Posted October 12, 2016, under Ad Absurdum

It takes a lot to stand out as an advertiser. This has always been the case — and never more so than in the unprecedented saturation of today’s advertising environment.

One way to capture eyes and hearts is to appeal to humanity’s well-documented appreciation for whimsy and weirdness. Possible approaches include:

Familiar Weirdness

An example of this comes — of all the unexpected sources — from Denny’s Diner. Specifically, their weirdly brilliant and brilliantly weird Twitter account.

This is the perfect outreach to the segment of their probable customer base that actually uses Twitter. Senior citizens and long-haul truckers probably aren’t all that active on the platform, which leaves the wee-hours, altered-states demographic who would actually say things like this.

Or, if you’re a child of the ’90s, you might remember some of the bombastic, brightly colored, and stealthily perverse TV spots that dominated children’s programming at the time. Stride Gum certainly does.

They appear to be under the misapprehension that anyone feels nostalgic about those ads.

Charming Eccentricity

The subhead says it all, but allow us to illustrate with this example from a series of ads from German brewer Bergdorfer Bier.

Even better: the work of the Harmon Brothers. They are the mad geniuses behind these videos that we are certain you’ve seen, but which we’ll include here for the fun of it.

Basically, these guys decided the best way to sell products relating to human waste was to make them…palatable. With absurdity!

Somewhat Disturbing

But then you have these ads from a crematorium, and we just don’t know. If nothing else, they are certainly attention-getting.

We know teenagers can be obnoxious jerks, but cremation seems kind of extreme.

Similarly, there was a much-talked-about Superbowl ad from Nationwide, featuring a kid who famously turned out to be a ghost

…And this more recent AT&T traffic safety ad with (SPOILER) a similar theme.

Basically these people all decided that trotting out dead kids is a surefire way to get attention, because that’s not messed up at all.


But we have to give the weirdness prize to “Meet Graham,” another traffic safety effort.

Caution: This image isn’t gory or anything, but it IS weird — some may find it disturbing, body horror stuff. View at your own risk.

This is utterly bizarre, but also kind of cool. The notion was to really bring home how fragile our bodies can be, by highlighting all the alterations that would be needed to “crash-proof” a human body. These include extra padding on the face, a “rib cage” around the neck, and built-in airbags on the torso! To underscore the point: all this… for a low-impact crash.

Presumably the only way to reliably survive high-impact collisions is to be actually made of metal, like Colossus in Deadpool.

Sometimes weirdness works. Sometimes you go viral for the right reasons and sometimes the wrong ones. Possibly the difference lies in whether the weird was intentional or not.

PS: If you’re unfamiliar with the weirdness in the header image, please enjoy the Pumpkin Dance. Happy Halloween!

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