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The 13 most terrifying marketing campaigns of all time

The 13 most terrifying marketing campaigns of all time David Zaleski

"The Last Exorcism's" Chatroulette possession

This has got to be one of the most creative and terrifying marketing campaigns of all time. To promote "The Last Exorcism," its marketing team decided to have a little fun with unsuspecting teenage boys on Chatroulette, many of whom are there to see some, well, nudity. However, midway through the "chat," things take an unexpected, hilarious, and horrifying turn for the worse.

"Carrie" telekinesis coffee shop prank

What do you get when you cross a horror movie, a creative marketing department, and an urge to freak out unsuspecting New Yorkers? A viral marketing prank that redefines the phrase "at the wrong place at the wrong time."

"Carrie's" marketing team rigged a West Village coffee shop with a fake wall, mechanically triggered flying books, and several actors and stuntmen to pull off the illusion that a young girl who has telekinetic powers loses her temper. This viral campaign has generated over 46 million views and serves as an ingenious example of viral video marketing.

LG Electronics' terrifying "End Of The World" prank

In order to promote the clarity of their new 84-inch Ultra HD TV, LG decided to blow up the planet. After setting up their new device to look like an office window, they invited dozens of people to come into the building for a job interview. In the middle of the meeting, an asteroid destroys the city outside, sending dust and rubble flying toward the screen. This marketing prank not only succeeded in promoting the picture resolution of LG's new product, it also provides 2 minutes of hilarious and horrifying enjoyment.

Nivea deodorant turns innocent people into sinister criminals

Imagine waiting at an airport, minding your own business, when suddenly everyone believes you are the most wanted criminal in the country. That's exactly what Nivea's ad agency set out to achieve to promote their new "stress protect" deodorant. Innocent men and women were secretly photographed and promptly advertised everywhere for being a wanted criminal. They even had a fake live news report to boot. Would your deodorant hold up under this kind of stress?

"The Walking Dead's" shocking movie theater zombie attack

This terrifying and creative campaign caused an entire movie theater to scream in horror, and then erupt into applause. The marketing team behind "The Walking Dead" decided to have a little fun with their audience when promoting season two. They had a "real life" zombie wander creepily into a movie theater full of unsuspecting moviegoers during a romantic film trailer. The reactions from the crowd, as well as the surprise ending, are truly priceless.

LG sends people plummeting to their death

To promote the color quality and resolution of their new IPS monitors, LG decided to send people falling to their death in a broken elevator. Well, not really, but they did rig an elevator floor with nine of their high definition screens and then let the horror and hilarity ensue when they tricked people into thinking the floor was collapsing beneath them. It's just another example of over-the-top marketing initiatives being adopted by some of the more evil marketers out there. Risky? Maybe. Hilarious? Absolutely.


Toyota's spine-tingling "Your Other You" campaign

Here's an example of a scary ad campaign that went a little too far. In 2009, Toyota and its agency Saatchi & Saatchi launched "Your Other You" campaign to promote the Toyota Matrix. Here's how it worked. You entered an unsuspecting friend's email address (right away, it's a little invasive) whom, over the next five days, would be bombarded with harassing emails, texts, and phone calls from a fake stalker.

Sounds fun, right?

This ad campaign was so controversial that in 2009, Toyota and Saatchi & Saatchi were sued for $10 million by a woman who claims the five days of harassment left her emotionally distressed and caused unnecessary harm.

Little Caesars Creepy Forbidden Pizza Website

In this simple, yet extremely effective digital marketing strategy, Little Caesars set up a website specifically to tell people not to enter their address. Why? Because if you do, your house will become haunted until you drive to Little Caesars and pick up a pizza. The website uses Google Maps street views to populate your residence with the spirit world, and then gives you directions to the nearest Little Caesars location. It's a fun and spooky marketing campaign that also happens to be extremely effective. Check it out here.

"Paranormal Activity's" "Demand It" marketing strategy

After landing in the hands of Paramount Pictures, the marketing behind this 2006 blockbuster was nothing short of genius. By asking people to "Demand It" in their city, "Paranormal Activity's" marketing department put the power of distribution in the hands of the viewer, giving the film a unique organic rise to popularity. That, along with this creative trailer featuring actual reactions from moviegoers, made this film one of the most successful horror movies of all time.

Snickers' bizarre "Horseless Headsman" Halloween commercial

This funny, bizarre, and creative commercial from Snickers was launched in 2012 and serves as a creative example of how to mix your core brand message in with a holiday themed advertisement. It's strange, creepy, and yet so perfect.

Chipotle's "Boorito" Halloween Campaign

How do you drive customers to your store on Halloween? For Chipotle, by promising $3 burritos, tacos, and bowls if you dress up in costume and visit their restaurant. It's a simple, annual marketing event, which not only makes Chipotle a spooky place to visit on October 31, but also goes to supporting the Chipotle Cultivate Foundation, an organization dedicated to creating a healthier and more sustainable food supply.

Play Doh's strange and haunting Singapore ads

While not meant to be scary, these Play Doh advertisements from Singapore remind us why sometimes it's better to just stick with your tried and true marketing approach. Thinking outside the box to this extent might only give you (and your kids) nightmares.

"The Blair Witch Project's" viral marketing campaign

In what is perhaps the greatest marketing achievement for a low budget motion picture, Haxan Films and Artisan Entertainment delivered on a marketing strategy that caused a little-known independent film to become one of the most famous motion pictures of all time. By simply putting together a basic website the team was able to generate huge word of mouth for the movie by representing it as a real event. They even listed their actors as "missing, presumed dead" on IMDb and posted missing persons flyers at The Cannes Film Festival.

This simple marketing strategy gave people the impression that this movie was something that could not be missed, and also trail blazed early internet marketing. It still serves as a case study on how to effectively grab the attention of an audience while ramping up precious word of mouth for your product.

"Vampire in coffin" image via Shutterstock.

David Zaleski is the Media Production Supervisor for iMedia Communications, Inc. and Comexposium USA. He graduated from Loyola Marymount University with a BA in Film & Television Production, specializing in editing, animation, and...

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