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Is Tiffany’s ad campaign the worst of the year?

Tiffany ad campaign
(Image credit: Tiffany & Co)

Derivative, tired, vapid, offensive. Tiffany & Co's latest campaign has had everything thrown at and could just be in line to be crowned worst campaign of the year. Its rather obvious attempt to "youthify" the iconic jewellery brand has been savaged by advertising gurus, mothers and even the generation Y and Z audience that it seeks win over.

The street and social media campaign uses surly models and the tagline “Not Your Mother’s Tiffany” in a bid to refresh the brand's appeal for a younger customer. Even the use of street posters seems designed to ooze edginess, but it's backfired in a way that could surely have been foreseen (see our collection of the best print ads of all time for more successful campaigns).

Ads can often divide opinion, but in this case the response on social media has been almost entirely negative. The campaign's worst crime is to have offended the jeweller’s main existing customer base – mothers. “As a mother who has spent the last 15 months working from home and homeschooling my daughters at the same time I feel really offended by your campaign,” one mother commented on one of the brand's Instagram posts. She added: "If it wouldn’t hurt my husband I would take off my Tiffany’s wedding band and my Tiffany’s engagement ring right now.” 

Another user commented on the post shown above: “As a mum and older woman, you’re saying you don’t need me as a customer anymore?” The campaign's angered a younger audience too. "Ironically all my Tiffany pieces were bought by my mom, who apparently now has no taste huh? If not for her, I would never ever consider buying from Tiffany," one user wrote.

The campaign's also far from original. It immediately recalls a 1980s ad for US carmaker Oldsmobile, which had the tagline "This is not your father’s Oldsmobile”. That was a flop even then – it's been described as the "dumbest thing" the company could have done and the nail in the coffin for a dying brand. The device has since become a lazy resource for brands that desperately want to appeal to a younger generation.

Oldsmobile ad

The Oldsmobile ad from 1988. (Image credit: Oldsmobile)

It's been panned by major figures in the industry. Writing in Campaign, the advertising guru Bob Hoffman labelled it “the tiredest, most derivative and thoroughly clichéd campaign of the year. Or the entire history of mankind. Or womankind. Or whatever kind you prefer.” He added: “It fails on every level. It is strategically vapid; it is creatively hackneyed; it is unimaginative ... it is insulting to the brand’s core customers."

Joel Kaplan, executive creative director at MUH-TAY-ZIK / HOF-FER. He told US marketing site Morning Brew : “For a brand as iconic as Tiffany, I would have expected a more unique way to appeal to a Millennial and Gen Z buyer. Instead of standing for something, they took the more common approach of standing against something, their own history and tone."

There's still some way to go before the end of the year, but it looks like this one might already be remembered as the worst campaign of 2021. For more examples of advertising done right, see our collection of the best billboard advertising.

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Joseph is a freelance journalist and translator, as well as a project manager at a design agency based in Buenos Aires. His interests include graphic design and social media. He spends his nights dancing tango and drinking malbec.