Scariest Ads of 2016

Jennifer Barker

Business Development Strategist

Giving people hellish nightmares is one way to win some attention. Ads that go viral are known to possess a few qualities, such as the ability to tap into human emotion, tell a story and leave a lasting imprint. For some brands, they achieve this by scaring the pants off their viewers - or at least leaving them with a “What did I just watch?” feeling. While it might not be the first approach I would recommend, I can see where it might work.

In celebration of Halloween, I’ve compiled a list of some of the scariest, strangest, weirdest and freakiest ads from 2016. For more creepy marketing campaigns, check out Halloween-themed post from last year!

Continue at your own risk…

Mountain Dew Kickstart: Puppy Monkey Baby

This ad was shown during the Super Bowl, and boy did it leave people talking! Three guys in their 20s are sitting on the couch, preparing to “just chill” for the evening. In comes Puppy Monkey Baby - diaper, hairy arms and all.

As the ad progresses, Puppy Monkey Baby gets on the table and dances with a bucket of Mountain Dew Kickstart. Before walking out the door, he gives one of the guys a few licks. Pretty gross. Now the guys are up and ready to have some fun thanks to Kickstart.

As strange as the ad may look, it has its purpose. Kickstart is a combination of three great things (Dew, juice and caffeine) - just like Puppy Monkey Baby. Let’s just hope it tastes a lot better than Puppy Monkey Baby looks. Of course, if you like this sort of thing, you can pick up your own Puppy Monkey Baby merchandise here.

Doritos: Ultrasound

Another Super Bowl hit, this ad teders between hysterically funny and oddly unsettling. The ad starts off sweetly, with a young couple having an ultrasound on their wee little one. Dad’s off to the side, chomping away on a bag of Doritos when Mom gets angry. But as we see in the ultrasound, baby is trying to reach for the Doritos. 

Things get carried away (and here’s where things get a little weird) and out comes baby. Fortunately, Doritos spared us the details, but it’s enough to scare some of us into waiting to reproduce.

NHTSA: Man in the Mirror

This commercial is more of a psychological thriller. While not as scary as its original bar mirror that shattered and featured blood, this ad certainly gets right to the point: you can’t trust yourself when you drink.

While the commercial sends an excellent message, NHTSA isn’t afraid of giving viewers lasting shock value. Many commercials of these sorts are emotional, but let’s be honest, no one is thinking about getting in the car and killing someone after a night of drinking. Drunk drivers get on the road because they believe they’re fine. This ad puts that theory to shame.

Snickers: Marilyn

This scary-funny ad for Snickers probably won’t leave you frightened in a traditional sense - but you might have a few nightmares about what America’s Sweetheart could have looked like when she was hungry.

Snickers has been known to push the boundaries when it comes to depicting people hungry - and thankfully - a Snickers bar can cure all of them. Such is the case with Marilyn Monroe in this Super Bowl ad.

Willem Dafoe stars in the commercial, dressed up in a white dress and pearl earrings. When Marilyn is hungry, she turns into a cranky and hungry Dafoe - that is - until she gets her Snickers Bar. Aside from some hairy leg action, this commercial shouldn’t leave you with too many nightmares.

NFL: Seal and Baby Choir

Some say this is one of the best NFL commercials; some say it’s one of the worst. I’m not here to judge, but I do agree that there is something creepy about the whole arrangement.

The idea the NFL has is that Super Bowl victories result in lots of love in the champion city - and the babies to prove it nine months later.

Viewers aren’t sure what makes the commercial so unsettling. Is it the fact that we’re thinking about strangers’ parents doing you-know-what, or that strangers are singing about their parents doing you-know-what? Or could it be that everyone is singing to Seal’s Kiss from a Rose?

No one’s exactly sure, but we can all agree the ad thankfully lands on a cute note with the 2014 Super Bowl babies. Thank heavens for babies!

So that’s our collection of scary-disturbing-weird-freaky ads from this year. What are your favorites?

About the Author: Jennifer Barker

Jen is the Business Development Strategist for SEMGeeks and the only team member born and raised north of the Jersey great divide, i.e. the Driscoll Bridge. Her BFA in multimedia design and extensive experience in digital marketing make her both an analytical and creative thinker. Jen has lived and worked for digital agencies in two major cities over the last 17 years but 3 years ago this “gypsy living, free bird” happily put her roots down at the Jersey Shore. The struggle to defend North Jersey to the rest of the team is an ongoing battle. #TaylorHam

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