Blast From The Past: The Bone Fone aka The Worst Advertisement Ever

May 22, 2014

[box type=”info”]Blast from the Past is a series that takes a nostalgic look into the past, at some of our favourite technological treasures that have become obsolete. If there is anything in particular that you would like to see here, please leave us a comment and we will help bring it back from the dead.[/box]

The cassette player. The walkman. The discman.. All of these examples fail in comparison to one of the best could-have-beens from the early eighties; the Bone Fone.

You’re standing in an open field. Suddenly there’s music in all directions. Your bones resonate as if you’re listening to beautiful music in front of a powerful home stereo system. But there’s no radio in sight, and nobody else hears what you do. – Bone Fone Ad

Bone Fone, 1980. Source:

Bone Fone, 1980. Source:

[box type=”alert”]Today, I am going to make you feel grateful that you live in a time where the following type of advertising is no longer necessary.[/box]

The fantastically named Bone Fone was not actually a phone, but a spandex covered AM/FM radio that was meant to been worn like a bone rattling musical scarf. Essentially it was a shockproof, waterproof AM/FM radio connected to a battery pack with a flexible plastic tube which contained two 70 millimetre speakers that would sit on your collarbone. The sound was supposed to vibrate your bones from your collar bone to your inner ear to create a barrage of sonic delights, the likes of which the world has never heard.

The sleek, timeless design was made to be worn under your clothes and offered “the same stereo separation you’d expect from earphones but without the bulk and inconvenience…” The sound from the Bone Fone’s speakers would apparently “resonate through your bones, all the way to the sensitive bones of your inner ear” and is said to have mimicked that of a powerful stereo system or a front row seat at a symphony orchestra performance. Beyond providing the amazing sensation of having a powerful stereo system inside the confines your own head, the Bone Fone was “built for abuse” and couldn’t even be heard by the people around you. You could listen to the play by play on your Bone Fone at the ball game and nobody would ever know!

When we look at the statement that the Bone Fone was “a new concept in sound technology [that] may revolutionise the way we listen to stereo music,” we have to stop for a second and appreciate where we are. 34 years after this so-called sound revolution, we have the ability to hear the same kind of “bone-rattling” sounds through a tiny round earbud that is smaller than a single grape. But then, 34 years ago, a similar experience made possible through wearing something that looks like a swimming noodle around your neck, was still a pretty big deal. And if it was half as good as the advertisement makes it sound, then why wasn’t it ever “the next big thing?”

Maybe because the advertising itself didn’t work. And here’s why:

Even though the Bone Fone never really took off, it is perhaps one of the most thoughtful yet desperate advertisements in the history of marketing (hence why the product itself failed.) Thankfully, we don’t have to try so hard these days to attract consumers, with the internet expanding our reach farther than a newspaper ad ever could. But should you be tempted to write a sappy, ridiculous advertisement that borders on crazy, here’s some Bone Fone inspiration:

Ambiguous Headlines: If you want your consumer to know absolutely nothing about what you’re talking about, try luring them in with subtitles like, ‘Around You’, ‘Inner Ear Bones’, ‘Ski Invention’ and dare we mention, ‘Built to Take It.’

A Million Possible Examples:  Try drilling your consumers with the same explanation of what your product does, worded differently at least a dozen times. This is sure to really indulge them, because no one wants to hear about, “the sensation of standing in front of a powerful stereo system,” just once…

Demonstrate User Diversity: To prove that your product is for absolutely everyone, mention every single kind of person you can think of. Talk about cyclists, joggers, roller skaters, sports fans, golfers – and don’t forget the housewives and executives.

And now, without further adieu, enjoy what can certainly be considered some of the worst advertising this world has ever seen.