Halloween always brings out the creativity in people, although sometimes in very bad, easily avoidable ways. This is no different for brands, who take to social media and offer takes on familiar memes and hashtags with a ~spooky~ twist.
In the 1990s, however, the hot way for a brand to connect with its target demo was via television commercial. That meant weird Halloween ads a-plenty, offering everything to blood-chilling vacation getaways to spine-tingling chances to win books and food. Let's watch some and relive the spooky 1990s through Halloween-themed commercials, shall we?
1. Elvira wants to party with you at the house from Psycho for Mug root beer
Elvira is a character that's beyond explanation: a local TV midnight movie host with a cult following who becomes a national celebrity? Huh? Anyway, in 1990, Mug root beer was offering the chance to win a trip to Universal Studios where you could (presumably) hang out with Elvira and party in the Bates Motel. Weirdly, the year before, Elvira and Universal Studios teamed with Slice, another soda brand, on the exact same contest. Even weirder? Bud Lite did the same contest in 1988, except offering the (very incongruous) chance to hang out with Spuds Mackenzie at Universal Studios. Spooky!
2. Ronald McDonald does a Dracula impression with some McNugget puppets
There's something very don't-care.gif about making a Halloween commercial about the fact that your restaurant chain offers multiple types of sauce. But hey! It's McDonalds, and it was the 1990s, and at that point, they could really do no wrong.
Also: Isn't it weird that the McNuggets are the ones creating the sauces in their lab? Aren't those the same sauces that will later be used to consume them? Lots of ethical issues going on here.
3. Frankenstein's Monster hates his wife (but loves Pepsi and Doritos!)
In 1991, Pepsi and Doritos held a contest called the Monster Match. You could win $1 million dollars (over a 20-year period) if you found the right matching game pieces. How did the junk food companies choose to advertise this? With a nagging wife, of course! We see Frankenstein's Monster, who reads Variety, is nagged by an unseen woman about vacations, and never listens. When Frank, as he is called, finds the winning game pieces, he gets up and leaves, howling something on his way out, abandoning his wife forever(?) That's one way to sells pop and chips!
4. Empire Carpet offers a monster of a sale
Is your carpet haunted? Can carpet be haunted? It doesn't matter in this ad for the iconic Empire Carpet line. This late 1990s entry offers a bunch of silly lines about "savings to die for" and "being haunted by old carpeting," even though surely no one has ever felt haunted by carpet.
Haunted carpet: probably written down on a dartboard in Stephen King's office. You can call it 5-8-8, 2-300, You'll Die!, Stephen.
5. Zima wants you to, uh, drink a Zima with some ghosts?
Zima! Perfect for all your "spooks and spirits" because liquor puns! This commercial is extremely strange. There is no structure to it, and it feels interminably long at 30 seconds. The pitchman's vocal cadence is weirdly relaxed and he's wearing a strange hat. None of it makes sense. The tagline for Zima was "Zomething Different" and, for this commercial at least, they were onto something there.
6. Cap'n Crunch saves children from zombies through the power of peanut butter
"When there's no more room in hell, the dead shall walk the Earth, demanding sugary cereals that can get impacted in their decaying teeth," or so goes the saying that inspired this goofy Peanut Butter Crunch commercial that sees Cap'n Crunch driving a car (flagrantly against brand canon) to deliver extra boxes of PBC to a couple of kids dealing with a zombie invasion. Best episode of The Walking Dead in a while.
Happy Halloween, everyone! Good luck to all the brands out there.
David Matthews operates the Wayback Machine on Fusion.net—hop on. Got a tip? Email him: firstname.lastname@example.org