1. ASBESTOS (1981)
"When life depends on it, you use asbestos" [see WTC advertisement above]
Okay, sure, when you need to get out of a burning building fast, asbestos may give you a few extra minutes. But you better be wearing a respirator because when that fucker collapses, that asbestos is getting in your lungs, where it will fester for years before killing you mercilessly. (Wait, did we mention 9/11?)
(Image via Copyranter)
2. BAYER HEROIN
Not only did Bayer once own the trademark on Heroin, it promoted it to doctors as a non-addictive substitute for morphine. For a while, doctors took the bait. "It possesses many advantages over morphine," wrote the Boston Medical and Surgical Journal in 1900. "It's not hypnotic, and there's no danger of acquiring a habit." The American Medical Association approved the use of heroin in 1906, but by then the "junkies" foraging scrap metal to feed their habit were getting hard to avoid. Bayer stopped making heroin in 1913 when prohibition seemed inevitable, and its use without a prescription was banned in the US the following year.
How Aspirin Turned Hero [Sunday Times, September 13, 1998]
3. UNION CARBIDE
"Science helps build a new India"
Ah, the innocent days before a Union Carbide plant in India obliterated everyone in sight. In 1984, Union Carbide's plant in Bhopal released 42 tons of toxic gas into the air, ultimately killing about 25,000 people. The stench of this "new India" remains to date, in fact, as the Yes Men have duly pointed out.
(Image via Copyranter)
4. JAMES DEAN'S "SAFE DRIVING" PSA
When it first released Rebel Without A Cause, Warner Brothers was concerned that kids would ape James Dean's character and wind up driving off cliffs. (A problem, of course, because the kids' relatives would likely sue the company.) To distance themselves from copycat incidents preemptively, Warner Brothers had Dean film this public service announcement urging kids to "Take it easy driving out there. The life you save might be mine." Alas, the clip was never used because Mr. Dean was killed in his speeding Porsche shortly before the movie was released.
As predicted, a number of teens copied Dean's "chicken" game and died while racing over cliffs. (Boston Globe, October 20, 1993)
Full Top 10 list is here: http://consumerist.com/5306170/top-10-ironic-ads-from-history