Creepiest Corporate Mascots?

Slate has a feature on this, naming the original Ronald MacDonald (paedophil-beverage-holder-chic); Big Boy (ventriloquist-dummy-psychopathy); Chuck-E-Cheese (crack-bear-living-under-baseball-stadium) and Wienerschnitzel’s The Delicious One (cock-in-a-bap) as some of the worst.

There are some I don’t think are creepy at all, including the Michelin Man (Bibendum) – a comforting, jolly type to my mind, especially after Michelin paid for me to spend a day destroying their wares while attached to Porsche 911s at Silverstone.

I can think of far more creepy ad characters to be honest. What about this terrifyingly vacant twat who spends all night watching you sleep and then shows you his meat?

How about these Olympic mascots, Wenlock and Mandeville, or Giant Walking Cock One and Giant Walking Cock Two, as I call them.

Or Barry Scott – a man determined to shout in your face about a chemical scourer. A disturbed man with case notes as thick as your wrist rocking on the back of a bus.

Even Cara Confused – a wobbly-eyed fruitloop with a haunted fanny and, almost certainly, a house that stinks of cat piss.

Some ads have courted frightening characters recently, inlcuding Bird’s Eye, with a Mafiosa-like polar bear lurking in fridges and chastising – perhaps even threatening – people for buying cheap frozen goods.

And there’s always the suicidal Pepperami things that derive some visceral pleasure from being violently pulled apart.

I like the Pepperami one particularly – it’s funny and it fits the brand, but I’m generally unsure about ads that suggest some sort of implicit – or explicit – threat. The Bird’s Eye ad, particularly, is quite amusing but if you’re basically implying that your customers will receive a horse’s head to the bed and a bullet to the face for not buying branded chicken dippers that seems rather problematic.

For my money you can’t beat Ronald MacDonald, in any of his guises. Clowns are fundamentally frightening, align that with all of MacDonalds’ dubious pester-power marketing; numerous environmental issues and their fucking horrible food and you have a right bastard of a corporate mascot.

Here’s one from my youth that used to creep me out, despite the fact that it’s a great ad and had the comforting voice of Brian Wilde behind it.

And another that used to drive my infant brother to terrified screams. Still gives me the willies. Wonder what Mr Soft’s willy was like.

Big boy image by elycefeliz ; Chuck-E-Cheese image by Mr Cortes

Classic AdTurd – Barry Scott and Cillit Bang

Anything that’s masquerades as ironic in advertising is not funny. That’s an important first principle in Ad-Turd-Land.

Anyone who finds adverts that are pitched as deliberately cheesy and/or annoying is an idiot. That’s a second.

The makers of Cillit Bang advert are primarily responsible for a new concept in advertising: the ad that sets out deliberately to set your teeth on edge, make you clench your first, or possibly take out your physical frustration on animals, housemates or even yourself.

This one wasn’t the first, but it popularised the concept. If you have minimum brand penetration, little money to spend and an utterly boring product one of the obvious routes to boring yourself into people’s minds is to simply annoying the fuck out of them. It does not seem unlikely that the stupid name is supposed to make you think it’s called ‘Clit Bang.’

Imagine some of the events in your life that are most memorable, the ones of which you have total recollection: stepping on a nail; breaking a bone; being run over. Immense physical or psychological discomfort is always memorable – adverts like this one work on the same basis.

There’s almost something Pavlovian about it. The very sight or sound of ‘Barry Scott’ – a made-up loud-voiced character who exists solely to annoy – makes me break out in hives. The very idea of him makes me wring my hands.

Watching it once isn’t enough to give you the full impact. Adverts are an annoyance in themselves, interrupting your train of thought when immersed in something enjoyable. It’s like relaxing in a warm comfortable bath, only to have Piers Morgan walk in every 15 minutes to have a dump.

So, an advert break sets the nerves jangling already, and then Barry Scott arrives. The first time it’s puzzling, the second time it’s already unfunny, the third time it’s enraging.

Someone has created this advert simply to piss you off, and that makes it more annoying. There will come a point where you’ve seen the advert 100 times, and you start to crack in the face of a repeat viewing.

But the advert on its own is simply the start of the horror. Newspaper articles start to dissect its appeal. It unfathomably appears on Youtube as a video you might like. Students, bloody students, start wearing Barry Scott t-shirts.

And then the whole thing enters a terrible new phase. There are new adverts featuring Barry Scott. Ringtones. Shit sketches making even unfunnier versions.

Because you hate it so much you notice it that much more. Cillit Bang has reached critical mass. Hundreds of thousands of people have been irritated beyond belief, and somewhere in London an underpaid creative working for an ad company is sniffing a line of coke off a toilet cistern.