Scare Tactics

Tis’ the season to get a little spooky. Celebrating Halloween is becoming more and more popular in the UK with statistics showing retail spend on the holiday creeping up slowly and surely. In 2015, it hit £295m. Then up to £310m in 2016, and then, like a surge of zombies, up to £400m last year. This year, they estimate we’ll spend £419m on trick-or-treat confectionary, haunted decorations, gruesome fancy dress and other boo-stacular items. It’s not Christmas, but its getting eerily close…

Scared Off the Air

And with popular holidays comes festive marketing. Whilst popular Yuletide John Lewis ads warm hearts to resonate with consumers, using scare tactics to capitalise on All Hallows Eve has not been met with the same success. This year, both Spotify and Giffgaff received considerable heat for their spooky spots, eventually pulling them for being too scary and, in some ways, offensive.

Giffgaff pulled its 2018 Halloween ad for its negative portrayal of adoption. Click here to watch the video and read more on Creativity.
Spotify’s Killer Song Advertisement was cancelled for being too scary for young viewers. Watch the ad here and read more about it on NPR.

People love a fright, so is there a way to say boo without offending or traumatising consumers? Are these brands completely off the mark or is the criticism a bit too worthy and too sensitive? Could these brands have used the ‘too terror-filled to be shown on television’ to their advantage on other platforms?

This is Halloween

If anything, Halloween is a time to push the limits; to play, to be creative and to tell stories. A time to scare ourselves and laugh at ourselves. It is never right to blatantly be offensive, but ultimately, the consumers for these brands are adults. Cognizant enough to realise that these advertisements were all in good fun for the holiday. Fair enough, it may not be appropriate to run them during children’s programming, but they may be just the thing for consumers looking for something different, something fun, something to scare them out of the humdrum of boring and expected marketing.

Dusting off the Cobwebs

As a final treat, here’s Giffgaff’s Halloween Spot from 2014 which cleverly hits the right note between frightening and humorous.


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