October 29th, 2020

Halloween-Themed Ads: Just the Right Amount of Spooky


Ace Metrix

It’s that time of the year when ghosts and ghouls emerge from the darkness and people start to get their masks ready for all the spooky, seasonal festivities. Since 2020 has already shown us enough spookiness and face masks, we wanted to shine the lantern on the ironically lighter side of things – Halloween ads. Similar to those we analyzed in 2019, 11 out of the 21 Halloween themed ads showed signs of humor, revealing the thriving spirit of Halloween’s playful nature.

Since trick-or-treating will be very different from years past, a common trend among some of the best Halloween ads from this year is an emphasis on product. Brands like Sonic and IHOP took the opportunity to showcase their seasonal offerings, while others, like Reese’s and Chips Ahoy, integrated this time of year’s theme to optimize their creative effectiveness.

Sonic | “Mouth Party” :15

Short and sweet would be a quite literal (and figurative) way to describe this ad. Sonic’s casual approach to showcasing its Halloween themed Trick-or-Treat Blasts fared well with viewers, giving this spot the highest Ace score of all Halloween ads this year. The Ace score is made up of our traditional components (seen below), and in the case of this particular ad, scored significantly above the all-industries norm across every component:


With just the right amount of humor, “Mouth Party” scored in the Solid band for both Funny, a metric that only 25% of ads score on, as well as Prodastic (short for “product” + tastic), which only 12% of all ads score on. This indicates that the product-forward visuals did not go amiss by viewers, and along with the ads ability to score on Love It, viewers ended up with an enthusiastic craving for the Trick-or-Treat Blasts with 66% of them showing positive purchase intent after a single viewing (vs. QSR average of 59%):

Reese’s | “Best Part”

Reese’s dove head first into the Halloween theme, typical of the candy brand which is arguably one of the top five most iconic trick-or-treating candies. “Best Part” was able to touch on an array of positive emotions. Yummy and Prodtastic sparked by scenes showing off the elegantly delicious interior and exterior of the peanut butter cups. Love It, Funny, and Nostalgic signals reveal how viewers felt connected to the iconic brand’s approach towards the Halloween theme. Emotional signal was driven by the visuals along with a humorous voiceover and just the right amount of spookiness to delight:

Chips Ahoy | “Fireside”

When your spokesperson is the product itself – the cookie – it’s incredibly easy to get viewers to take notice of your product. In “Fireside,” Chips Ahoy took a more subtle approach to the inclusion of Halloween pastimes by starting off with a cookie telling a scary story and ending with Yummy evoking scenes of Chips Ahoys getting eaten. This spot drove positive purchase among 66% of viewers after a single viewing, a +10% increase from the 180-day candies & snacks industry norm:


Interestingly, “Fireside” showed solid levels of Nostalgic, which fired for a number of reasons – older viewers reminiscing about the days they were younger and would gather around campfires with friends, or the Chip character reminding them of their favorite cookie brand. The following example verbatim comments summarize how viewers felt about this spot:

“This was super cute, it actually really made me want Chips Ahoy. This is a new approach that I think will turn up great end results. The children bring nostalgic feeling back.” Female 21-35

“This made me feel connected to the people in the ad, I could relate to good times. I began craving this cookie immediately as the ad started.” Male 36-39

“I liked this commercial! “Chip” reminded me of the Claymation California Raisins back in the 80s. Made me want to buy some Chips Ahoy cookies, too. Great commercial.” Female 36-49

Happy Halloween!:jack_o_lantern::jack_o_lantern:

As exhibited by this set of ads, brands utilized less of a trick-or-treating strategy and more of a product-centric approach this year. Since Halloween will be very different from years past (similar to just about everything in 2020), this approach appealed to viewers by summoning positive emotions and allowing the mood of the season to guide consumer expectations.

Even though there are still 2 days to go until Halloween, the lighter trick-or-treat foot traffic has brands already shifting advertising gears for the holidays. With 21 ads tested, we’ve got festive insights to come. Stay tuned!


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