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They're Here!: The 14 Creepiest, Funniest, Best Halloween Ads Ever

As Halloween approaches, here’s a look at some of the creepiest ads ever—the ones that could be short horror films with product placement.

  • 01 /22 | Nightmares Fear Factory

    This entry is less about being scary than depicting the hilarity of other people’s terror while also showcasing the scares to be had via the attraction advertised. The Nightmares Fear Factory in Niagara Falls made a big splash last year when it began posting images of its patrons at a particularly terrifying moment in the haunted house experience. The images of everyone from little girls to frat bros to fun dads screaming their heads off went massively viral, and made a welcome return this year.

  • 02 /22 | Nightmares Fear Factory
  • 03 /22 | Nightmares Fear Factory
  • 04 /22 | Nightmares Fear Factory
  • 05 /22 | Nightmares Fear Factory
  • 06 /22 | Dirt Devil "The Exorcist"

    German director Andreas Roth turned a commercial for Dirt Devil into a heavily atmospheric tribute to The Exorcist, in this entry featured in the Saatchi & Saatchi New Director’s Showcase.

  • 07 /22 | Guinness "Vampire"

    It might take a moment to even see what is up with the ad on the left--just think about what vampires are missing, though, and you’ve got it. Showing the undead enjoying your product is one way to make a statement, but showing that your product itself is undead is just a little bit gangster.

  • 08 /22 | Snickers "Halloween Grocery Store Lady"

    This ad goes to show you that all you really need to inject deep fears into a viewer’s heart is a truly ghastly mask and a leopard print housecoat. Created by BBDO New York, the ad doesn’t necessarily make sense, but it does leave an indelible impression. You will remember it longer than it takes to get the nougat out of your teeth.

  • 09 /22 | Snickers "Horseless Headsman"

    Another gem from BBDO, not only does the "Horseless Headsman" ad strike the right balance between spooky and silly, it also builds on the brand’s recent ad premise of "You’re not yourself when you’re hungry."

  • 10 /22 | Snickers "It's What You Would Want"

    An older print campaign from TBWA\Chiat\Day takes up the unsettling, but clever concept that Snickers is what you would give yourself, by featuring a series of Halloween exchanges between people and their mini-me’s. Darkly, deliciously funny.

  • 11 /22 | Snickers "It's What You Would Want"
  • 12 /22 | Snickers "It's What You Would Want"
  • 13 /22 | Heart & Stroke Foundation "The Undeading"

    In order to show that CPR can bring you back to life, Toronto’s Agency59 created an ad that showed how zombies also have an interest in bringing people back to life… for reasons that may not be entirely benevolent. The ad was created for the Heart & Stroke Foundation campaign promoting two-hands CPR. It’s not really a Halloween ad in the purest sense, but it was a welcome seasonal treat.

  • 14 /22 | REI "Zombie Survival Guide"

    Outdoor clothing and gear retailer REI made a zombie survival guide that seems to take a page out of the book World War Z in its realism. If the zombie apocalypse were upon us, these measures might actually be useful. Let’s hope we never have to find out.

  • 15 /22
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  • 17 /22 | Fragile Childhood "Monsters"

    Children’s welfare organization Fragile Childhood had a disturbing PSA earlier this fall, simply called "Monsters." Created by agency Euro RSCG Helsinki, the ad didn’t wait until Halloween to show how ghoulish parents who drink might come across to their kids.

  • 18 /22 | Agent Provocateur "Soiree"

    This NSFW ad for the lingerie brand shows what happens at the intersection between scantily clad home intruders, speed metal, and boobs. Directed by Justin Anderson for Epoch Films, the sexy ad has a tense Funny Games-ish vibe.

  • 19 /22 | Halloween II "Mockbook"

    When Rob Zombie’s Halloween II was in theaters back in 2009, one of the film’s biggest scares came straight from your laptop: a series of banner ads in which series villain Michael Myers interrupts a fake version of one of the popular ads of the time to wreak havoc.

  • 20 /22 | "Take This Lollipop"

    Jason Zada’s wildly popular Cannes Gold Lion winner, which you can read about here, used Facebook Connect in a way that has since become copied a lot (even by the director himself). "Take This Lollipop" was a Halloween surprise in 2011 that let users know how exposed they could be thanks to social media. Truly chilling.

  • 21 /22 | Doritos "Hotel 626"

    Created by Goodby Silverstein & Partners, Doritos’ groundbreaking Hotel 626 promotion helped the brand revive two flavors during Halloween by plugging teenagers into a terrifying nighttime-only online experience. In the game’s scenario, players were trapped in a hotel with some morbid challenges they could only escape using their webcam, microphone, and cell phone.

  • 22 /22 | Community

    NBC’s Community may be on hiatus, but that didn’t stop the crew at NBC from creating an interactive, customizable Halloween game for the show to serve as a treat for fans to tide them over until whenever the show returns.

Most commercials either go for the funny bone or go for the heart. Every now and then, though, some of them go for the jugular.

These ads always emerge right around Halloween—as though re-animated by some Madison Avenue Dr. Frankenstein. While most seasonal advertising can be as cloying as a bag full of fun-size candy bars, the best ads test the limits of how unsettling you can get while still selling something.

It’s a tricky tone to nail down. You have to include horror movie flourishes, at least show the product, often in a less traditional light, and then, in some cases, finish with some kind of humor to defuse the tension created. That’s a tall order. Year after year, though, there are many valiant attempts, and a cloven hoof-full of winners.

Have a look through the slide show above to see our picks for the best Halloween ads ever.