To stand out in a crowded media environment, many companies are trying ad formats and concepts dramatically different from a more conventional 30-second brand promotion. The latest effort along those lines comes from candy maker Skittles, which has rolled out a “Bite Size Horror” commercial ahead of Halloween.
The commercial premiered during FS1’s broadcast of Game 5 of the Yankees-Indians ALDS Wednesday, and its only direct connections to Skittles are a brief “Skittles presents” slide at the start and a “Happy Halloween” one with Skittles and other Wrigley Company products at the end. The rest of it? It’s a two-minute horror movie:
— LoLa (@lolalissaa) October 12, 2017
(If you’re unable to watch or uninterested in watching the clip, it shows a woman in an elevator that stops descending between floors, and once the doors open, a man who repeatedly says “I need your help” and mimicks her movements. He then tells her to turn around, beats her back to the elevator and apologizes before leaving. The spot then ends with another man showing up and the woman saying “I need your help.”)
[Update; commenter Philip Rossman-Reich notes that a similar “Bite-Size Horror” ad for M&Ms, with a different creepy two-minute film, premiered on the NFL on Fox this weekend. M&Ms are made by Skittles/Wrigley parent corporation Mars, Incorporated. So this idea may be a wider ad campaign across their products, and across Fox properties. Original post follows.]
This format- and expectations-bending ad provoked a whole lot of Twitter chatter, with many saying they were creeped out:
I did NOT need that Halloween ad, commercial programmer during Yankees-Indians guy…..
— Kevin Seifert (@SeifertESPN) October 12, 2017
I'm still wondering what that ad had to do with candy.
— Collin Kottke (@CollinKottke) October 12, 2017
I don't know, but I am easily freaked out and right now I AM FREAKING OUT https://t.co/O851Hg5ZeG
— Kevin Seifert (@SeifertESPN) October 12, 2017
Are they trying to tell you that's what happens if you EAT THAT CANDY?
'Cuz I'll quit right now. https://t.co/QmT2gEaoV8
— Stephania Bell (@Stephania_ESPN) October 12, 2017
Dude that commercial was creepy as hell. If Skittles weren’t absolutely delicious I’d never buy them ever again.
— RunTheBases (@RunTheBasesMLB) October 12, 2017
Kids are never gonna eat candy again after that commercial @Skittles ?
— Tim Rosen (@tjrosend) October 12, 2017
Haven't seen anything as creepy as that #skittles commercial in a long long time. Maybe since that girl crawled out of the well in The Ring.
— Pat Fiscus (@PatFiscus) October 12, 2017
So is Skittles now the official candy of scaring the shit out of people or…
— Scary (Seasonal) Cat (@tcopain) October 12, 2017
Not sure what will give me more nightmares a Yankee loss or the Skittles commercial WTF
— Jennifer Dravecky (@JMDravecky) October 12, 2017
— Melanie Schmitz (@MelsLien) October 12, 2017
But some people loved it:
Damn. That Skittles commercial was better than most movies this year.
— Harry Yeprem Jr (@HarryFromCBus) October 12, 2017
That Skittles commercial was better than 90% of the horror movies on Netflix.
— Matt Thompson (@MattyT_6) October 12, 2017
In any case, it was definitely an ad very different in running time (a full two minutes, or four 30-second spots), concept (a full-on story) and brand connection (no actual Skittles in the commercial, just shots before and after) than a lot of what we usually see. And there’s definitely some merit to that; it sparked much more social media discussion than your typical ad (being unveiled during an ALDS game with a prime matchup probably didn’t hurt there, but the majority of the commercials here have been pretty standard and haven’t sparked a lot of buzz), and it got people’s attention.
Skittles also made some smart choices in how far to go. While this was very much frightening and suspenseful, there wasn’t any violence, gore, or even necessarily death (depending on how you view what happens to the trapped person) depicted. However, some elements of this can be questioned, especially with the recurring focus on the shoes making some think they were what was being sold:
Yeah when they zoomed in on her shoes I thought it was a Sketchers commercial or something but it kept going so I was like wuuttt
— Yankees Insight (@AllNYYTweets) October 12, 2017
And that maybe speaks to another potential peril here. If you were paying rapt attention to your TV throughout, this made sense; the slide at the start explains it’s a Skittles-presented short horror film, and the slide at the end provides more information. But that’s not how many watch TV, especially when it comes to commercials. Those looking at phones or tablets when the commercial started, or getting up to leave the room, or anything else, may well have missed the context provided in the intro and been quite confused.
That confusion isn’t necessarily all bad, as it maybe further adds some searches and buzz as people try to figure out what happened. And there’s also always the option to rewind for those who have that in their TV package. But still, the amount of context needed here for the (presumably) desired effect is worth considering. And not every viewer is going to have that context.
In any case, this is certainly an innovative approach. And it fits with some other things we’ve seen, such as T-Mobile’s “unlimited baseball” commercial-free commercial breaks (on both national and regional broadcasts) and Turner’s single-sponsor Superpod ad and content breaks. And Skittles has opted for some very different videos in the past, including Chrissy Teigen and a Skittles waterfall. It’s worth noting that they’ve long been a sports-associated brand, too, doing videos with Marshawn Lynch, Luke Kuechly, DeMarcus Ware and more. Here are some of those:
So this is just the latest departure from the norm for Skittles. And it makes sense to try some different commercial formats to see what gains traction; the jury’s out on if this one got the result they wanted, though. We’ll see what they do next.
[LoLa on Twitter]