Better Than Pennies – ’70s Halloween Commercials

We’re pretty stale and orderly with our Halloween celebrations these days, so much so that it’s easy to forget the Wild West that was Halloween in the 1970s and 1980s.  Suffocation-threatening vinyl masks,  flammable vinyl shrouds to match said masks, and the ever-present threat of razor blades in your candy brought an edge of danger to a night where the entire world was open to children to receive as much delicious and not-delicious candy as their bags could hold.  Kids ruled the night; this was the one evening where they were given the night to rule, and the holiday was completely devoted to them.

These commercials really capture that spirit; some are better at leaning into it than others, but they all have a shared understanding of how amazing this holiday is for kids and how each of them can make a buck or two off of that amazingness.

These Woolworth’s ads are a bit sedate, but they do a good job of showing not just the range of costume but the awfulness of those costumes.  And the emphasis on buying ‘wrapped’ candy speaks to the paranoia of the age with regard to tainted treats.

But maybe you don’t want to give out candy. What are your options? In my neighborhood we’d get bags of pennies.  That’s a good way to get your house egged.  McDonald’s offers another option – gift certificates.  It seems lame, but it’s actually a solid idea. Maybe that’s grown-up me talking.  Still, it beats pennies.

We’ve seen this one before, but Hardee’s does a great job tying their Fun Machine into the Halloween celebration.  And this animation is just so, so good.

Hershey’s unintentionally nods to the absurdity of  children wandering an open neighborhood unattended with a (thankfully) friendly ghost who gives what we used to call in the Trick-or-Treat biz, “big candy.”

Finally, those Weebles folks  made a whole haunted house playset to celebrate the holiday. I always felt like trying to sell Halloween toys was a bit of a stretch, since kids don’t really want to play that sort of thing in the other eleven months of the year, but hey, Weebles are cute.

What did I miss? What memories do you have of that long-past Wild West?



*edit: I came inside after writing this feeling pretty depressed about the current state of Halloween, to find that my four-year-old son had tricked out our front door in Halloween decor.  Joke’s on me. There’s still some magic here.