The devil’s in the data: 5 best Halloween marketing campaigns of all time

Roll over big data, it's time to do the monster maths. PMW creaks open the vaults to resurrect some of the best data-driven marketing campaigns from spooky seasons past…

Burger King: Witching Hour

In 2021, the fast food giant announced a free giveaway, with one scary stipulation – you must order during the witching hour (3am). In the lead-up to October 31, for one hour only, a different free meal appeared on the Burger King app.

Scary stats: According to paranormal experts, 3am is the time of day when spirits, ghosts, and unexplained apparitions are most likely to appear. Fast-food lovers just needed to download it and wait for the in-app apparitions to occur. The ads drove talkability downloads, and first-party owned media connections, all while driving down the cost of marketing.

Tomcat Rodent Control: Facebook Not Live

Premiering on Halloween 2016, this quirky campaign from Tomcat Rodent Control followed the tropes of horror movies, but had one major twist: the viewers were the murderers, choosing how each mouse character got killed in real time.

Tomcat - Facebook Not Live from Jesse Brown on Vimeo.

Scary stats: The brand used Facebook Live to create interactive horror films for Halloween with the brand at the centre. The event reached 2.3m unique users and 21% actively participated in “murdering the mice”, increasing the brands Facebook fanbase by 58%. What’s more, 21% of the movie viewers actively participated. The ad also won a Cyber Lion at the Cannes Lions awards in 2017

Adobe Photoshop: Who Killed Professor PhotoHeim?

Ahead of Halloween 2014, Adobe came out with a murder mystery to test Photoshop skills of designers to increase brand engagement and awareness. Who Killed Professor Photoheim was a murder mystery in the form of a photo album which went live on their Facebook page on October 28. Adobe posted a clue every day at 10:00am. To solve the mystery users had to download a 150 MB PSD file which contained the clues and the murder scene. Players could discover clues in over 40 layers and revealed by effects using their Photoshop skills.

Scary stats: Compared to other posts on their Facebook page, this garnered over 10 times the reach. And even in terms of engagement, this campaign trumped other posts. One of the two links which were given for the first clue was clicked over 5000 times and around 10,000 people had liked the post.

Cadbury: Craveyard

For Halloween 2015, Cadbury’s brought back one of its old chocolate bars back from the dead with a social media vote. The brand generated huge interest on Twitter, with a little unexpected help from a celebrity influencer.

Scary stats: Cadbury used the seasonal campaign to create fan nostalgia on social media, but social buzz only took off once celebrity Rylan Clark tweeted about the competition. While a public Twitter vote determined the winner- many fans weren’t happy with the outcome. The campaign saw overall high engagements and surprising consumer insights that outweighed the backlash.

Svedka Vodka: Cursed Banner Ad

In 2017, Svedka Vodka launched an innovative Halloween campaign featuring banner ads that haunt users everywhere they went on the web, until they could lift the curse by infecting their friends instead. The campaign started by serving up the “Curse Video,” a forced-view pre-roll video that once seen subjected the viewer to a flood of digital ads that targeted and retargeted them with creepy messages and Svedka Vodka cocktails.

In a devilishly clever move, the cursed messages were based on information that the ad knew about the user – if someone was up late, on their mobile devices, watching a video, posting things about other vodkas, or even going into private browsing mode.

Messages included things like:






Scary stats: The Svedka Banner Ad Curse was fuelled by the insight that banner ads are already creepy, following users around like a stalker and knowing their darkest secrets (or at least which websites and products they like online). People could break the curse and be free of the banners by visiting the Svedka Vodka site and sharing news articles. If any of their friends click on the article, they’ll be redirected to the curse video that cookies them and starts the whole ‘hellish’ process all over again.