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28 advertisements show the most awkward times brands tried to target millennials

I can haz bizness? Cringeworthy ads show the danger of trying to be too hip

An online marketing contest had Internet users make memes with images of the Kia Sorento

Millennials like food. They have budgets and care about getting value for their money. Millennials are busy. And they generally have a positive attitude toward potatoes.

That’s the conclusion of a study by the United States Potato Board, which represents potato growers and a sellers, and is trying to encourage the industry to adopt a "proactive and forward-looking approach" to courting younger potato eaters. Except that, after extensive consideration and several wonky charts, the report's conclusion ends up being that today's young potato eaters are pretty much exactly the same as older potato eaters. “When it comes to potatoes…," the report says, "millennials are not significantly different from the rest of the population."

Millennials, roughly defined as the generation who were 18 to 34 in 2015, are set to overtake Baby Boomers this year as America’s most populous generation. And they have become a huge target for companies, advertising agencies and market research firms alike. Unfortunately, a lot of their appeals to millennials are based on the idea that the generation is some kind of homogeneous entity that only speaks in emojis, rather than the diverse group that millennials actually are. And ad campaigns based on that idea can come off as a little .... awkwarrrrrd.

For a sample, we've turned to the reddit thread FellowKids, which collects a lot of hilarious attempts by brands trying way too hard to reach millennials. Here are a few -- well, 28 -- of our favorites:

1. Microsoft referencing dubstep, a kind of electronic music with a lot of bass and percussion

2. This facepalm-worthy ad campaign by Kia, in which the car company invited users of the website Cheezburger to create Kia-themed memes for a chance to win gift certificates in 2012. (Dubbed "Seasons Memeing," the campaign has become a cautionary tale for social media marketers.)

3. Honda's meme-tastic car ad

4. This amazing reference to rapper Flo Rida's "Apple Bottom Jeans"

5. Video game retailer Gamestop's funky fresh language

6. The back of the box for Kellogg's Krave chocolate cereal

7. Juicy Fruit's attempt to speak millennial

8. This cultural appropriation by Pop-Tarts

9. This dopey cat from Wolfram Mathematica

10. Another dopey cat from Funyuns, the onion-flavored corn snack popular with American youths

11. This #superfun gift card from Wal-Mart

12. For cereal eaters, a test of authenticity

13.  A cringeworthy pun by 7-11 Australia

14. This great Windex story

15. The only logical way to comment on MTV content

16. Trident's valiant Snapchat reference

17. Of course, Wendy's

18. Chevy's new announcement about the 2016 Cruze, which was issued in emoji

19. YOLO Juliet. Literally.


21. It's not just companies. See this ad by the RNC featuring Scott, the real Republican millennial who is not reading off of cue cards.

22. Found on Pinterest: Some advice for teachers on how to use memes

23. This amazing history assignment (We're not sure if much marketing research went into this, but it is one way a teacher is trying to reach students...)

24. This church billboard, which parodies Meghan Trainor's "All About That Bass"

25. All of these public service announcements. Good ends, bad means.

26. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services pinpoints the moment something stops being funny

27. Can the Indiana Department of Labor go viral? Probably not.

28. A school connecting with youngsters

This post has been updated to include Chevy's emoji ad, published on the morning of June 22.

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