Messi Takes on Xenu in Maybe the Worst World Cup Ad of All Time

Slate's soccer blog.
May 29 2014 5:22 PM

The Worst World Cup Ad Ever: Samsung’s Hideous Messi vs. Xenu Campaign

We’ve already shared our favorite ad of the 2014 World Cup, the spectacular, clever, lighthearted “Winner Stays” spot by Nike and the talented people at Wieden+Kennedy. Now, on to the worst World Cup ads we’ve ever seen: the overly plotted, painful-to-watch, grotesquely taglined “Football Will Save the Planet” campaign by Samsung.

The story is ludicrous. As the floating head of German soccer legend Franz Beckenbauer explains in the smartphone app version of this flailing, expensive, multimedia effort, the gist is that the world’s best players have to save the Earth from soccer-playing members of a race of intergalactic space monsters who bear a striking resemblance to Xenu.


“The aliens exists [sic], and they play sports. Last night aliens visited Franz Beckenbauer and they want to play football against humans,” the Beckenbauer orb brain informs the app user in the impossible-to-play video game version of the ad. “If we lose, they will destroy the planet. Now is up to us [sic] to put together a team. Only football can save the planet.”

So it’s like Space Jam, but with worse grammar.

As far as I could tell from attempting to use the “Galaxy 11” app on my beat-up four-year-old Galaxy S smartphone, the game involves a levitating Thunderdome that rotates in dizzying, infinite circles on your screen. Whatever the object of the game is, I failed to achieve it.

Use Ronaldo's "warp speed" to do ... something?

Screenshot of Samsung ad

The commercials themselves are somehow even worse. In the first one, embedded at the top of this page, Beckenbauer goes around the world recruiting his team. Meanwhile, City Destroyers hover over the planet’s major capitals.  Wayne Rooney’s boxing coach seems especially excited that the England star has gotten the call on his beautiful, new Galaxy S-something-or-other phone to fight (kick?) aliens.

The second ad is the worst of all. In it, Messi, Ronaldo, Rooney, Landon Donovan, and various other players run drills in what appears to be the Katniss Everdeen training center. They are preparing for the upcoming soccer battle, which for some reason will require tablets, floating smartphones, and that Samsung watch thingy.

Keep in mind, none of these ads show you anything you can actually do with your Samsung gadgets, unless you have regular occasion to make and receive calls from German soccer legends, take photos of soccer-ball-launching robot attackers, measure your heart rate when facing said robot attackers, or track your device if a robotic soccer ball steals it and tries to roll away past Iker Casillas before exploding.

And yet! According to social analytics site Unruly, the Samsung campaign is the second-most-shared online World Cup campaign behind Nike’s wondrous productions. The virality of the Samsung ads makes sense given their gaudy production values, as well as the inclusion of Messi and a huge international cast designed to appeal to a wide global audience.

Samsung doesn’t seem to grasp this, and has professed (at least publicly) that its idiotic storyline is the reason why so many people have watched these ads. “Unlike most other campaigns using top-notch footballers, the Galaxy 11 campaign has created a new entertainment experience based on sci-fi imagination,” said the creative director behind the campaign, Moon-kyo Lee. “The Galaxy 11 Training Video allows fans to watch the heroic players’ rigorous drill to save the planet, as well as to learn the features of Galaxy S5, a secret weapon to further upgrade their skills and powers.”

We have at least one more of these monstrosities to go, so be on the lookout during your World Cup viewing. I predict we’ll see Landon Donovan free-kicking a Galaxy Tab 10.1 through Marvin the Martian’s helmet.

Jeremy Stahl is a Slate senior editor. You can follow him on Twitter.



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