, ,

For the annual scare- and candy-fest, U.S. consumers now spend more than $10 billion each Halloween. It thus is no wonder that companies are upping their efforts to get their bite of that candied apple of revenue.

Papa John’s, for example, partnered with the jeweler Black Feather Design to develop a Stranger Bling pendant necklace. The pendant’s appearance is evocative of a container of the company’s garlic sauce, and it is the perfect size to hold a real garlic clove—because garlic, of course, repels vampires. The necklaces, which retail for $123, also claim to have anti-werewolf properties, because they are made of sterling silver. (We note that it remains unclear if the pizza makers really have the data to support such claims.) To launch and promote the Stranger Bling necklace, Papa John’s released a 30-second film. The necklace certainly is front and center, but there is not much in the way of narrative or character development.

Papa John’s distinctive and unique foray into spooky baubles thus looks like child’s play in comparison with Uber Eats’s Halloween marketing campaign. It hired an actual film director—Dan Trachtenberg, responsible for the recent big hit Prey, as well as 10 Cloverfield Lane and various other film, television, and podcast projects—to make Don’t Run Out, a short horror film starring Keke Palmer. The film puts Palmer and two friends in a creaky house, where they realize they are running out of candy. Palmer tells her friends how a family disappeared under similar circumstances on a previous Halloween, citing the urgent need to get more of the sweet stuff. As Palmer goes to place an order on Uber Eats, the electricity goes out, and—well, no spoilers. Just watch the film; it’s only 3 minutes long.

But the film is more than a prestige project, such that it offers relevant marketing promotions throughout. Uber Eats hid $1 million worth of discount codes inside the film. Of course, it feels confident it can cover those costs; the food delivery service raked in $2.77 billion in revenues in just the third quarter of 2022, up from $2.24 billion the year before.

Are such advertisements effective? Uber Eats has not released any metrics, but the Don’t Run Out video quickly logged nearly 100,000 views on YouTube. It also earned praise from industry observers, including Aptos Retail’s director of retail industry insights, who waxed rhapsodic in a blog post, praising the branding, the customer value, and more: “I love the ‘don’t run out’ hook; I love the brand building; I love the offer; I love the production; and yes, I suppose I do love the star,” writes David Bruno. “And I am guessing Uber Eats’ target customers will too.”

Discussion Questions:

  1. Why would a company launch an expensive Halloween campaign like Don’t Run Out?
  2. How would you measure the success of this campaign?
  3. Can you think of some attention-getting Halloween campaigns other companies might want to try in 2023?

Sources: “Don’t Run Out,” adsoftheworld.com; Mikala Lugen, “Uber Eats Short Film Hides $1 Million in Candy so You Don’t Run out This Halloween,”Mashed, October 19, 2022; David Bruno, “Are Halloween Campaigns that Try to Scare up Engagement Missing the Mark?”Aptos, October 31, 2022; Lenore Fedow, “This Halloween, Papa John’s Garlic Necklace Will Shield You from Vampires,”National Jeweler, October 20, 2022; Amy Phillips, Duncan MacLean, “Halloween Spending Expected to Exceed $10 Billion,”WWLP, October 25, 2022; “Papa John’s Launches Garlic Dipping Sauce Necklace for Halloween,”QSR, October 19, 2022; Gennaro Cuofano, “Uber Eats Revenue Q3 2022,”fourweekmba.com, November 1, 2022