Watch TV for long enough and you’re bound to see a fast food commercial or two. They’re some of the most varied and creative ads on television, and with good reason: Fast food isn’t exactly an easy sell, so simply showing a picture of a burger and explaining it isn’t going to cut it. Chains need to resort to some serious hijinks to snag your attention (and business), and sometimes they go a little overboard.
When a fast food chain has a new product to advertise, their commercials tend to be rather straightforward: explain the new product and why you should buy it. But when it’s not advertising anything in particular except for itself, there’s really not much to say; everybody knows what KFC is. That’s when brands need to get creative. Occasionally, they get a little too creative.
Nobody ever said that it was easy to be funny. While the rule of thumb is that the funnier a commercial is, the more memorable it will be, it’s important to realize that there are many, many different styles of humor out there. The Sonic guys, for example, just sit in their car discussing the Sonic menu, and it’s pretty funny in a straightforward, sitcom-style way. But when advertisers decide to take the bizarre humor route, the results can be far less predictable.
Some of these campaigns were memorable and long-lived, some were just one-offs that left people scratching their heads, some were meant to usher in huge marketing campaigns but failed miserably, some are still so recent that their long-term impact won’t be known for a while. But any way you slice it, these commercials were weird — some of the weirdest in the history of television. Read on for eight of the most bizarre fast food commercials of all time.
Wendy’s: Give a Little Nibble
Remember Wendy’s big follow-up to the legendary “Where’s the Beef?” campaign called “Give a Little Nibble”? Neither does anybody else. The unsettling 1987 commercial, in which customers yanked off handfuls of ground beef from a giant burger, was supposed to launch a new campaign that would propel the brand back to relevancy, but instead it just weirded everybody out. It was pulled after seven weeks, and the ad agency behind it was fired.
McDonald’s: Introducing Ronald McDonald
If you’ve never seen the very first commercial to feature Ronald McDonald, from 1963, well… you probably don’t want to. It’s terrifying. Aired by McDonald’s in 1963 and starring weatherman Willard Scott as Ronald, it features a Ronald wearing a big box of food on his head and a paper cup for a nose. It’s deeply unsettling, to say the least.