If you think targeting kids with ads for unhealthy food is something new, you are sadly mistaken.
Advertisers have had the impressionable minds and bellies of children in their crosshairs for decades, and what better time to hawk sugary junk than during Halloween—the one phase of the year where shamelessly binge-eating candy is not only tolerated, but widely encouraged?
Much like Easter and Christmas, Halloween bears little resemblance to its origins, and has also become a high-glucose consumer orgy that benefits advertisers and Big Candy far more than it does children's pancreases.
So, in that spirit, let's take a look at the Halloween ads of yesteryear to see what corporations will resort to when it comes to peddling junk food.
Hostess Sno-Balls—1958 Let's start off with the 1950s, when televisions were first widely introduced into American households. In a primordial form of branded content, children's show Howdy Doody invites a very creepy man-child-clown on to show his loot, which, as fate of would have it, consists entirely of Hostess Sno-Balls. Host Buffalo Bob rather aggressively tells his viewers to tell their moms to buy Hostess Sno-Balls in the most blatant form of child brainwashing imaginable.
Burger Chef—Date Unknown Fortunately (or unfortunately), advertising got a little sleeker in subsequent decades. Also, fast food companies began realising that they, too, could capitalise on children's Halloween indulgences. So instead of clowns and cowboys breaking the fourth wall and telling youngsters what to buy, advertisers began using cartoons werewolves to sell cheeseburgers.
Hershey's—1981 Apparently, kids used to say stuff like, "Why so glum, chum?" Also apparently, they were also really easily fooled by costumes.
No Jelly Chocolate Bar—1985 Any video that begins with horror movie legend (and great chef) Vincent Price talking about "mankind and his offspring" is going to be great. This ad for a revolutionary chocolate bar that had peanut butter—but shockingly, no jelly!—proves this point. Enjoy.
Chips Ahoy! Mystery Theater—1985 1985 must have been a rough year for Vincent Price financially, because he also lent his haunting, perfectly enunciated voice to a spooky Chips Ahoy! ad, wherein a young girl declares, "I confess! I did it. And I'll do it again." Creepy indeed.
Pizza Hut's Pizza Head Show—1996 Having a slice of pizza dressed like a pirate telling scary stories with a very high-pitched voice could be either really scary or really funny. Sadly, it is neither.
Ronald—FOREVER What would a list of ads targeting children be without the honorary mention of Ronald McDonald, the original peddler of edible crack? Not only is Ronald the OG here, but seeing a struggling actor wear this costume around children is truly scary.
Happy Halloween, friends. We hope that while you rot your teeth out with peanut butter cups and fruit jellies this weekend, then attempt to cure your hangovers with super-sized French fries and bacon-and-egg sandwiches, you think of how far advertisers have come to make sure you ate yourself sick this weekend.