The delightfully creepy new Cheetos ads.

Advertising deconstructed.
March 17 2008 7:11 AM

Chester's Got a Brand-New Bag

When did the Cheetos cheetah become so delightfully creepy?

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I racked my brain but couldn't think of other spokes-characters who present different personalities to different demographic groups. Riccardi reminded me that Tony the Tiger, of Frosted Flakes fame ("They're grrrrrrrrreat!"), was a bit of a trailblazer in this regard. Tony was at first strictly for the kids but later began appearing over grown-ups' shoulders to insist that Frosted Flakes are "the taste adults have grown to love." Tony never really changed his stripes, though. He was still the same friendly, upbeat tiger—just pitching to a different audience. By contrast, Chester has fully reinvented himself with this creepy, countercultural zag.

There's also a Web component to this Orange Underground campaign. (Because there always is.) We're encouraged to devise our own Cheetos-related pranks, then post the resultant video evidence to YouTube. It seems this ploy hasn't gotten much traction and has even met with mild resistance. As one food blog writes, "Who in their right mind is actually going to go out and buy 20 bags of Cheetos to pull pranks with?" Good point. Given that these things are constructed half of air and half of cheese dust, the per-weight cost of procuring mass quantities of Cheetos must be daunting.


Grade: A-. Bizarre, moody spots that make me laugh. I love the details (the chess clock, the rapturous look on the flight attendant's face as Chester massages her, "double down"). The humor isn't really in the notion that a cartoon Cheetah wants us to act like jackasses. It's more in the atmospherics of the ads—the lack of music, the sinister tone, and, above all, Chester's cruel insouciance. Kudos on a successful rebranding of a character that had seemed destined to fade into cheesy oblivion.