Creepiest Ad Icon of All Time?

By Mark Preiser

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Recently I attended The Battle of The Burgers at the South Street Seaport. After sampling 15 hamburgers, my thoughts traveled to…no, not Tums and Pepto Bismol, but hamburger advertising. What popped into my head was the oh so creepy Burger King. So I was wondering who the creepiest icon might be.


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According to a blogger named JELLIO, the Burger King came in second, so I’m thinking what form of creature could be creepier. The answer: Carvel’s Cookie Puss. According to the writer, “…you can still hear 10 year olds turn to their mothers and say, ‘Mom, what the hell is that?’” Still, number two in creeposity is quite impressive.

My research led me to another interesting fact. According to Rosie Louis, who blogged about the 10 creepiest commercials, the 1963 television debut of McDonald’s Ronald McDonald ranks number two in all-time commercial creeposity. She explained that the origin of Ronald McDonald can be traced back to 1960’s local radio personality Willard Scott – who later, of course, became a national personality on the “Today” show. Scott played Bozo the Clown on WRC-TV in Washington, D.C. At the time Bozo was the hottest children’s show. When Bozo went off the air, the local McDonald’s people asked Scott to come up with a new character to take Bozo’s place. The initial incarnation of Ronald was beyond creepy. The character is reminiscent of a grade-B black-and-white sci-fi character from the late 50’s or early 60’s. The paper cup nose and cardboard tray hat are particularly charming accessories.
CreepAd1So who’s number one? According the same writer, it’s another clown: Krinkles the Clown. Krinkles replaced Post Cereal’s “So-Hi,” a Chinese boy named because he could only reach “so high.” Marjorie Merriweather Post, owner of Post at the time, felt Krinkles was a safer and far less insulting alternative. The blogger commented, “Our nightmares beg to differ. I saw the commercial and haven’t slept since.” Of course, it could simply be a case of indigestion….