Valuable prize in the worst-ever ad competition

Today I announce a Christmas competition. It is open to all copywriters, the only judge is me and I am confident of winning.

Today I announce a Christmas competition. It is open to all

copywriters, the only judge is me and I am confident of winning.

The prize will go to the worst advertisement ever written. Entries are

invited from everywhere but by the time I have revealed my own

submission, you will know yourself beaten.

One of the first bits of business I worked on was a toothbrush


For many successful years the advertising had featured the bend in the

handle, which aided reach, torque and therefore hygiene. I found this


In my second week I went proudly to my copy supervisor. I had not only

written the words but drawn the picture. A toothbrush was shown lying on

its back, bristles upwards. It was supported along its length by the

following words, vertically arranged in the form of columns: HYGIENIC.


And the headline, as by now you will have guessed, read: The Seven

Pillars of Wisdom.

My supervisor, I could tell, was stunned and humbled by this virgin


The pause was a long one.

Eventually he said, ’It is to your credit that you have thought of both

words and pictures at the same time. And it is encouraging that you have

found room for the name of the product in the headline.’ There was

another pause. ’Everything else is appalling.’ And he went on to tell me


It was by far the longest conversation I had ever had with him.

He asked me if I had given a moment’s thought to my audience. Did I know

who bought toothbrushes - men or women - and why? Did I know what they

read? Why should I assume that they were among the 5% of the population

who had heard of T.E. Lawrence? And why would it help if they had? He

talked to me about irrelevant puns, and their powers of distraction. He

talked to me about brands - and asked what sort of brand I thought

Wisdom was. He talked to me at even greater length about the need for

single-mindedness and how the more copy points you emphasised, the more

diffuse the message became. And he talked to me about showing-off.

’I very much doubt,’ he said in summation, ’if there has ever been an

advertisement that showed less understanding of product, purpose,

audience or even the most primitive principles of persuasion. This could

well be the worst ad ever written.’

I like to think, in my competitive way, that he was right. And I also

like to think that, even in the intervening 40 years or so, no other

advertisement has come close to challenging it.

Feel free to try, however. Simple ineptness stands no chance. Evident

contempt for established principle is essential. Send them to me.

There’s a new toothbrush, in the colour of your choice, for the lucky


Jeremy Bullmore is a non-executive director of the Guardian Media Group

and WPP Group.


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