The Deconstructed Brief

Bite Size Horror

Bite Size Horror

Brand: Mars

Agency: BBDO Worldwide


Halloween candy sales are expected to top $2.7 billion this year, according to the National Retail Federation. The projected 5.5 percent increase will be the strongest gain since 2011. Mars is the second-biggest Halloween candy seller — behind HERSHEY’S — and owns roughly 40 percent of the category during the season.

How does Mars and its established candy brands find fresh ways to tap into the excitement of Halloween?

One Thought:

What are you afraid of?


Create something fans will remember. Mars bent the traditional format of television ads by creating a series of two-minute horror movies that span the entire commercial break. Mars partnered with up-and-coming directors to create twisted stories you don’t typically see in TV ads, including:

  • An office worker taking an elevator trip to Hell (for Skittles)

  • A dad driving his teenage daughters out to the country to investigate an urban legend (for M&Ms)

  • A young boy replaced in his family by a creepy doppelgänger (for Starburst)

The length of the mini movies allows time for the filmmakers to create a simple slice of spooky that you won’t forget. Mars decided not to break the spell by having the candy only appear briefly during the introduction to each film, and there’s no hint of a brand message until the last second.

Adweek writer Tim Nudd called the short films “the best Halloween ads in years.” The spots whipped up a ton of buzz on Twitter, especially after freaking out baseball fans during the playoffs.

Lessons to be learned:

  • Show fans some loveThe short films are essentially love letters to the horror movies, which dominate the box office during the period in which people are buying Halloween candy. The mini movies’ authenticity connected with horror fans and earned coverage on fan sites like Bloody Disgusting.

  • Buck the trendWhile many agencies are figuring out the best ways to tell stories in six seconds, the “Bite Size Horror” movies stand out by going in the opposite direction. The length allowed filmmakers to tell a complete narrative that will stick in people’s minds. (Another benefit: They mess with people who DVR live TV.)

  • Know your audienceClose to 95 percent of Americans planned to purchase Halloween candy in 2017, according to the National Retail Federation, but only 70 percent plan to pass out candy to kids. The disturbing mini movies are clearly aimed at adults who want a piece of Halloween for themselves.

What they told Adweek:

“If you can chill someone to the bone, the film tends to stay with the audience,” said Toby Meakins, director of the “Bite Size Horror” short film, “Floor 9.5.” “We also wanted it to feel contemporary, like a two-minute ‘Black Mirror,’ to create a situation that anyone could imagine themselves in and then twist it.”