Ah, the television commercial. That marvelous invention of brand management, ad exec enthusiasm and soul-sucking attention-grabbing. Commercials can make us laugh, make us cry and, most commonly of all, make us worry we’re failing ourselves and our loved ones if we don’t buy the right thing. Yet in a medium meant to provoke reaction and sway consumer behavior, there are a few that stand out for the willies they produce, for the inner shudders they provoke. Paste has gathered the worst (best?) offenders together because, hey, why not get it all out?
10. The Full Monty — Orkin’s Hot Tub Crasher
In a list populated mostly with bodily fluids, let’s salute that rare external provoker of “ewwww”—the cockroach. While it’s easy to resent some of the brands on this list for, well, grossing us out, it’s probably most understandable as a strategy for pest control companies. The Other here is not ourselves—it’s the cockroach, a harbinger of disease (or at least mucho untidiness) that we must get rid of! As one of the only humorous entries on this list, Orkin’s effort to gain customers may be the least shudder-inducing, but if you can’t stand cockroaches, the laughter is hollow, indeed.
9. Suck It! — Companhia Athletica’s Breast Argument for Working Out
Make no mistake—breast-feeding is a natural, wonderful thing. That doesn’t mean there are not plenty of folks, especially in the United States of the Bodily Repressed, who somehow conflate the feeding of a child with BOOBIES! (Sigh.) Still, even for the more enlightened, the thought of a guy nursing provokes some willies. Add some relatively rare male body-shaming/call-to-gym action, and you’ve got a commercial that, right or wrong, can make people wince on several levels.
8. La Cucaracha Lovecraft — Terminix Ups the Ick Ante
Just in case a good ol’ regular (or giant) cockroach doesn’t trigger enough revulsion, Terminix takes a metaphorical angle, providing a horrific vision of roach-equivalency. The message? If you aren’t repulsed and revolted by the thought of your home serving as a roach motel—then you’re just not thinking of it the right way.
7. S’not, Your Problem — Zicam’s Pre-Cold Terror
It’s not so much the Pre-Hensonian monster—this mucus mascot on steroids—that chases our poor, sniffly female protagonist down the street that’s gross as the (un)healthy slathering of mucus. Yep, that does the trick.
6. Slurpfest 2013 —Godaddy’s Superbowl Commercial
After establishing its commercial reputation on titillation-based, faux-outrageous marketing, Godaddy decided to cash in on repugnance. For some, the juxtaposition of the hot and not is enough to provoke a negative reaction. (For shame, you shallow people, you.) But for others, it’s the moist slurpiness of it all.
5. How’s That Fat Intake Going? — Anti-Soda Commercial
Frankly, we could probably do an entire list of health-scare ads—of maimed smokers, ill-treated animals and cleft-palate-afflicted children. But this list is more about the ick and less about revulsion-based calls to action. Well, mostly, since we couldn’t leave off this particular take on our fat intake. (Worst lost hazing bet ever?)
4. Finger-Lickin’ Eww — Doritos Sticks It In
Doritos’ version of a glory hole is also a pretty slick combination of humor and mild-to-much face-scrunching aversion. I just wonder how many takes it took for the guy at the desk to get it right?
3. Feces Pieces — Charmin’s Bear Bottoms
Ah, cartoon bears! They’re so cute! And look, the baby bear has defecated and has pieces of crap and toilet tissue stuck to its fur! Ugh. I suppose this campaign deserves an award for its heroic attempt at disassociation. But for anyone who has ever dealt with animal fur and feces—that anti-Reese’s peanut butter cup from hell—no amount of cutesy can cover the images (and smells) shadowing every frame of this campaign.
2. Pop Goes the Pus Rocket — Oh, Oxy Face Wash…
The human body has plenty of liquids and semi-solids at its disposal, and in terms of ick factor, you might think those that can manifest in quantity have the advantage over lesser reservoirs of … stuff. But move over puke, poo and pee—you’ve got nothing on pus! This commercial gives the gross-out power of pus its due. God, why?
1. Worst. Mascot. Ever. — Digger the Dermatophyte
Some may argue the pus-a-thon of the previous entry deserves top billing. But I’d argue Lamisil’s attempt at illustrating the horrors of toe nail fungus achieves a horror that far surpasses any montage of eruptions of Mount Zit-uvius. A casually ripped off toe nail and a flesh-clawing colony of denizens beneath? This commercial is basically torture porn. Other entries on this list may be revolting to watch—ol’ Digger will haunt your dreams.