The 6 Most Clearly Disturbing Mascots in Marketing History
Designing a mascot is one of the easiest things in the world: first, come up with a character vaguely related to your product or organization. Next, be sure to give it giant, dead eyes, and then ensure that the costume won't physically kill the poor intern who has to wear it at corporate events (serious wounding is fine; they're just interns). Finally, run the whole thing past at least one dude without any severe damage to the parts of his brain responsible for basic logic to make sure your mascot is not inadvertently endorsing something completely insane. You probably think that last step isn't really necessary, but tell that to ...
Vodafone's "Kidults" Are Surely Against Some Kind of Child Endangerment Laws
In 2013, the telecom company Vodafone released an Australian commercial featuring children's heads superimposed onto adult bodies. It went about as well as you would expect, if you would expect the ad to make you question the existence of a loving God. The commercial starts off on a subway with one of the "kidults" dancing around like a maniac without any of the passengers brutally attacking him in a blind panic.
We wouldn't have believed people dancing on public transportation could get any worse, but there's the proof.
The commercial continues depicting other kidults hanging about, continuing to exist in spite of all that is good in the universe. But when bad things happen, you have to remember that everything can always be worse. For example, here's the rest of the commercial:
Leaving the viewer wondering if he's seconds from veering into the creepiest PSA ever.
The worst part is that they clearly did their best to find three women with small breasts and slimmer builds. You know, like "real" adult/kid hybrids would have, suggesting that someone worked long hours figuring out what cup size to give a bunch of mutant babies. In news that surprised no one except for the suspiciously mustachioed guy who first suggested hot baby-adults, the ad ended up being one of the most controversial commercials in Aussie TV history. Vodafone defended their campaign by claiming that putting faces of toddlers on adult bodies was meant to symbolize a person's "inner child," which we're pretty sure is the exact defense Mr. Mustache uses when people see his search history.
The Crazy Crab: The Mascot Who Wanted to Kill Himself
Ideally, your sports team mascot will be a perfect mix of cuteness and blandness: something easy to slap on a T-shirt, looks nice posing with the kids, and doesn't give anybody night terrors or post-traumatic stress disorder. The San Francisco Giants completely failed at every single one of those criteria when they came up with the Crazy Crab, a mascot that looks like a drunken old prospector getting mounted by a giant crustacean.
"Shit, we forgot to put the team logo on him. Get me a hat from the gift shop and some Big League Chew."
The idea was simple: instead of making people laugh, Crazy Crab was supposed to take abuse -- abuse that otherwise would have fallen on the coaches, players, other fans, hot dog vendors, or literally anybody else that showed up to the game that day (baseball fans are almost as passionate as they are drunk on $8 beers). Unfortunately, the plan worked too well: as the team began losing more and more games, the angry fans' boos turned into thrown drinks, which turned into thrown batteries and beer bottles, which usually turned into concussions and hospital visits.
"Hospital" being a polite euphemism for "left to die in the stock room."
Reports claim that the mascot had urine-filled balloons thrown at him on the field, while the Giants' players apparently enjoyed spitting tobacco juice through the costume's eyes in-between games. The "playful" hatred finally escalated to the point where the guy playing Crabby tried to retire the character by publically throwing the costume out of a helicopter in an apparent suicide. No word on whether or not he politely asked to be inside of it at the time, but we can't imagine he was super stoked with his career path. The Giants eventually retired the Crazy Crab in a non-suicidal fashion, but some fans are now campaigning to bring it back. You're just not allowed to whip your piss at many costumed characters these days. There's definitely a gap in the market.
Yucca Mountain Johnny Says: "Nuclear Waste Is Great, Kids!"
No one really has a problem with nuclear power. What most folks worry about is the radioactive waste that nuclear power produces, which is a bit like saying that nobody has a problem with guns, so much as the bullets that they shoot. In the 1980s, the U.S. government tried to set up a waste storage facility miles below Yucca Mountain, in Nevada. Nevadans, being slightly less than enthusiastic about changing their tourism brochures to "the radioactive waste state," blocked the Yucca Mountain repository. In 2006, after decades of stalling, the Department of Energy decided they needed to take action. They needed to get public opinion on their side. And what better way to do that than with a white-eyed demi-human suffering from face gigantism?
Nothing says 'safe' like a character covered in protective gear.
We wouldn't be picking on Yucca Mountain Johnny if his worst sin was looking like Face from Tango & Cash. No, we're calling out Johnny because he's a cutesy cartoon aimed at kids and also the official mascot for storing radioactive waste. He even got his own "youth zone" section on the Civilian Radioactive Waste Management site, where he provided information about the Yucca range and the waste storage project. It's just hard to look at this rejected clip art and not hear the government basically telling your kids, "You look like a cool dude. You don't believe all that whack BS about radioactive waste being dangerous, right dawg?" It doesn't matter whether Johnny was right or not, because when it comes to nuclear energy, the opinions of children should be slightly less relevant than those of especially clever horses.
"Hey, fuck you guys. I spent all night working on that waste conversion proposal."
We aren't alone in wondering how far Yucca Mountain Johnny should have to stay away from our schools. There were congressional hearings lambasting Johnny for trying to involve kids in environmental policy-making. The DOE finally put him down, and presumably marked his grave with some tasteful clip art of a cute little tombstone.
Erin Esurance Becomes a Mascot for Cartoon Pornography
Erin was an Esurance mascot who worked as an auto insurance agent by day and a catsuit-wearing super spy by night. So basically Kim Possible for the adult crowd, with extra emphasis on the "adult" part.
"Johnson! Are you drawing cartoon porn on company time?!"
"N-no sir! This is ... my idea for a new company mascot ...?"
Clearly Esurance didn't actually release porn of Erin. All they did was hyper-sexualize a cartoon character, let her loose on the Internet, then act all surprised when a blitzkrieg of porn came back:
Apparently, her name isn't the only thing with triple e's.
NSFW fan art of Erin hit the Web immediately after her first TV commercial aired, and things have not slowed down since then. If you Google "Erin Esurance" right now, you'll get almost entirely porn results. Most of them are BDSM related -- and remember, these are the least hardcore examples we could find. You go ahead and turn your SafeSearch off and venture into this bog of watercolor perversion. We'll wait.
"... the ..."
Eventually, Esurance did retire Erin. They didn't specifically say it was because of all the fan porn, but there is only so much nerd masturbation a fictional character can take before she welcomes the sweet oblivion of the eraser.
The Frito Bandito Sells Corn Chips to Racists
Here's how you advertise Fritos: "Hey, are you stoned? Remember that Fritos exist." End of advertisement. Here's how not to advertise Fritos:
At least they didn't have him immediately start mocking a classic Mexican love song. Oh ... nevermind.
The Frito Bandito was a gun-slinging Mexican mugger who stole tortilla chips because some 1960s ad-man drunkenly noticed that "bandito" rhymed with "Frito." Is there some data to back up the advertiser's bizarre insistence that the best way to move snack products is by having ethnic stereotypes steal them?
Weirdest of all, they managed to get Mel Blanc, the voice of Bugs Bunny and pretty much every other Looney Tune, to voice the Frito Bandito in TV commercials. They really thought "the thieving immigrant" was going to be an iconic character that would withstand the ages. The National Mexican-American Anti-Defamation Committee filed complaints on the grounds of "Really, guys? REALLY?" so Frito-Lay responded by conducting a poll which found that 85 percent of surveyed Mexican-Americans liked the mascot, and then they dropped the Frito Bandito after realizing that offending 15 percent of your customer base isn't something to be proud of.
Chaminha, the Angry Flame, Glares at Young Burn Victims
A young patient's emotional well-being is a crucial part of his recovery, which we're sure is what the Minas Gerais State Hospital Foundation (FHEMIG) in Brazil was going for when they created a mascot to work with children in burn wards. Why they made that mascot a pissed-off flame, though, is anyone's guess.
"Tell these nice people how you got burned, kid."
"I ... walked into a door ..."
That's Chaminha ("Flamy"), a walking embodiment of what got the children into the hospital in the first place. If we were gambling folk, we'd bet that whoever came up with this thing was an apologetic arsonist who really wanted young burn victims to hear the fire's side of the story. As for why he's mad at the burned children, well, that's easy -- he didn't finish the job right the first time. After the Internet got wind of the mascot, FHEMIG got rid of Flamy without further explanation, and stated that no one is allowed to give any interviews about the character. At present, the hospital is now busy designing Crushy, the angry anthropomorphic car that screams and shines flashlights into the sleeping faces of children who survived traumatic auto collisions.
Evan V. Symon is on the Personal Experience Interview team and Interview Finder Guy at Cracked. If you have an awesome experience or job you want to share, hit up the tipline at firstname.lastname@example.org. Raoni Lacerda is a Bullshitsu Master and you must defeat him to stand a chance. Carolyn Burke is sad now; cheer her up by following her on Twitter.
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