We get used to seeing the same commercials, which is a bummer because the wonderland of weird that glows so mysteriously outside our borders is truly something to behold. The rest of the world's ad agencies seem to operate on their own playing field and thus retain a beaming strangeness that would fit in with inter-dimensional cable. So let’s just dive right into the oddball ads that are out there blowing up televisions around the world. Woo!
1. The Pasta Sauce Commercial Where a Singing Militia of Baby-Faced Fish Creatures Hop Across the Table Toward a Beguiled Young Girl [JAPAN]
Yes, I agree. This is an aggressively bizarre way to kick things off, but honestly, it doesn’t get any less weird form here on out.
Tarako is the salted roe of the Alaskan Pollock and apparently a beloved flavoring when it comes to pasta sauce in Japan. So does the commercial show a kid pouring sauce on her noodles? Hell no. The audience instead gets a slow army of droning creep-babies hopping in unison as they harmonize a song I can only assume contain the lyrics “The doors are locked and your parents don’t know you’re here. Your flesh is our eternal candy and your insides our new home.”
The child watches with a balance of horror and astonishment as they advance like ‘90s board game pieces. Then she pulls at her noodles like something’s missing from her life of diminishing value. Are the weirdos supposed to melt themselves down into a sauce in order to please this kid, who I have to assume they could easily overpower as a motivated hivemind? No idea. Your guess is as good as mine. Let’s just assume the kid was the antagonist here and they were seeking revenge for a fallen homie because it’s the only way I’ll ever sleep again.
2. The Cookie Commercial Where a Cookie-Monkey Hybrid Named Jammie Plays a White Piano and Guitar to Serenades Us All Like Elton John If He Fronted Styx [UNITED KINGDOM]
Parts of this remind me of the films Jim Henson did in the '80s, like Labyrinth and The Dark Crystal, which isn’t a terrific feeling by any means. Sure, you, like everyone else ever, can tell me how good those movies are, but I’ll never stop distrusting them. I 100% don’t care for how those Creature Shop puppets have made me feel over the years and I wholly resent them for it.
At the same time, this montage of a seemingly defeatist escapee from the Island of Dr. Moreau wades into Team America territory. And the song honestly rules. Titled “A Certain Gooey Thing,” the track is about Jammie Dodgers, Britain’s beloved biscuit, which gives me a warm and welcomed Weird Al vibe. Plus, it’s a pretty killer tribute to power ballads with a few moments that could’ve been written by Frank from Frank. Actually, I’d watch an entire biopic about Jammie. I’m done with biopics about humans.
3. The Instant Noodle Commercial Where Two Superheroes That Look Like Power Rangers Villains Magic Dance Fight to Add Flavor to a Terrified Woman in the Snow [JAPAN]
It took me way too long to realize these forest prancers are the mighty powers of pepper and cheese, mostly because I had to spend several viewings debating if I was high. There is seriously no part of this commercial that doesn’t make me laugh and/or do enough double takes to develop a neck condition, for which I would truly love to explain to a chiropractor.
But let’s break this live-action looney toon down anyway. For starters, the sound effects are as if some college student film editor got drunk on deadline and accidentally deleted the audio, forcing him to comically replace it with his own. Secondly, who the hell eats milk seafood Cup Noodles? Third, who eats milk seafood Cup Noodles alone in the snowy woods with no gear or trace of a past? I actually have more questions about this lady's home life than the two foodie sprites.
If I did get high, by the way, I could see myself mistaking this for a batshit Fargo parody.
4. The Cheese Commercial Where a Monster Jumps Out of a River to Eat People and Barf Them Up [FRANCE]
First of all, this monster is an asshole, so I don’t give a shit if it likes brie cheese. Secondly, I hate the way this frightening other-worldly scumbag looks. It's a dropout pitch for some runt villain in the inevitable Men in Black IV, which would probably just star Jaden Smith these days anyway. Motherfucker’s face looks like a fish with teeth—the monster of course, not Jaden Smith—much like the son of a bitch freaky-deaky oddball that is the dreaded Pacu. I seriously can't stand that goddamn fish.
Third, what kind of bullshit entrance is that anyway? Everyone seems pretty generally floored to learn this horrifying shit-heap exists, so it’s probably never surfaced, which means he’s just been swimming around the River Seine waiting for the perfect moment to pop out and snack on some bystanders? That’s not a plan. That’s barely even a premeditation. Like, come on, I’m supposed to believe this thing plotted such a lazy attack on Parisians? He’s clearly smart enough to appreciate fine cheese, but the slimy alien fish dinosaur can’t figure out how to ball out on a budget? Nope. This commercial can go to hell, where Admiral Ackbar’s serial killer nephew belongs.
5. The Burger Commercial With a Female Version of Ronald McDonald Giving You Alluring Glances in Sexy Clown Clothes [JAPAN]
That’s obviously not Ronald McDonald, the sad sack of immortality and primary colors whose legacy will be having fought Michelle Obama in the war on obesity. That’s Agota Varga as the face of the Tomato McGrand, dressed like the rebellious daughter or trophy wife of Lord King Burger Clown. If you’re wondering why I called him that, it’s because I’m not writing his name again for fear of him appearing like some kind of Beetlejuice and Pennywise hybrid. No way, fuck that forever.
Really, though, my body had a long conversation with itself over this one. Sometimes, I was really into it and sometimes it made me wonder what’s wrong with my psyche. Meanwhile, I expected Bill Hader to come out at any moment nailing a dressed-up impersonation of Andy Warhol. This whole thing seemed like it could’ve been a leftover Saturday Night Live skit from a few years ago or a social experiment with the Uproxx title of “We Asked a Sexy Clown to Make You Wish You Ate Garbage and You’ll Never Believe How Much You Realize Advertising Isn’t Hard At All.”
6. The Energy Drink Commercial Where a Dude Apparently Has Sex With Every Resident of an All-Female Apartment Building [ITALY]
Look, I’ve never been to Italy, but there’s no way this is a thing. You can't just go from apartment to apartment openly having bonkers sex with different babes who are totally cool with what you’re doing in a single night, especially not after chugging a goddamn energy drink. Your heart would explode and there'd be fireworks shooting out of your chest and your eyes would be pinwheels before you collapsed and I’m not totally sure what the odds are one of these six generously satisfied women is a doctor, but I bet it’s not good. Medical professionals don’t have gorgeous skin and mysterious eyes that make you want to take up piano just to impress their parents on Sunday evenings. No way, they're tired and they don’t see the sun, so I assume these women all have some futuristic jobs that don’t make sense, like professional hot potato or silk wearer or disciple in the eventual Kardashian religion that gets us all killed.
7. This Pretzel Stick Commercial Where Three Women Make Sounds and Move Kind of Like Dancing But Not Really in Some Sort of Terry Gilliam Limbo [JAPAN]
To be fair, I did get this song stuck in my head almost instantly. However, what also didn't leave me was the eternal question of what the relationship was between these two sidekicks and their default and clearly weaker leader in this prison made of gum packaging that could double as a bounce house or Betsey Johnson escape room.
At no time do I think about snacks during this Japanese version of Rocky Horror Picture Show. Instead, I wonder, are they being kept here against their will? Is this our dimension or maybe an alternate timeline, where tasteless mid-century wallpaper flourished? I hope there’s a sequel, because I have more questions about this than everything Damon Lindelof has ever done combined.
8. The Burger Commercial Where the Dude Moves and Eats Like a Massive Unsettling Snake in a Corporate Break Room [U.S.A.]
Everyone hates the shitbag who eats the food that isn’t his in the office kitchen. If he’s a human snake, then that’s a million times worse and has to be the most awful thing a person could ever be. But here we are watching a man eat a Triple Whopper from Burger King like a goddamn snake.
Have you ever watched a snake eat? No part of it makes you feel good about the world. A snake could eat a pile of dirt and I would still feel sorry for the “prey.” Unhinging your jaw is the scariest move of any creature, especially when it’s slow and deliberate and mesmerizing and awful and unholy and can’t be run out of any country because St. Patrick died in the 5th Century.
Does this sneaky ass cubicle worker return to the shadows the way he came up? No, he berates the guy who actually purchased the burger and seemingly watched in horror as this creature that I assume was dreamed up by Guillermo Del Toro ate his goddamn lunch in front of him and then busted out martial arts to remind the poor doofus who’s boss—likely just figuratively rather than in the corporate hierarchy here.
I will say, though, that the song playing in the background is called “Eat Like Snake” and is straight up funkin’ incredible.
9. The Tea Commercial Where a Woman Dressed as Some Kind of Clock-Bird Boops Out a Song as Food Falls Slowly From the Sky [JAPAN]
Okay, the piano riff in this commercial—or flash game on my phone, as I'm still not entirely sure—totally shreds. The weirdest part is just how damn surprised she is by the taste of the tea at the end, as if she didn’t just do a whole song and dance, quite literally, alongside smaller cartoon birds about the damn beverage.
Call me old-fashioned, but I like my creatively liberated birds being straight with me. I don’t trust them to tell me how good something is if they haven’t tried it themselves. This is like the gecko selling car insurance all over again. I don’t need this shit.
10. The Beer Commercial With Megan Fox at a City-Wide Party That For Some Reason Has Multiple Identity Twists Like It Was Mission: Impossible II [BRAZIL]
Is this Brazilian Carnival? Because if so, it is sincerely more tame than my imagination has suggested. I was promised a lot more sweet butts and soft feathers and way less human skin masks. It looks like the parade they’d throw at the end of a Disney flick. How this wound up a booze ad is beyond me. How is everyone so put together? Did it just start? How is no one throwing wild accusations at their beau like slippery darts? Isn't it more realistic to have a drunk woman we all thought was pretty chill suddenly stop trusting the relatively decent dude she's been dating for, like, no reason? Isn't that how parties these days work? I mean, f'real, why would Lex even be mad at me about that shit? Drunk Me sent the text and he can barely even read! She’s being unreasonable. I don't get it. Anyway, this commercial doesn’t have enough party.
11. The Banana Commercial Where the Man Made of Bananas Goes Bananas With Bananas [JAPAN]
In this live-action anime for Dole, a young dude sporting a banana mohawk, banana mustache, banana fingers, and banana horn-wings gets a job as an architect... I think... and harasses giddy female coworkers by spraying them with bananas before blowing away his previously unimpressed boss by adding banana arms to a building in some digital 3D blueprint. In another ad in the series, the same guy apparently has the day off, so he naturally shoots bananas out of his nose to cheer up some bummed-out lady on a park bench. The future is now in Japan, I guess.
12. The Potato Chips Commercial With the Murderous Tiger Spirit at a Backyard Barbecue [UNITED KINGDOM]
As a concept, this commercial for McCoy’s chips isn’t all that weird. It features Steve, the host of a barbecue, talking things over with his inner man. The topic? His friends—aka betrayers—are, to his dismay, eating Steve’s assumed favorite chips like it’s no big deal.
But it is a big deal. Holy shit, is it a big deal. It’s a giant, crazy, fucked up deal according to the menacing humanoid tiger who embodies Steve’s inner man. The beast is as intimidating as a contagious heart attack and it has the voice and eyes of Shere Khan from The Jungle Book live-action remake. The tiger spirit calls Steve’s friends “hyenas” and I’m honestly surprised it doesn’t encourage Steve to kill them and torch their houses because there’s no part of this tiger that seems chill.
Well, that’s not actually true. The tiger spirit is dressed like Steve, so he too is wearing a non-threatening shirt and youth-has-long-since-abandoned-me khakis. Together, they look like they’re supposed to have their Easter Sunday best on for portrait shots at the beach.
13. The Potato Chips Commercial Where the Human-Sized Dog Does Insane Things to Cheer Up Depressed Children In Need of a Snack [JAPAN]
If Falcor from The Neverending Story had a less impressive cousin who was constantly all blown out on coke or hopped up on amphetamines, that’s this entire series of commercials. He might as well be at Burning Man, and yet he keeps up his unnerving antics to try to make the saddest suburban kids see the light of joy. He doesn’t seem to be that good of a learner though, because he tries so many weird things, from fighting with a smaller dog to getting abducted by aliens, even though the same Calbee-branded snacks always seem to work. At no point do you feel these kids are safe. Thank goodness the dog scores glowing red eyes at the end because of course that’s a sign things are cool and not at all dangerous. Snacks!
14. The Gum Commercial Where a Gigantic House Cat Appears Out of Nowhere to Take the Most Stoked Businessman Ever to Work [JAPAN]
One, I love how excited this dude is about a magic cat that is four times the size of him appearing out of nowhere. Two, I don’t understand why they’d have to take the subway if the point of the cat was for transport in the first place. Three, why isn’t everyone on the subway losing their minds about this cat? Are we to believe this cat, who could just as easily be a character of great wisdom in a Miyazaki film, makes regular appearances? If that’s the case, are there others like him? Why don’t others have wondrous, stupendous cats? It actually seems slower to have the cat with you than not, which makes the whole case for this brand of gum whack as shit. The fact that this plot line is a gum commercial and not a scene from a Murakami novel adaptation is stunning.
15. The Burger Commercial Where Everyone Takes a Slow, Little Nibble Off a Humongous Floating Cheeseburger [U.S.A.]
Even though this is from the late ‘80s America, it still makes the list because everyone infamously and rightfully felt uncomfortable with it and the ad agency that made this frumpy mess was fired. The tagline was “Give a Little Nibble,” which is a terrible slogan. You don’t get little bites of a burger to try it anywhere and in no way does the wording make sense or sound appropriate. The ad agency probably forgot Wendy’s was their client and then crammed all night to make this ambient laziness that still, after all these years, feels like it weakly crawls around you like a goddamn McPoyle. I don't care for it and it shall be hanged at first light.
So there you have it, the weird, wild, wacky, and wonderfully unsettling food commercials of the world. There’s more out there of course and it’s our duty to find them and love them for how they make cologne ads seem normal.