Halloween grants advertisers license to push the boundaries of what constitutes ‘comfortable’ viewing. It’s an occasion to revel in the darker side, so without further ado, let’s celebrate (or denounce) twelve adverts that scare, unsettle and mesmerise.
Everything about this Baby Laugh-a-Lot ad is horrendous. The maniacal doll itself; the wide-eyed, possessed reactions of the child actors; and that damn narrator, revelling in the nightmare with a menace that is unlikely to succeed in driving sales…
Just look at that thing – who wouldn’t wheel away in horror? The worst you ordinarily expect in the middle of a supermarket is a screaming, snotty child; the fact that a silent, extremely well-behaved one emerges from the bowels of the figure with no explanation merely dials up the creepiness factor.
Grainy black and white footage; surreal visuals; and the pièce de résistance: creepy-as-hell clowns. This unholy trinity combines to deliver a vintage TV advert that to this day leaves you feeling slightly weird about dog kennels and toasted rice cereals.
‘What’s going on here, then?’ is the question you ask yourself as a family returns from their holiday to noise in their home. The answer is appalling: seven-foot rats shredding on guitars. The biggest surprise, however, is that the family didn’t immediately leg it, screaming and crying.
Playing on classic horror conventions such as a dark, misty forest, jump scares and a masked chainsaw-wielding maniac, Nike foisted an unexpected dose of white-knuckle suspense on viewers with this commercial.
Fact: child ghosts are the scariest ghosts. Fact: child ghosts appearing behind you in a reflection are coronary-inducing. Fact: after seeing this ad, multi-story (the fact I initially wrote multi-scary tells you everything) car-parks have never felt quite so safe since.
Cows shouldn’t be scary. Yet, when you paint them red, have them stalk you and add threatening music to the whole thing, they suddenly transform into creepy demons from the pits of hell. Who would want to drink milk after seeing this?
Haunted houses; that innate fear of the place that’s supposedly your sanctuary being desecrated by supernatural identities you cannot control. Dulux makes it dark, edgy and full of suspense – before breaking it all up with a brilliant bit of humour. Still, the ad was unsurprisingly banned in some countries.
This is terrifying. WHAT’S UNDER THE HAIR? You’re sat there waiting; waiting for the crescendo when this horrible Ringu-esque figure shows its face – which turns out to be that of a monkey. Aye? We’re then told to drink Gainomax or else. I’m the brand’s biggest customer.
Whoever thought up the idea for this ad is an absolute git. That’s all I have to say.
The advert itself is pretty horrifying, with nightmarish creatures manifesting amid normal everyday scenes and activities. But the message behind it is its equal: in the innocent eyes of a young child, intoxicated parents can destroy fragile worlds built on love and trust.
When David Lynch takes the directorial reins of something, all bets are off. This is starkly evident in PS2’s Welcome to the Third Space, a kaleidoscopic alternate reality nestled within an advertisement. It unsettles, mesmerises and surprises in equal measure. A classic.