10 Weirdest TV Ads in History


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Have you ever, after watching an ad on television, had the feeling that you just saw something you weren't supposed to see? Or swore never to purchase the product that was advertised? Or wondered if you were hallucinating and maybe even losing your mind? History has shown that marketing geniuses have green-lighted some truly weird television ads. Here are 10 of them: the cool, the strange, and the hopelessly offensive.

  1. Sugar Rice Krinkles

    Clowns get a bad rap, and vintage commercials like this one do nothing to help their cause. Sure, Krinkles the Clown's anticipation and enjoyment of this sugar-infused breakfast cereal seems sincere and innocent. But the vibe of the commercial is unsettling: the stark, cheap, second-hand set, the lack of ambient sound — as if Krinkles is actually living several stories beneath the ground in a padded room. And then there's Krinkles' kabuki-like face paint. Is it any wonder that many grown adults harbor an fear of clowns?

  2. Chanel Egoiste

    This surreal bit of '90s-era new wave is about as intense as it gets when it comes to television ads for men's fragrances. Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned, especially if she's French. The man in this ad is smart enough to keep his sorry self hidden as his romantic conquests shriek from the balconies, "Show yourself selfish! O rage! O despair! Selfish! Selfish!!!" Is it weird or is it just … well, French?

  3. Baby Laugh A Lot

    Sure, it's fun — and even healthy — to laugh. And that's what Remco's Baby Laugh A Lot does. Set her on a table, give her a push so she begins rocking back and forth, and she'll start to laugh. And laugh. And laugh. And laugh some more. Suddenly, the non-stop laughter begins to sound malevolent. And the additional giggling male voice-over only adds to the nightmarish quality of this ad. The repeated shots of young girls suddenly turning their heads as if startled by Baby Laugh A Lot's psychotic laughter call to mind an especially memorable film performance by a certain child actress.

  4. John Lydon (aka Johnny Rotten) Country Life Butter

    You've got to hand it to the marketing team for the British-made Country Life Butter. Somehow, they were able to convince former Sex Pistols singer Johnny Rotten (now John Lydon) to appear in a series of ads extolling the virtues of their product while taking a few digs at stereotypical "British" living. The genteel humor of the ad may strike some as a bit weird, given that Lydon is the man who snarled his way through the Pistols' 1976 banned hit single "Anarchy in the U.K."

  5. Sony Tape

    Ah, the '80s! Considering that this was the decade of Max Headroom and the birth of MTV, it makes total sense that Sony would green-light this straightforward ad featuring a cassette tape being ejected, flipped over, and then replaced inside the toaster-like skull of an attractive bald woman. The commercial has less to say about the quality of Sony's cassette tape and more about Sony being a company on the cutting edge. Of what? Who knows. Maybe one of their executives just really dug bald women.

  6. Jell-O

    Confucious say, is very racist commercial, no? Our guess is that no Chinese-American had anything whatsoever to do with this excruciating vintage TV ad for Jell-O. You have to wonder if Bill Cosby was hired years later as a product spokesman to help erase from our country's collective memory this cartoon featuring "Chinese-type baby" and a truly cringe-inducing voice-over. It's possible that Cosby's efforts redeemed this strange gelatinous snack, a favorite of anyone who just had their tonsils out.

  7. Irish Spring

    What could be more Irish than outdoor wrestling, pocket knives, and turtleneck cable-knit sweaters? Television advertising has a long history of grabbing the most obvious, misinformed ethnic stereotypes and blowing them out of proportion in an effort to sell junk food or, in this case, bar soap. Why is it necessary to slice the bar of soap with a pocket knife? Why exactly is Irish Spring a "manly" soap? And why don't we see men with chests as hairy as this dude's in today's TV commercials?

  8. Coke (Hilltop)

    In the age of the Arab Spring and Occupy Wall Street, this classic commercial from the flower power era, where a multicultural mob of idealistic young hippies sings the praises of the über-corporate drink-product Coca-Cola, seems like the product of a massive brain-washing experiment. But admittedly, it's a great tune. And the lyrics "I'd like to buy the world a Coke!" were not only prescient given the triumph of globalization, but kind of endearing, depending upon how cynical you are.

  9. Winston Cigarettes featuring the Flintstones

    Breakfast cereal, children's chewable vitamins, and of course, cigarettes! The Flintstones was always a show for adults, what with Fred clearly mimicking Jackie Gleason in laugh-tracked episodes and humor based more on domestic arguments than caring for a pet dinosaur. So it only makes sense that during the show's run Fred and Barney would, as they do in this ad, take a time out to enjoy Winston cigarettes while their wives, dressed in skimpy, animal-skin outfits, take care of the lawn work. What's surprising is that the Flintstones were never tapped to hustle beer or hard liquor.

  10. Calvin Klein Obsession

    There was a series of truly weird Bergman-meets-Fellini ads for Obsession fragrance in the '90s, and this one is the weirdest. Its hapless Justin Bieber-esque protagonist is unable to comprehend the needs of one truly batty femme fatale who has probably set the course for all of his future intimate relationships with the opposite sex. How did these actors read their lines without laughing? Saturday Night Live, of course, brilliantly co-opted this ad campaign which already teetered toward self-parody.

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