Super Bowl ads that landed Kim Kardashian, Lindsay Lohan in court

Celebrity, Money, News, Sports

Super Bowl advertising is a super-sized business. A 30-second commercial spot in this year’s upcoming game will cost about $4.5 million and reach over 100 million viewers.

Despite the hefty price tag, that widespread reach can be great for sales, unless, of course, someone cries foul and decides to sue for false advertising, using a name or likeness without permission, copyright infringement or fraud. Between legal fees and possible settlements, a company’s bottom line can take a serious hit from a Super Bowl ad gone wrong.

Here, six Super Bowl ads and the legal messes they started:

6. Lindsay Lohan does not like E-Trade’s ‘milkaholic’ baby Lindsay 

Lindsay E Trade Baby

Talking babies are funny, especially when they know more about Wall Street than Sesame Street. But actress Lindsay Lohan, who has struggled with addiction, did not find the 2010 Super Bowl E-Trade ad depicting a slurring, boyfriend-poaching, “milkaholic” baby named Lindsay very humorous. Lohan sued E-Trade for $100 million for wrongfully using her name and characterization. The suit was later withdrawn, but the actress reportedly received a settlement for an undisclosed amount.

5. Kia, Busta Rhymes, Beck and more get sued over music riff

During the 2010 Super Bowl, Kia ran an ad for their Sorento car model featuring a song by British band The Heavy. Drive-In Music sued Kia, along with CBS and the NFL, on the grounds that a musical riff The Heavy used in the commercial was taken from a song they owned the rights to. Settlements from the NFL and CBS emboldened the group, which then pursued lawsuits against dozens of other parties, including Busta Rhymes, Beck and several record companies.

4. Ford Motor Co. and General Motors Co. battle over toughest truck


Though falling short of a lawsuit, Ford issued a letter to General Motors, ordering the company to stop broadcasting it’s Chevy Silverado truck commercial that first aired during the 2012 Super Bowl. The ad depicts a group of friends who have survived an apocalypse thanks to their Chevy Silverados. Their friend Dave, however, did not fare as well because he drove a Ford.

In the statement Ford said, “Ford is proud to be the best-selling truck in America for 35 years … demonstrating just how durable our trucks are in the real world.” Chevrolet countered, saying, “We stand by our claims … that the Silverado is the most dependable, longest-lasting full-size pickup truck on the road.” Consumer Reports begged to differ, citing the Nissan Titan and Toyota Tundra as more dependable than both Ford and GM models.

3. Just for Feet Inc. sues Saatchi & Saatchi for advertising malpractice

The Alabama-based footwear retailer Just for Feet sued its advertising agency Saatchi & Saatchi for $10 million, saying the 1999 Super Bowl commercial they created amounted to advertising malpractice. The ad, which was called “appallingly insensitive,” “imperialistic” and “probably racist” by critics, shows white men drugging a Kenyan runner and forcing Nike sneakers on him while he’s unconscious.

Just for Feet claimed they did not approve of the ad but were badgered into airing it during the Super Bowl by the Saatchi & Saatchi team, who, according to CEO Harold Ruttenberg, convinced Just for Feet that “this was the best thing they had ever done.” Just for Feet eventually dropped the lawsuit, but not before the ad took its place in Super Bowl advertising history books.

2. Skechers uses Kim Kardashian, lies to consumers 

Kim Kardashian Sketchers Shape Ups ad

During the 2011 Super Bowl, Skechers debuted an ad for their Skechers Shape-ups shoes featuring Kim Kardashian. The ad and marketing campaign for the shoes claimed that wearers could tone muscles and lose weight simply by wearing the product.

A year later, Sketchers settled a class action lawsuit for false advertising and misleading consumers, agreeing to pay the Federal Trade Commission a fine of $40 million.

1. Pepsi sued after not delivering fighter jet

In 1996 Pepsi launched a “Pepsi Stuff” promotion in which consumers could collect “Pepsi Points” to redeem in exchange for small Pepsi-branded items. Known for its splashy Super Bowl ads, the company aired an ad showing a suburban teen redeeming his points for a shirt, sunglasses, and, finally, a Harrier jet worth 7,000,000 points.

A 21-year-old business student John Leonard saw the ad and found out consumers could buy Pepsi Points for 10 cents each. After doing some math, Leonard mailed Pepsi a check for $700,008.50, demanding a $33.8 million jet in return. When Pepsi refused, saying the ad was obviously a joke, Leonard sued for breach of contract, fraud, misleading advertising, and deceptive and unfair trade practices.

The case made it all the way to a federal court in Manhattan, with U.S. District Judge Kimba Wood eventually ruling in Pepsi’s favor, saying, “no objective person could reasonably have concluded that the commercial actually offered consumers a Harrier jet.”

Photo: Skechers’ “Shape-Ups” Ad, General Motors’ Chevy “Apocalypse” Ad, E-Trade’s “Milkaholic”Ad