.com/SQQoYUmFqvAugust 30, 2021
The tasteless ads went viral when writer Tracy King shared them on Twitter (above). "I’d like to know what sort of person thinks bus users are disposable fodder for advertising purposes, anonymous silhouettes with no agency or value beyond ‘lol we stuck a sign on their back implying they’re horny’", King said.
This insane ad is literally inviting even more harassment on London's night buses and making them less safe for women. Please explain yourselves @global @channel4, @tfl https://t.co/Y4p7wkOWIvAugust 31, 2021
If you’ve ever been on a bus you’ll know that the top level, especially the front, is where children like to sit. Seriously @Channel4 what exactly is the culture of your marketing team? https://t.co/8aEpCRzDwxAugust 30, 2021
And, unsurprisingly, the Naked Attraction ads are already being stripped from the sides of busses. "We have reviewed the ad campaign and decided that it should not continue to run on our bus network. It will be removed as soon as practicable," London's TFL said in a statement. Meanwhile, Channel 4 apologised in a statement of its own: "This ad is based on a Channel 4 entertainment programme. It was not our intention to cause offence and we apologise if it has done so."
At least Channel 4 can take some solace in the fact that it isn't the only brand to balls up its marketing in 2021. From Panasonic's disastrous headphones ad to Amazon's unfortunate app icon, we've seen a few clangers over the last few months. If you fancy creating an ad of your own, check out today's best Adobe Creative Cloud deals below.