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Ten Embarrassing and Irrelevant Reasons Why Accounting Firms Suck at Advertising

The “Call our boy Ed Nusbaum” rose ad is up there as one of the most cringe-worthy pieces of advertising ever, not just out of accounting. We get it, GT, you’re trying to make accounting all sexy and stuff but put an old white guy on your ad with a rose between his teeth and it just comes off as weird. Make it a chick and you’re just being creepy and demeaning. Good to know the rebranding has helped the Purple Rose of Chicago beef up its advertising efforts, even if questions still remain as to how accurate said advertising is. And really, “instinct for growth” is still kinda sleazy, albeit not rose-in-the-teeth level sleaze. Sounds like GT needs a few hours of sexual harrassment training.

Alright, so this ad for Moores Rowland (you’ve probably never heard of them) out of Belgium is pretty visually gorgeous but really, what does a shirtless dude getting his head shaved by a sheep have to do with accounting? If anyone can explain it, you’ll be my new hero.

The PwC taxi ads in the UK are filed under not at all creepy but kinda dumb considering the target market is pretty small. What are the odds PwC UK’s next big dynamo will hop in one of these midget cabs, punch in the website on his or her smartphone and go on to serve life slaving away at the firm? Maybe they do things differently across the pond but haven’t these guys heard of recruiters? Plus let’s be real about it, the freaking cab looks like it got hit with a bunch of neon Post-its.


The kids behind had a pretty smart idea – sell their own faces for advertising to pay off student loans. But it came as a huge surprise when Ernst & Young not only bought 15 days of face but ponied up to sponsor the entire website. Does this mean they’re paying an advertising stipend to all the kids painted up in yellow and black at the International Intern Leadership Conference? We can only hope.

While Deloitte might not enjoy the joke status of, say, McGladrey, you wouldn’t know it by their cheap, crappy graphics. We’re all for simplicity in advertising but the ads they rolled out for the 2010 Olympics in Vancouver look like something my kid made out of fridge magnets. I guess if I worked for Deloitte, I’d be happy they didn’t throw too much into the advertising budget unlike a certain Big 4 competitor who felt compelled to take out a huge ad in WSJ just to say “thanks” when they could have padded my paycheck with a proper thank you instead. And what the hell does “when others stand still, fly” mean, exactly? Has Deloitte checked with the international accounting standard-setting bodies to clear said flight? It might not be allowed under accepted accounting principles.

I can’t believe I’m writing this but it was hard to find examples of bad KPMG advertising (it doesn’t help that a lot of it is in languages I don’t speak), unless you include the weird Stockholm airport ad that so helpfully reminds everyone that it’s no longer 2010. I could basically repackage the same comments we’ve all made about KPMG here over the years in my criticism of this weird ad that is apparently supposed to convey that KPMG isn’t UPS but I’ll let this Canadian blogger (who also rips on BDO and the Canadian Institute of Chartered Accountants) tell it:

You may have seen the TV version of these ads that show people pretending to be KPMG professionals acting like ignorant goofs. This is branding? Humor is a key tool in advertising, but not when the joke is on the people you are trying to promote as world-class pros. And what’s with the 10-point type at the bottom? Looks like legalese that no one is actually supposed to read. Yet this is their big ‘sell!’ Looks to me like an organization that doesn’t know how to sell its services, and is so noncommittal about its value proposition that they hide it in the corner.

NAILED IT, buy this man a drink.

LIKE ZOMG U GUYZ!!!1! I’m gonna become an accountant so I can snowboard and do taxes for celebrities and stuff!! Alright, we’ll give it to McGladrey here, they aren’t the only ones to have used the whole “hey, this job is really exciting, just trust us” line just to lure unsuspecting staff in so they can promptly suck out said unsuspecting staffs’ souls but come on guys, really?! Snowboarding? Are you supposed to fit that in between 60 hour weeks and constant traveling to and from the client? Show me a bro with Cheeto stains on his fingers with bags under his eyes from studying for the CPA exam for the last 4 months straight and maybe we can talk.

Um… yeah… so who wants to share an iced coffee (that looks more like a chocolate milk) with your partner? I guess anyone BKD is trying to recruit might be into that, although it could be a little creepy with those other 5 staff you’ve got to the 1 partner amiright? The entire ad campaign is incredibly well-designed but, er, just weird. Ice on fire? A butterfly ringing a bell? Paint us stumped, we’re just not sure what’s supposed to be going on with these ads but give the agency bonus points for great designs.

So this ad from Plante Moran isn’t exactly embarrassing but I wouldn’t say it’s clear either. When I was stalking their website pre-merger for any tidbits I might be able to glean on the Blackman Kallick merger, I basically assumed the obnoxious pizza ad to the left was just an annoying Google Ad for Papa John’s they slapped up there for extra revenues or something and therefore ignored it. Whoops.

The EY “Bat Guy” ad in the 125th AICPA Anniversary edition of the Journal of Accountancy has already been discussed here and though some time has passed, we’re still pretty baffled as to what it’s supposed to mean. The tagline “It’s more than just three letters. It’s a world of possibility” doesn’t make the ad’s meaning any clearer either so, you know, if anyone can figure out what is going on here… we’re still waiting. Dream big… or something? Yeah, I don’t need my accounting firm trying to achieve the impossible (read: human flight with wings cut out of your old Boy Scouts tent) and definitely don’t want my financial adviser wearing a helmet for anything, much less running through a field trying to fly.

Anyone else seen any truly awful accounting ads out there? Take a pic, send it to us and we’ll add it to the collection.