Ten of the Creepiest TV Adverts

Do you harbour an interest in the weird, creepy and occasionally wonderful? Then this is a feature for you. Guerillascope has selected ten TV advertising campaigns to chill the bones and produce the shivers. Some are absurd, others are downright creepy. There's even the odd laugh - a welcomed outlet for those nerves.

Phones 4 U - Missing Our Deals Will Haunt You

When this commercial was released at the start of the decade, response to it was so strong it became the subject of an ASA ruling for being too scary. Haters, of course, should have known what was about to unfold: a woman walks through a shadowy car park with a quiet, dread-laden soundtrack in tow and winds up facing a car window with just enough space for a phantom head to appear. A phantom head then appears. Here’s where you grab a cushion. But alas, one cannot deny that a little ghost girl is kind of unnecessarily cruel: Phones4U knew full well that little ghost girls have a particularly terrifying effect on the human psyche, and they went with it anyway. Shame on you, Phones4U.

Cravendale – Hint Of…

There’s something palpably disconcerting about the thought of being haunted by a herd of red cows – though admittedly, it’s probably not a fear that has manifested unless you’ve seen this campaign. That a brand can claim to have created a new kind of terror is one hell of a string to have in your bow, but the key reason for the ad’s effectiveness is its celebration of traditional horror conventions: creeping, building soundtrack; gloomy, misted environment, close-up camera shots and mirrors and windows… lots of mirrors and windows. Too many mirrors and windows.

Direct TV – Monsters at Christmas

Did Direct TV miss the memo? At Christmas we like to have our senses surrounded by nice things. A tipple of sherry. A pig in a blanket. The smell of pine trees. The sight of twinkling fairy lights in a light snow fall. The sound of Chris Rea telling us he’s coming home. What we don’t enjoy is a smorgasbord of cinema’s scariest, most nefarious monsters frolicking to the soundtrack of ‘Holy Night’ amid a scene reminiscent of the Sound of Music. The dreamlike sequence of events creates a paradox that isn’t easily ejected from the mind, even if Messrs Lecter and Kruger are on their best behaviour.

Dulux - Repel

Banned in Australia (really?), who knew that Dulux could turn its range of paints into the focus of a campaign that brings fear and humour in equally charitable spades? Woken in the dead of night by a stomach churning bout of disembodied singing, the man of the house intrepidly skulks down the stairs, through the shadows and, oh good lord, there’s a Victorian ghost woman. Delivering a scare and subsequent chase scene unrivalled in most feature-length horror films, the brand then completely subverts the vibe to produce a laugh of top British slapstick quality. That’s how to take viewers through the emotional mill in 30-seconds.

Axe – Horror Thriller

As soon as we’re confronted by the shot of a large house stood vulnerably in the night air, we know what’s going to happen. We’ve all seen a Slasher flick. We know someone – or something – is going to be watching a lone girl through a window. We know the phone is going to ring, and we know the girl will be interrupted by the masked monster. Screams will ensue. So far, pretty scary – but predictable. Then, trapped in the bathroom with the mutated fiend doing his best Shining impression, the victim sprays him with Axe. Personally, I would have gone for bleach, but then Axe does have the peculiar power to transform even aberrations from the deepest, darkest realms of the imagination into objects of desire.

Irn Bru – Different

It’s 1993. You’re tucked up on the sofa with a cup of tea, tuning into that week’s Generation Game. All is well with the world. The latest Irn Bru TV ad appears in the commercial break, everybody is content. Now, here’s generally how the next 30-seconds unfold: “Ah, isn’t this cute, if not a little dull, loads of kids playing in a nursery. Wait, where’s that camera going… Looks a little dar WHAT THE… STOP IT.” This TV campaign lulls you into a false sense of security before going for the jugular with a sudden and completely unforeseen turn towards the dark side. Demon children, over-saturated colour and a soundtrack that gnaws to the very core of your soul combine to ruin that contentment for all of eternity.

Tango  - Scotsman

So, there’s this man standing in the street, enjoying a can of Tango. Said man suddenly receives something to the back of his head. Confused, he turns around to see a small, disembodied foot on the ground. That’s weird enough right? Except, it gets weirder; this foot is orange and webbed. And it gets weirder still. You see, following the discovery of this foot, an orange man pops out of a bin, sporting a blue Afro, a kilt and a mouthful of teeth large enough to bite through steel. He charges at the bewildered man with no legs… Yes, he has no legs… and eyeballs him with an expression usually reserved for fights to the death. He then hops away with his foot, leaving the man in a state of utter bewilderment – a feeling shared by every TV viewer who just witnessed this television campaign from 1993.

Remco – Baby Laugh A Lot

Dolls can be terrifying at the best of times, but laughing dolls – particularly laughing dolls with a cackle one would be expected to unleash having just become Lord of the Universe – are another thing altogether. Couple that with possessed little girls and you have a TV advertising campaign fit to induce a panic attack. Remco’s unbelievably creepy ad from the 1970s is a paint-by-numbers example of how to give both children and adults nightmares for weeks; it’s a wonder to think that any of these dolls were sold at all.

Sprite – Sublymonal

Attempting to work out just what exactly is going on in this 75-second clip would be like trying to crack the Enigma code without any mechanical aid. It seems to be based on some kind of night-time raid, but that’s where all logic ends. Suddenly TV viewers are exposed to men with dwarfism bombing into swimming pools, giant frogs eating giant green lizards and a shadowy team of paintball gun-toting people in masks shooting a man dressed up as a tongue. We assume it has something to do with the taste of Sprite, but it’s all so surreal we can’t be sure. Sprite’s ode to the bizarre remains open for interpretation.

PS3 – Baby

Look into the eyes of that doll. What do you see? We’ll wager it’s evil. PS3’s TV advertising campaign from the 00s takes a symbol of youth and innocence, rids it of all contexts, and warps it into something deeply unsettling. Placed alone in a minimal white room with only a PS3 for company, the doll is brainwashed and manipulated to perform unusual tasks. It begins to cry, before an altogether more menacing mindset takes over. Flames flicker in its wide, bulging eyes as the device takes it ‘beyond’ the natural into a dark place unknown to the TV viewer. There’s no music; no voiceover; nothing except a room and two supposedly inanimate objects, except that isn’t true at all, is it. A force beyond human understanding tears away at the innocence, replacing it with something we can only guess at and fester on. A truly creepy TV advertising campaign.