The Most Controversial Commercials in History: From Ashton Kutcher to Mary J. Blige

Complaints have been launched against allegedly racist ads, allegedly anti-gay ads, commercials that seemingly glorify animal abuse and others deemed just plain offensive.

By Corinne Heller Apr 05, 2017 5:18 PMTags

Sometimes ads go viral for the wrong reasons.

Pepsi's new ad featuring Kendall Jenner, which shows her handing a police officer a soda as a peace offering during a protest, drew controversy this week. The ad spurred a slew of memes on social media, with some parodying civil rights movement protests as Pepsi ads.

Ashton Kutcher one drew allegations of racism over a commercial he filmed, in what marked one of many ads that have sparked similar backlashes. Other ads released over the years have been accused of being anti-gay, of glorifying animal abuse and of being just plain offensive.

Kendall Jenner's Street Style

Racist Ads:

Ashton Kutcher's Popchips Ad: In 2012, the actor stirred controversy over a commercial for the snack that showed him portraying members of a fake dating website, including a Bollywood producer named Raj, in which he was criticized for wearing "brown face."

"The new Popchips worldwide dating video and ad campaign featuring four characters was created to provoke a few laughs and was never intended to stereotype or offend anyone," the group said in response. "At Popchips we embrace all types of shapes, flavors and colors, and appreciate all snackers, no matter their race or ethnicity. We hope people can enjoy this in the spirit it was intended."

The ad still exists on the company's YouTube page.

Mary J. Blige's Burger King Ad: In 2012, a leaked Burger King commercial showing Blige singing about new crispy chicken snack wraps to the tune of her song "Don't Mind" after critics said it was racist against African-Americans.

Burger King pulled the ad and apologized to the singer and her fans, but did not address the concerns in detail.

"Unfortunately, the Mary J. Blige commercial was released prematurely before all of the licensing and final approvals were obtained," the company said in a statement. "We would like to apologize to Mary J. and all of her fans for airing an ad that was not final. We know how important Mary J. is to her fans, and we are currently in the process of finalizing the commercial. We hope to have the final ad on the air soon."

Blige herself issued her own apology on Angie Martinez's Hot 97 FM show.

"I want to apologize to everyone that was offended or thought that I would do something so disrespectful to our culture," she said, according to Rolling Stone. "I would never do anything like that purposefully. I thought I was doing something right. So forgive me."

Best and Worst Ads for Fall TV 2016

Tyler, the Creator's Mountain Dew Ad: The rapper starred in a controversial Mountain Dew ad that many deemed to be racist and also said it glorified violence against women. In the commercial, a sequel to a previous one, a white woman assaulted by a "nasty goat," who the rapper voices, has to point out her attacker in a police lineup. The goat, who stands among a group of black men, taunts her with more threats. The ad was soon pulled.

Racism By at the Viewers:

America Can't Handle Cheerios Family: In 2013 (that's 2013, not 1913), a Cheerios commercial featuring an interracial couple and their daughter received so many negative and racist comments on YouTube that General Mills had to disable the comments section, then pull the ad.

But the family was depicted again in a 2014 Cheerios commercial.

Coca-Cola's "America the Beautiful" Ad: In 2014, people complained about a Coca-Cola Super Bowl commercial that depicted people singing "America the Beautiful" in different languages. #SpeakAmerican started trending on Twitter.

Sexist Ads:

Miller Lite: Sexism is alive and well in 21st century advertising. This 2003 Miller Lite ad showing two women mudwrestling was pulled due to complaints.

Carl's Jr. Ditches the Babes: For years, the burger chain used busty babes in bikinis to promote its fast food. The company last week unveiled a new campaign starring Nashville star Charles Esten, which pokes fun at their old technique and suggests a new way forward.

Carl's Jr

Animal Abuse?

GoDaddy's Lost Puppy Ad: Following a backlash, GoDaddy pulled a 2015 Super Bowl ad that featured a lost puppy who is found by his owner...who then sells him via a website she built on


Sketchers' Dog Racing Ad: In 2012, the sneaker company drew controversy with a Super Bowl ad that showed a bulldog outrunning a pack of greyhounds. Animal activists said the commercial glorified dog racing, which they consider abuse.

Snickers Gay Kiss Ad: In 2007, Snickers' parent company pulled a Super Bowl ad amid complaints it was homophobic. It showed two male mechanics eating the same Snickers bar and then kissing, Lady and the Tramp-style.

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