Sex sells. That's what we're always told. But judging by this collection of adverts, dark humour sells too. So does sexism. And violence.

We've collected 100 of the most controversial advertising campaigns over the last century. Some are very much of their time (see Van Heusen), others just backwards-thinking.

All of them, however, are creative, with a lot of artistic thinking being put into the eye-catching aesthetics necessary to sell, sell, sell. Or offend, offend, offend.


Some of the 100 go out to strike a chord with good intentions, even if it doesn't make pretty viewing: Amnesty International and Benetton are famous for their thought-provoking images about global taboos. Government and charity messages speaking out on domestic violence, child abuse and healthcare make for difficult viewing, but stimulate important conversations.

Some of the 100 will raise a smile, others will make you wonder just how a brand ever managed to put this out there (we're looking at you, BMW), but all of them are the product of creative talent.

If nothing else, these campaigns prove that images really can speak louder than words...

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  • Levis.

  • Saatchi and Saatchi's campaign for The Conservative Party ahead of the 1979 general election.

  • Durex.

  • Sisley fashion brand.

  • Sean John's Unforgivable Woman fragrance.

  • Linford Christie stars in Kleenex's tissue advert.

  • Wonderbra's infamous advert.

  • Lynx.

  • BMW.

  • BaF's anti-domestic violence ad.

  • Red Tape menswear fashion brand.

  • Controversial French anti-smoking advert,

  • MacDonald's.

  • QSOL service provider.


  • A German MacDonald's advert.

  • Heinz.

  • Cadbury's.

  • Miquita Oliver in Women's Aid advert.

  • Advert for Chicolate chocolate substitute.

  • Skin Burn, anti-smoking ad

  • Barnardo's.

  • Tipalet cigarette advert.

  • Benetton

  • TG4 television program entitled 'Paisean Faisean'.

  • Courage beer.

  • Budweiser.

  • Barcardi rum.

  • Amnesty International

  • Skyy alcoholic drink.

  • Amnesty International

  • Amnesty International

  • Anti binge-drinking advert

  • Van Heusen

  • BMW

  • Pitney-Bowes Postage Meter

  • Government anti-drug driving advert

  • Anti-abortion advert

  • Advert against verbal abuse

  • Fabrica

  • Benson & Hedges

  • American Apparel

  • Amnesty International

  • Post-It