About ten years ago, there was an advert for Frosties on television that has since entered the annals of history as one of the most important of all time. I’m talking, of course, about the infamous ‘Frosties kid’ ad.
There was something about it that captured the imagination. It had everything. An insanely annoying jingle. Bizarre visuals. Nonsensical lyrics. And a child star with a face that you could never, ever, not even if we’re living in an infinite universe that is constantly expanding and contracting in a never-ending series of bangs and crunches with us bound to repeat our actions in perpetuity à la Nietzsche’s concept of eternal recurrence, EVER get tired of punching.
Oh that poor kid. The rumours that swirled around him. Was he a dying cancer patient whose last wish was to star in a Frosties ad? Was it true that his own father had killed him out of shame after the ad aired? Was he really a being conjured from the psyche of a madman, what the Tibetan mystics might refer to a tulpa? What all these rumours had in common was that they attempted to provide context to the advert. An attempt to explain something that is inherently inexplicable and unknowable. When ignorance flourishes, religion fills the gaps, and so we imagined our own creation myths for the ad.
But I’ve always found that the kid is the least interesting thing about the advert. Plenty of better writers than I have bothered to track down the kid and ask him about it, and it’s never that illuminating or interesting. Here’s a fine effort from Vice. And another from The Tab. Meh, give them a read I guess. We have bigger things to discuss.
Like, just what were the creative team thinking on this one? Reverse-creative-engineering the ad, I guess they worked from the classic Frosties tagline “they’re great!” and decided to expand that into a whole song? But like a really annoying song?
Which brings us to an interesting aside; is ‘annoying advertising’ effective? I don’t always buy the ‘well, it gets you talking about it!’ line. I don’t like the idea that advertisers are deliberately trying to annoy people. If true, that’d be the most cynical horrible thing ever, and do no favours for an industry that is already regarded as pretty cynical and horrible. But then again, GoCompare’s campaign for the last couple of years has been pretty transparent about its own annoyingness. But who knows? I guess the question we need to settle is whether this advert is deliberately meant to be annoying. And I’m saying no – it’s just targeted weirdly.
The advert is clearly aimed at kids. Specifically kids exactly like the one in the advert. And I don’t think ‘annoying ads’ work on kids. Catchy, fun advertising does, and that’s what this is meant to be. The ad wants kids to know one thing: Frosties taste great. Everything else is just window dressing to help sell that idea. And I think this the point at which things got weird in the ideas meeting.
They realised that ‘great’ rhymes with lots of words! Lots of fun words that can have wacky visuals. Except they got carried away. In the words of Dr. Ian Malcolm “your scientists were so preoccupied with whether or not they could that they didn’t stop to think if they should.” Just because an idea sort of works on paper, it doesn’t mean you HAVE to do it. And the danger is that you get too far along the line with the idea before you realise it’s not going to work out. If you work in any kind of creative industry, you’re probably familiar with this. The slow realisation that an idea is a dud, but you’re already committed to it and the emotional weight of the sunk cost fallacy means you have to keep going through with it. This advert has all the hallmarks of exactly this happening.
I will now methodically go through the ad and identify all the weird stuff in it.
1. The Alarm Clock Sequence
Why does this kid have a bizarre Rube Goldberg machine of an alarm clock that dispenses Frosties? I guess they thought it’d be cool because kids like wacky inventions and gadgets, but it honestly raises more questions than anything. It doesn’t come up again, which just seems like bad screenwriting.
And the logistics of the machine make no sense. It’s an alarm clock, but it also serves a bowl of Frosties. His line is “I can hear the sound of Frosties hitting my plate” but the alarm clock also rings – so what’s waking him up? And what’s the benefit of having just a bowl of Frosties? You’d need milk to be able to actually eat them, and surely he doesn’t have a jug of old room-temperature milk sitting around as part of this contraption.
He also goes from bed to corridor without picking up the bowl or getting changed, but then appears fully dressed holding a bowl. The continuity is all over the place here. Or is it an attempt to reflect the non-linearity of dreams, wherein we experience events but without the intervening transitions? Is this a dream then? Only Tony knows.
2. “With Tony our mate”
The fact that the Frosties kid lives in a house with two siblings and no parents, with Tony acting as a kind of foster-father figure, is the least weird part of this ad.
3. “Even ladies who wait”
Wow. The third rhyme in and we’re already stretching. Plate and mate were pretty good, although I don’t necessarily accept that a bowl is a plate. But ‘ladies who wait’ is just unforgivable. This is the point that the advert should have been cancelled, everyone involved fired, and sent home to think on their sins. But no, this exists and we forever have to occupy the same universe as it.
The awkward phrasing of it is just so bad. Surely nothing could top th-
4. “Or a pir-ate”
Nobody says pirate like this. It’s only being said like this in order for the rhyme to work. Hey Mr Copywriter, next time try picking words that actually rhyme, yeah?
Also Frosties would be a poor choice of food for a pirate due to the difficulty of keeping milk fresh at sea, and its high sugar content at a time when dental hygiene standards were much lower than today.
5. “And your teenage brother who’s out on a date”
We are now playing the game of “fit as many syllables as possible into a line to make it work”. Seriously bro, leave some room for the rest of us. Also why are they in the Swiss Alps at this point? A lot of this advert indicates they had a huge budget for the visual design and didn’t know what to do with it.
6. “If you live in Oz, mate”
They already used “mate”. It was the second rhyme. But at least we get to see an offensive caricature of an Australian person, with what appears to be Crocodile Dundee playing a didgeridoo?
7. “Or the Empire State”
This one hurts my brain. He clearly says “Empire State”. Why not “The United States”? I get that the visual is the Empire State Building, but it would work anyway. And why is there a weird lizard monster climbing the building? Did they worry that KING KONG WAS GONNA SUE THEM? Or in this universe does that monster actually permanently live on top of the Empire State?
8. “Ladies with personalised number plates”
Real specific again, lads. Also, this is the second use of ‘plate’ as the rhyme, just with an s at the end. Lazy writing.
9. “A bloke in a crate”
Getting surreal now. Why is the ‘bloke’ a stereotypical English man in a bowler hat? Was this video directed by René Magritte?
By this point the child has amassed an army of followers. They follow him down the road like the Pied Piper of Hamlin, and he eventually rises up into the sky and-
Wait just a minute.
I suddenly get it. I know what this advert is.
A young man, that travels around performing miraculous acts, slowly building up a loyal following, spreading a message of love and positivity?
OH MY GOD
The Frosties Kid confirmed for Jesus.
This advert confirmed for subtle pro-Christian propaganda.
“After he said this, he was taken up before their very eyes, and a cloud hid him from their sight”.
– Acts 1:9