10 Weirdest TV Commercials Of All Time

Some television commercials are entertaining. Some are irritating. Most are forgettable. But there are some that abuse the concept of weirdness for their bad taste, intellectual dishonesty and off-kilter imagery.

For your reading pleasure, here are 10 television commercials that give new meaning to weirdness.

1. Yabba Dabba Lung Cancer: In 1960, “The Flintstones” made television history as the first animated series to be broadcast in prime time. The first two seasons of the show were co-sponsored by Winston Cigarettes, and the animated characters were used in commercials promoting the cigarettes.

While nobody in 1960 thought there was anything odd about Fred and Wilma Flintstone lighting up an after-dinner cigarette, today the idea of using cartoon characters to hawk tobacco is nothing short of astonishing.

2. Coke Keeps You Thin: Back in 1961, TV viewers weren’t hungry for truth in advertising, which explains this astonishing advertisement for the Coca-Cola Co. KO with svelte actress Connie Clausen praising the weight-watching benefits of the popular soft drink.

Clausen reminds the viewer “there’s no waistline worries” from the soda because an individual sized bottle of Coke “has no more calories than half a grapefruit,” adding that “Coke’s a natural – a wholesome blending of pure food flavors.”

3. Invasion Of The Singing Banana-People: In 1973, Société Bic introduced its Bic Banana Ink Crayons to the U.S. market in a commercial involving a schoolroom in a parallel universe where the students are young banana-people. If you look carefully around the commercial’s classroom, you’ll see pictures of George Washington and Abraham Lincoln as banana-people while the blackboard offers the aphorism “A banana a day keeps monkeys away” – does that mean this parallel universe condones banana-people sacrifice to carnivorous primates?

Even more remarkable is the teacher: a giant banana-person played by flamboyant comic actor Charles Nelson Reilly. The "Match Game" funnyman turns up the campiness full-throttle by leading his class in a song about the glory of the Bic Banana Ink Crayons, telling us how “their colors are so bright and gaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaay!” Even by the loose standards of the 1970s, this was completely off the wall.

4. The Irish Ice Cream Cake From Another World: During the 1980s, the Carvel ice cream chain that was popular in the Northeast began to run a series of advertisements featuring Cookie Puss, an ice cream cake that was supposed to represent an extra-terrestrial. The character was originally called “Celestial Person,” but the chain found the name “Cookie Puss” was an easier marketing sell.

In 1985, a St. Patrick’s Day version of Cookie Puss named Cookie O’Puss turned up – complete with green coloring and a Barry Fitzgerald-worthy brogue. The TV commercials were probably produced on a budget lesser than the cost of the ice cream cakes, but Cookie Puss and Cookie O’Puss established a loyal cult following for their sheer weirdness.

5. Biggie Bear Runs Amok: In 2004, South African television viewers were treated to a series of public service announcements from the nonprofit Parents for Responsible Viewing. While the concept of these PSAs was noble – a warning for parents to be cognizant of what their children were watching – the message was put across in a truly bizarre manner that made their very serious message unintentionally ridiculous.

6. About Last Night: On U.S. television, two subjects that never turn up in television advertising are bondage and body shaming. In Romania, however, those taboos don’t exist.

This 2007 commercial for Bergenbier Beer, part of the Molson Coors TAP product line, finds a man awakening in a strange bed with his wrist handcuffed to the bedpost. He obviously had a few too many Bergenbiers the night before that clouded his better judgment, as he discovers to his sober horror who is holding him captive. Yes, what better way to sell beer than with handcuffs and fat jokes?

7. Banana Man To The Rescue: Charles Nelson Reilly wasn’t the only one to plumb the bananaverse for weirdness. This 2009 Japanese advertisement for the bananas sold under the Dole plc DOLE label features a banana-person who freely gives of his yellow fruit to the hungry and the unfortunate – the latter is achieved when he nasal-expels a pile of bananas on an unhappy woman on a park bench.

8. Lhasa Luck: China’s occupation of Tibet has inflamed human rights activists for decades, but the folks at Groupon GRPN took a more flippant approach to the Tibetan people’s plight with their 2011 Super Bowl commercial. While initially acknowledging Tibet’s “culture is in jeopardy,” the commercial then thoroughly trivializes the matter with Timothy Hutton enjoying a fish curry in a Chicago-based Tibetan restaurant.

Not only does this commercial thoroughly trivialize the human rights abuses inflicted on the Tibetan people by the Chinese (China is never mentioned by name in the commercial), but it also goofs on Tibet’s culture by stupidly claiming fish curry is part of their culinary tradition – in reality, Tibetans do not eat fish because their Buddhist faith regards fish as the incarnation of the god of water. Duh!

9. Avant Garde Ice Cream: In 2012, the Philadelphia chain Little Baby's Ice Cream hired filmmaker Doug Garth Williams to make a commercial, and the result is one of the most hypnotically grotesque creations in marketing history: an ice cream humanoid who eats its head with a spoon.

Little Baby’s Ice Cream is no longer in business, but its disturbing commercial continues to baffle and haunt YouTube denizens.

10. From Manila With Surrealism: The most recent addition to this list premiered in November 2020 on television in the Philippines, where the country’s RC Cola franchise produced a commercial involving an anguished boy who asks his mother if he was adopted. And if you’ve never seen this commercial before, there is no possible way that any sane person could ever guess how the child’s question gets answered.

Photo: Little Baby's Ice Cream.

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