Badvertising: Skittle’s Unapologetic Weirdness

In this year-end installment of MarketSmiths’ Badvertising, we take a moment to pay homage to Skittles and their wacky “Taste The Rainbow” campaign, one of the longest running campaigns in the history of advertising. As usual, DO NOT TRY THIS AT HOME!

Saluting Twenty Years of Skittles Weirdness

Something strange happened to Skittles in 2004. Their “Taste The Rainbow” campaign, which had been running since 1994, was growing stale. Teenagers liked, but had grown bored with, their decade-long series of ads depicting wizards and other fairytale situations, and so the company was faced with a dilemma: an ad message that was too recognizable to discard outright, but too staid to continue as is. So they switched agencies and the campaign was reborn under the all-encompassing marketing message umbrella of “Experience The Rainbow.”

What followed (and continues to this day) were a series of ads that took the candy’s “rainbow” message to extreme and absurd heights: An opera-singing rabbit, a sleazy job searcher with a facial hair appendage, two guys held in a giant pair of hands and a sad man who makes everything he touches turn to Skittles. (“I met a man on the bus today. I shook his hand. He’ll never see his family again,” the man says as he dejectedly releases a handful of Skittles.)

From there the ads only got stranger (remember those bestiality ads featuring a particularly ugly walrus?) and more provocative (a human milking machine anybody?).

Love ’em or hate ’em, one has to admit that it is incredibly difficult to successfully market “weirdness,” so hats off to Skittles who has somehow managed to do so for over two decades—and with no sign of abating. Salute the Rainbow!

Thumb courtesy of emzee

Jim recalls a priceless piece of advice that an English teacher once gave him. Throwing a dictionary onto his desk he said, “All of the words are in there, Yoakum, just put them in the right order.” Putting the right words in the right order has been Jim’s goal ever since, and he has honed his skills over the years to include award-winning copywriting, the scripting of three produced movies, the authoring of numerous novels and non-fiction books—and even a stint as writing partners with the late Graham Chapman of Monty Python fame. He is also US Curator of Chapman’s archives. To make himself even more insufferable, Jim has also produced comedy CDs and DVDs. While Jim does not lament his misspent youth, playing drums in a rock ‘n’ roll band, he does however wish he had back all of those brain cells that he ruthlessly killed.

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