The Worst Award-Winning Ads Of The Year (from Cannes)

Many hard-luck India farmers have hung themselves. And so the Times of India ran some charity ads with one of the worst ad headlines I’ve ever seen.

“Hang me again”
My God, what a horrible, insensitive headline.

But that’s just the beginning of the problems with this campaign.

The copy of the three ads is, essentially, the same:

“A year ago I hung myself. I chose a noose over drought and debts, because I really didn’t have a choice. But you do. Make your way to an exhibition on April 28, at Ravindra Natya Mandir (an arts center), Prabjhadevi. There you will find portraits like this one. Buy one and hang it up somewhere. They money will reach my unemployed family of six who are still alive. Because the living deserve a chance, don’t they?

According to the press release from this campaign, 300,000 Indian farmers committed suicide last year, a figure I can’t substantiate and find highly dubious. (For example, about 17,500 farmers a year killed themselves between 2002 and 2006, according to Wikipedia. And 14,000 killed themselves in 2011, according to the government.)

Even though these ads are via India, they have not been translated to English for publicity purposes. Times of India is “India’s most read English Daily,” so the ads ran just as you see them.

Another awful creative step was writing these ads in the voice of the dead farmers, literally letting a slick copywriter put words in their mouths. Suicides are tragic: no argument. But, this line of copy: “I chose a noose over drought and debts, because I really didn’t have a choice” sounds specious, at the least, and it makes the farmers sound cowardly. Did the farmers write that line, or something like it, in a suicide note? I seriously doubt it. And now their families are, most probably, in even more financial trouble.

So, go buy these pieces (made of dry, burnt hay — which is the only nice creative touch about these ads) and “hang” them in your homes to honor that decision?

Last line of copy: “Because the living deserve a chance don’t they?”
Yes, yes they do. All the struggling Indian farmers still alive and still fighting for their family’s futures deserve it.

This campaign won a Gold Lion, the top level Cannes award, after the Grand Prix Lion.

Ad agency: Taproot, Mumbai.

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