Halloween special: Top five scariest TV ads

Rushing home tonight to watch a scary movie? With these kind of ad campaigns on the loose, you might not have to press play

It’s a scene straight out of the movies. A woman walks through a multi-storey car park to her vehicle. The lonely space practically screams “something bad is about to happen!” A deathly blue glow appears in the woman’s peripheral vision.

Our heroine is followed by an intermittently appearing ghost. A little girl, pale with long wet, black hair and dead eyes puts her cold little hand up to the woman’s car window. What’s in her hand? A knife? An old photograph featuring our starlet in eighteenth century dress?

No… she’s got a smart phone.

It’s the latest television campaign to cause a storm at the Advertising Standards Authority. The offending advert consists of two separate TV slots for Phones4u, which received 185 complaints within their first week.

Too scary for TV?

The concerned members of the public objected that the Phones4u adverts were unduly scary and not only unsuitable for children, but rather frightful for adults too.

“Advertising with impact will always generate a debate,” says Caspar Nelson, head of brand communications at Phone4u. “When you look at the reach and frequency of our ‘Missing Our Deals Will Haunt You’ campaign, the amount of negative feedback it’s received is barely a drop in the ocean.”

Seems the ad team at Phones4u are quite happy to accept a little light criticism in the face of wider spread approval. Given that their viral video is approaching 600,000 views on YouTube, who could blame them?

We asked our advertising columnist Steve Henry what he thought of all the petrifying palaver: “I’ve always been frustrated that ads have much heavier restrictions on them than on the TV programmes that they sit in. Ads should always push boundaries and be as entertaining as anything else we watch on the box.”

Henry did however disagree with the campaign’s tag line, “Missing Our Deals Will Haunt You”. He told us that persuading people that they will regret not buying your product is unfair: “I don’t believe in the element of emotional blackmail that they are using. But, saying that, I applaud taking creative risks – it doesn’t happen often enough in advertising.”

Do you agree? Is the ad taking the kind of risks we need on our screens? Or is it just gratuitously gruesome? Leave your comments at the bottom.

This ad is not the first to be banned for being too scary and it certainly won’t be the last. So we thought we’d scour the world wide web for some of advertising’s finest scare fests.

Our top five scary ads this Halloween:

1.   Phones4u - Missing our deals will haunt you

With all that talk of a ban we had to include the mobile provider’s spine-chilling sequence.   

Missing Our Deals Will Haunt You - Phones 4u

2. Dulux - Repel

This petrifying paint fest was banned in several countries. Who knew paint could be so scary?

Dulux - Repel

3. Nike - Running

I’m not sure there’s a better tag line out there, “Why sport? You’ll live longer”. This terrifying mini slasher movie is enough to send anyone down to their local Nike Store.

Nike - Running

4. Gainomax - Scary Monkey

The TV ad titled was done by Saatchi & Saatchi Stockholm advertising agency in Sweden. Anyone who remembers The Grudge will be hiding behind their sofas while watching this ad for Gainomax energy drink

Gainomax - scary monkey

5. Department of Energy and Climate Change - Bedtime Story

Okay so this isn’t your typical terror inducing clip but we thought it deserved mention. This government ad was investigated by Watchdogs following complaints from 357 people worried that it was simply too scary for children. A scare too far at bedtime?

Climate Change Ad


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