Could this be the worst advert ever?


One of the many joys of Private Eye magazine is the mock classified section with its baffling array of improbable gadgets, such as the Simon Cowell High Trouser Press.

But none of those comedic creations are anything like as bamboozling as this real advert that appears in this fortnight’s issue. In a field that has some tough competition it has to be the worst advert I’ve seen, frankly for as long as I can remember.

I mean what is it actually for? Without my reading glasses (time catches up with us all – even those of us with laser enhanced eyesight) I can only really make out the headline and the picture.

There’s a bloke sitting on (I’m guessing) an airport baggage carousel, looking pretty hacked off. His case sits next to him. There’s a nice colourful pack shot (Lord Sugar would surely approve).

The headline reads: “If only he’d used Jolly Gel!”  (There has to be an exclamation mark of course).

So what the hell is Jolly Gel?

My first thought was it must be some sort of recreational lubricant. Maybe that says more about me than the advert. The idea of the poor chap being banished overseas for not using it doesn’t really bear thinking about.

Maybe it’s a pile ointment? But the guy is sitting down, legs akimbo. He doesn’t look happy but he’s clearly not in agony.

The Subhead

Hold on. There’s a subhead of sorts:  “Clearly the best flocculent”.

Bingo. I may not know what a flocculent is but I have a dictionary and I’m prepared to wager that use of the word “clearly” is some kind of pun.

Flocculent: adj (1) resembling wool esp in having loose fluffy texture. (2) made up of small woolly clumps.”

Nope. Still genuinely clueless. Has it got something to do with the case? Does Jolly Gel prevent pilling on your luggage? I have to say he’s taking a bit of pilling pretty hard if that’s the case.

The body copy

Surely the body copy will give me an idea: “Simple to use, even removes algae spores. Jolly Gel is the proven flocculant to work with all sand, zeolitic & glass filter media.”

It may be simple to use but it’s certainly not simple to understand. I’m guessing it’s some form of detergent or additive. But for what? And what the hell is a zeolitic filter?

Then in tiny writing just by our hero’s foot the words: “Available from all Professional Swimming Pool Equipment suppliers”.

Ok so I’m assuming it’s an additive you put into swimming pool filters to clean the water of algae.

I’m guessing the image is supposed to suggest a man who has been forced to fly abroad because his own pool is full of algae.

Why he’s decided to go in his business suit is as unclear as why the advertiser didn’t choose to show a shot of a swimming pool in the ad.

On the plus side – and the only plus I can see – I could at least read the contact details but why anyone would bother making contact I cannot fathom (see what I did there?).

I only persisted with the advert out of a morbid professional curiosity, in the same way a biologist might examine the bloated corpse of a badger at the side of the A4.

Am I being fair?

Am I being fair with my criticism? Perhaps anyone with a swimming pool knows exactly what flocculent is and would get the advert in the blink of an eye. Or at least they would if they could read the 4 point text.

And of course, any advert is only as good as the response it gets. But I suspect we know what that will look like.

No doubt the poor chap who placed it will tell colleagues ‘it was worth a punt’ or that great excuse for all adverts that fail to produce a response ‘it was great for awareness’.

But if they made any money back on this travesty I’ll knit myself a swimming pool.


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7 thoughts on “Could this be the worst advert ever?

  1. Well you thought it worth puzzling and writing about, and I found your comments because I was intrigued by the advert in Private Eye and could not read the small print, to find out what the product is, so don’t be too sure they aren’t being very clever. I couldn’t tell you what other products were advertised on the page, but in the unlikely event I will want a swimming pool flocculant, I will now recognise just one brand name.

  2. Thanks for your comment Andy.

    Maybe you’re right. Perhaps my post should ask Is this the smartest advert ever? It might be the work of a genius.

    In my experience though, ads that work best are direct in their messages and get straight to the point. Few people have our patience!

    But at least I’ve learned what a flocculant is now, so it’s taught me something.

  3. Come on. We know that Private Eye has long been the go-to publication for anyone targeting people obsessed with clearing algae from their pools. The readers are upmarket, scientifically literate and kicking themselves that they ended up at an airport when a simple dose of Jolly Gel was all they required.

    • Thanks for the witty explanation.Kept me awake half the night.Must buy a magnifying glass for future ads…

  4. With some minor changes to the body copy, this would be a useful starting point on ideas for a social lubricant ad? They may need to diversify very soon, so maybe they should test it for alternative applications now. Certainly before the Private Eye invoice falls due.

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