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Dracula’s castle parties, scary clowns and robot doors: Top 10 Halloween ads for a locked-down year

Parties and trick or treating may be on hiatus this Halloween due to Covid, but that hasn’t stopped brands coming up with inventive marketing campaigns. We look at the top 10 contact-free ads for Halloween 2020 from around the world.

Dracula castle virtual parties, scary clowns and robot doors: Top 10 Halloween ads for a locked-down year

Burger King scares McDonalds customers with ‘Cancelled Clown’ mirror prank

Back to its old tricks, in restrooms across Scandinavia, Burger King is playing a Halloween stunt on its rival, McDonald’s. Burger King installed voice-recognition software in the restrooms of select restaurants in Sweden and Denmark. If it detects the phrase “canceled clown” repeated three times, it dims the lights and causes a vision of McDonald’s mascot Ronald McDonald to appear in the two-way smart mirror. The Halloween campaign, created by Swedish agency Ingo Stockholm, plays on the “Bloody Mary” urban legend, and is one of many instances of marketing in which Burger King has featured its fast-food rival.

Mars creates horror movie for cats

Agency adam&eveDDB, the team behind the John Lewis Christmas ad, created this sweet little tale for Mars’ Temptations cat treats this Halloween. In the middle of an ambitious multi-media/social effort is ‘Scaredy Cat,’ billed as the world’s first horror movie for cats (who clearly don’t like vegetables.) Production by BlinkInk, animation by Zombie Studio. Involving 100 people people toiling away for 14 weeks to create, among other things, a miniature set with 400 handcrafted props. Plus the Waltham Petcare Science Institute – no less – to create sound frequencies to capture cats’ attention, so they watch it too. Better be good then. Temptations is also launching a Creepy Catnip flavour, as you do. There are also some striking movie-style posters.

Skittles ‘rotten candy’ keeps people at a distance

Skittles is giving away Zombie Skittles Halloween costumes that emit a ‘rotten’ smell to keep people six feet away. Zombie Skittles, which debuted last year, include a few ‘rotten’ Skittles in the bag for a gross-out moment. To celebrate their return, the brand is giving away six-foot-wide Zombie Skittles costumes — with a twist. They each come outfitted with a wrist button that releases a rotten smell designed to keep people six feet away. Fans interested in winning can enter at DareTheRainbow.com from October 19 to October 23. There’s only a limited number available and winners will be selected at random on October 26. The costumes will be shipped directly to winners’ homes just in time for All Hallows Eve on October 31st

Samsung smart home gets haunted

Samsung Electronics created a show stopping themed display to demonstrate the connective power of Samsung SmartThings technology. Samsung created the ultimate SmartThings display as 49% are considering using this technology to elevate their own homes this year. Top tech cited by Brits to upgrade the Halloween experience at home include smart lighting (40%), smart speakers (39%) to create spooky playlists, and smart cameras (31%) to watch out for trick or treaters. In addition, over two thirds (70%) of British adults said Zoom video calls will be integral to their Halloween plans, allowing them to connect virtually with their nearest and dearest. Samsung have also released a video guide on how to replicate some of the effects seen in the film using SmartThings technology at home. The handy ‘how to’ guide illustrates how music & sound effects, smoke and lighting can all be triggered using the app to create a next level Halloween at home experience.

Desperados streams Halloween party from Dracula’s Castle

Teaming up with Desperados, elrow will be streaming Horrorween from Bran Castle – the Romanian ruins often cited as the inspiration for Bram Stoker’s Dracula. The show will feature famous DJs spinning tunes to keep the Halloween spirit alive at home. Fans will be transported from their living rooms to one of the creepiest places in the world. For one night only, the famous castle will become the House of Terror, with spooky decor, party zombies, dancefloor monsters and more.

The ‘Horroween’ session will take place live on elrow’s Facebook, Twitch and YouTube channels on Saturday, 31 October 2020 from 6pm CET. Following the live stream, partygoers will be able to relive the session on elrow and Desperados’ social channels.

Whisky brand Ardbeg launches delivery service for at-home Halloween celebration

Scotch whisky brand Ardbeg will be delivering an at-home cocktail experience for Halloween to introduce its new Ardbeg Wee Beastie dram. Three competition winners will receive the “Knocktail experience” and be visited by a crew of mummies, mutants and sea creatures, who will deliver a bottle of Ardbeg Wee Beastie, an Amazon Fire Stick, complimentary cocktails and a mixology session. A further 37 entrants will receive a delivery from a group of monsters and be given a “Monster night in” pack with a small bottle of Wee Beastie, cocktail recipe cards, a premixed cocktail and access to a spooky Ardbeg “B movie”, produced in collaboration with film magazine Little White Lies. The project, devised in-house, is being delivered by The Academy and The Persuaders.

Mars creates virtual ‘Treat Town’ and candy competition

Mars Wrigley is hosting a Halloween portal that will feature virtual trick-or-treating, found at www.Treat-Town.com and individuals can sign up for more information. Per the website, the experience will include opportunities to score some free candy.

Maoam launches contact free haunted house in shopping centres

Sweet brand Maoam  launched a family-focused, ‘zero contact’ Halloween haunted house style journey going live across UK shopping centres over the next week to coincide with Halloween. The brand also launched a multi-channel nationwide live experiential campaign, utilising Global’s outdoor, digital audio and video offerings in partnership with Capital, the zero-contact experiential campaign. It features the Maoam Mischief Manor, which allows one household group at a time to experience a haunted house style journey with zombie hands, carnival mirrors and ghostly animations. Groups will be guided through the trail by brand ambassadors to ensure Covid-19 precautions are adhered to.

Reese flips trick or treating with robot door

In a cute marketing stunt, confectionary brand Reese’s built a robotic door that moves around neighborhoods and dispenses king-size candy contact-free on Halloween. The Reese’s door is powered by three motors and directed via remote control from up to 5,000 feet away. It also gives off smoke and has flashing lights to grab attention, plus a Bluetooth-enabled speaker that plays music activates once ‘trick or treat’ is said.


It dispenses king-size Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups through the mail slot. To boost the social conversation, Reese’s is inviting hopefuls to direct them on Instagram with the hashtag #ReesesDoor.

Secrets of success

All these brands are doing outstanding creative work. They’re finding relevant and engaging ways into a seasonal conversation. The work is authentic and it travels that much further because people recognise this.

It’s also based on having a strong brand essence and clear positioning. These campaigns aren’t tactical departures from their messaging, they’re a Halloween lens on that existing messaging. And they’re all executed  with an excellence in the craftsmanship of marketing – from the insights and approach to briefing, through to the judging and activation. These seasonal ideas build on the existing DNA that’s already in the team, and built into the “muscle memory” of the organisation. Whether it’s the way Mars’ pet care understands how to engage cats and their owners through film and audio, or Samsung being playful with its smart homes, these campaigns are all possible because of what the brand already had in place.

Why this matters

Brands looking to ride the wave of seasonal and cultural moments win when these creative ideas are an expression of the brand’s core essence. Seasonal calendars can be a powerful tool, but only when they build on the existing brand essence.

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