Death in Commercials

Some commercials portray occurrences that would, in real life, cause someone’s death. A few recent examples include a Kellogg’s bar commercial (Nutri-Grain Minis, I think) where a miniature man with a Scottish accent is crushed by the product, a commercial for gum where someone’s head turns to ice and falls off in a taxi, and a commercial for a PlayStation 2 game, Jak 3, where a character is crushed by a large foot.

In these commercials, the character who suffers the injury does not die; this is usually indicated explictly. In the Kellogg’s commercial, the Scottish man’s feet can be seen thrashing under the product, and his voice is heard. In the gum commercial, the frozen man’s eyes can be seen to move even though his head falls into someone’s lap, and IIRC his head is reattached at the end of the commercial. In the Jak 3 commercial, the crushed character’s voice can be heard asking the creature who crushed him to move their foot.

So, it seems like the producers of these commercials are going out of their way to show that the character is not dead. (It’s possible that this might be to relieve parents of having to explain death to children who see these commercials, although some might argue that children who see someone in a commercial surviving an injury that would be fatal in real life may acquire unrealistic views on vulnerability and mortality.) This led me to wonder if there is some rule, written or unwritten, that characters in commercials cannot die. Further, are there any commercials (other than PSAs) where a character does die and is not shown to be still alive?


Anyway…Yeah, I can think of some.

The “Red Bull” commercials have a few with people dying, and ascending into the afterlife.

There was a “Got Milk” commercial years ago with a guy getting hit by a truck, and then ending up in a “Twilight Zone”-style Hell.

There was another one—I forget for what. Credit cards, I think—where a group of marketing people are discussing possible premiums for new customers. One marketing guy suggests a free trip to Mt. Everest—followed by a “dream sequence” of some (presumed) customers stranded on the side of a mountain in a blizzard, complete with a closeup of the frozen, grimacing face of a man who’s pretty obviously dead. (The marketing guys then decide not to offer an Everest trip.)

…And so on. I’m willing to bet that, over the decades, there have likely been hundreds of commercials featuring human deaths.

Probably about 10 years ago there was a tennis shoe commercial (don’t remember the brand) that had somebody bungee jumping. The final shot was of an empty pair of tennis shoes tied to the bungee, and some kind of comment about having shoes that fit, implying this guy slipped out of his shoes and fell to his death (and he was not shown to still be alive).

The commercial was pulled before very long. That’s the only example I can think of off the top of my head.

Yeah, those were the hertz (or another rental car) commercials. There was one where they suggested maybe putting aroma therapy candles in the car for free. They cut to the (imaginary) scene of 4 business men asleep in a car on the highway. The car careens off the road. (Here too, they opt to go for something else)

I just remembered this urban legend about a skydiver who was killed while filming a commercial for Mountain Dew. The story is true – a skydiver did die during the production of a Mountain Dew commercial – but the urban legend claims that the finished commercial includes footage from the fatal dive. It did not.

I think I can recall a few commercials about people who die and go to some sort of afterlife. That’s not really what I have in mind, since the afterlife bit is an integral part of the commercial, and you can’t get to an afterlife (whether it’s a Heaven with Philadelphia Cream Cheese or a Hell without Nikes) without dying.

That reminds me – there’s a current Nike commercial where a basketball player faces a series of challenges (with titles in Chinese for each). The last, ultimate challenge (self-doubt) involves the hero throwing a basketball through a cartoon enemy. He falls down with a huge hole in his chest, and there’s nothing to indicate that he’s alive, but I guess he’s a personification of the basketball player’s self-doubt, so he’s not real.

Here’s an ad I saw on one of those ‘best ads from around the world’ shows.

Four guys standing on the roof of a tall building.

Narration: To test the quality of XXXXX’s tennis balls we tried this experiment.

Three of the guys drop balls off the roof.

Cut to: line drawn on the side of the building. Three tennis balls bounce up to exactly reach this line.

Narration : As you see, all our balls are identical. Each will bounce exactly the same way.

Cut to: rooftop.

Narration : Now, lets try the same experiment with one of our competitors.

Three guys grab the fourth guy and throw him off the roof.


There have also been insurance company commercials where Dad is suddenly out of the picture.

Although they don’t SHOW him dying, of course.

I remember seeing a really weird ad quite a while ago. All I remember is a school girl on a stage in some kind of quiz contest, or maybe it was a spelling bee. Anyway, she’s asked a question, she gets the question wrong, and a huge block falls on her, presumably crushing her (imagine the 16-ton weight from Monty Python). I don’t remember what was being advertised… I think it was a video game. The ad disappeared pretty quickly.

Conseco had an ad with a guy sitting in his office, with sunglasses on, not moving all day long. People come by and drop off memos and pick them up later, but he doesn’t actually do anything. Then at the end of the day, his wife comes by, goes into the office, grabs the paycheck, and then proceeds to start vaccuuming his hair, changing his clothes, etc. The tagline was something like, “how do you plan on providing for your family when you’re gone?” What really creeped me out was the little desk fan he had blowing on him the entire time…

The IKEA commercial that sentimentally showed the death and disposal of a desk lamp. At the end, a spokesman mocks the viewer for feeling sorry for the discarded lamp, pointing out that it’s just an old, ugly desk lamp, after all, and IKEA has much better replacements for sale…

“Do you feel sorry for the lamp? That is because you are crazy. It has no feelings, and the new one is much better.” =) But the IKEA spokesman clearly and correctly believes that lamps do not experience emotions, so he would probably also believe that they are not alive and therefore can’t die.

MrJones: Do you remember if it showed the girl’s legs squirming, or if she said ‘take this block off of me!’ or something like that? That’s exactly the type of commercial I have in mind – something happens that should kill someone, and they’re shown to be still alive.

SilentButDeftly: Have you ever noticed that insurance companies always assume that men will die before their wives? “After he’s gone”, “I don’t know what I would do if [my husband] were gone”, and so on. Though it’s probably more frequent than women dying before their husbands, it’s not always that way, and you’d think insurance companies would have the actuarial tables to prove it. I think it’s more of a marketing thing – they’ve determined that most women assume their husbands will die before they will or most men assume they will die before their wives, and try to sell insurance based on that assumption.

Roches, I think the more important assumption they are making is that the husband is the primary source of income for the family.

I just remember silence from the girl, but I might be wrong. It wasn’t realistic looking… this was violence of the Bugs Bunny/Road Runner variety.

I realize that you mean that the person in the ad has something happen to them that should kill them, yet they still live to make wisecracks and say “little help here?” We’re kinda stretching it to include cartoonish violence.

Something else just occured to me…

I don’t know if this counts, but sometimes during the “Itchy and Scratchy” cartoons on the Simpsons, the cat and mouse will break from their usual mayhem to do a commercial for something. There’s one for breakfast cereal where Itchy has cut scratchy’s stomach open and he’s poured milk and cereal in it, and the kids are eating it as Scratchy says “so cold…” with a silly grin on his face.

One more…

That ad for deodorant, where the one guy pushes the other guy out of the plane without a parachute in order to demonstrate how well his deodorant works in stressful situations. He falls into the ground at high speed, leaving a crater shaped like him. Some cheerleaders look into the crater and say “boy, he’s cute,” and he gets up and looks at them with his eyes all googly and a silly grin on his face.

That’s more what your looking for. :smiley:

The first time I saw that deodorant commercial (I think I’ve seen it twice), I watched in morbid curiosity as soon as the parachute was removed, pretty certain the commercial would end there on a rather murderous note. I was then surprised to see the camera follow the victim towards the ground, even after the comical fantasy element of the spray deodorant keeping him from falling as fast. I briefly assumed that his death was about to be shown.


I hate TV.

I seem to recall that the old Leon’s comercials had people dying all the time. Grandpas falling out windows, being poisoned by their wives, being eaten by an old sofa, etc. etc.

I don’t watch TV very often but I caught this commerical on our work TVs. I must say it’s rather disturbing. I believe the taxi driver and the women both scream and I was surprised if anyone found it funny.

What a dumb way to sell gum.

This has really happened at least once (except the thing about the wife setting it up on purpose.) I don’t have a cite but there are threads around here about it. It’s been discussed several times here.

Well, there’s this xbox commercial; the dead person isn’t actualy depicted, but you’re left in no doubt that he’s dead.