Skittles is a brand of pill-sized fruit gummies encased in a crunchy layer stamped with an "S." Its year of origin is given as 1974, but the identity of its inventor is a mystery which absurdity coordinates particularly well with the modern day avant-garde marketing strategies. All that is known is that Skittles originally was a candy product sold in the United Kingdom. In 1982, the Wrigley Company moved production to the United States. Mars, Incorporated purchased Wrigley in 2008, thereby bringing the "S"-candy and its possible design inspiration, the "M"-candy, under one roof.
The original Skittles pack consists of five flavors: lime (green), lemon (yellow), orange (...orange), strawberry (red), and blackcurrant (purple). Internationally, blackcurrant is replaced with grape; lime was replaced with green apple in the United States for a limited time in April 2001, and again from 2013 until 2021, when public demand brought lime back. In 1989, the first alternative packs ("Tropical," "Wild Berry," "Tart-N-Tangy") hit the market in the United States and it took another decade for them to show up in Europe. In 1994, the iconic tagline "Taste the Rainbow" was created by D'Arcy Masius Benton & Bowles. With a slight delay, every ad since has included this phrase and/or a verb variation like "Drain the Rainbow," "Believe the Rainbow," "Share the Rainbow" and "Fizz the Rainbow."
During the first few decades of its existence, marketing for Skittles went with the generic "life is good and [this food] makes it even better" message. In the 1990s, ads emerged that went a more creative route, such as the catchy fruit gangster commercial and the series of rainbow farming commercials.
Then the millennium changed and with it, Skittles ads changed too. As mentioned earlier, modern Skittles commercials are avant-garde and sometimes only recognizable as advertisements because they end in a picture of the product accompanied by the command to "Taste the Rainbow." There's the one starring sheep with human faces ("Blend the Rainbow"), the one where a yoghurt boy haunts the kitchen of a mansion ("Fancify the Rainbow"), the one where a telekinetic man takes off another man's hand ("Touch the Rainbow"), the one where a skittles tree grows out of a person ("Harvest the Rainbow"), the ones with a giant living tube sock ("Fizz the Rainbow"), the one where a rainbow gets tortured in the basement ("Rile the Rainbow"), and so on. A lot of them incorporate some form of horror, be that Horror Comedy, Body Horror, Surreal Horror, or Folk Horror, and a good portion of those that aren't horror still manage to be discomforting.
The most notorious Skittles ad to date is the Super Bowl ad of 2018 ("Exclusive the Rainbow"). Normally, Super Bowl ads are seen by millions of people, so Mars Wrigley Confectionery decided to do the opposite and run the ad for only one person: Marcos Menendez. There were four 15-seconds long teaser ads made to generate buzz that star David Schwimmer and challenged viewers to guess which of the four had anything to do with the real thing. There were also two 45-second-long ads of a fictional news reporter humorously defending the campaign. During the Super Bowl, people could visit Facebook for a live stream of Menendez's reactions while watching the ad. True to their word, that was the only ever showing and no one but Menendez has seen the ad. It is known that it was an ad centered around him, with a lookalike actor taking his place, his mom and best friend playing themselves, and some scenes taking place in his house. The campaign worked: the Super Bowl 2018 ad remains the most-talked-about Skittles ad ever and it is considered one of the best SB2018 ads in general.
The old Skittles commercials contain examples of:
- Anthropomorphic Food: In the 1981 "Crunchy Fruit Chews" commercial, the skittles are alive and sing about how tasty they are while swimming in rainbow water.
- Everything's Better with Rainbows: The rainbow farming commercials of the 1990s depict people going to great lengths to farm rainbows in other to harvest the skittles that fall down from a fully grown rainbow.
- The Mafia: The 1997 gangster ad opens with Benny (banana) hiding from five other mobsters: Lenny (lemon) and Larry (lime), Ozzy (orange), Suzy (strawberry), and the Undercurrants (blackcurrant). Lenny and Larry find Benny and juice him after telling him he never really was one of them.
- Smurfette Principle: In the 1997 gangster ad, only Suzy is a female fruit humanization.
The new Skittles commercials contain examples of:
- Abusive Advertising: "Believe the Rainbow" features three youngsters eating skittles while sitting on a rainbow. One of them poses the question if the rainbow is even real, upon which he falls through it and seemingly plummets to his death. It's an implicit threat never to question Skittles.
- Abusive Parents: The mother in "Harvest the Rainbow" refuses to call a doctor for her son, who has a Skittles tree growing out of his stomach because he's her orchard. Similarly, she considers his dream of going to college silly. From the state her son is in, he's not had a bath or change of clothes in a long time and may not be let into the house anymore. As a bonus, the mother is played by Beth Grant, who often gets cast as an abusive monster.
- All Balloons Have Helium: In "Inflate the Rainbow," after refusing to share Skittles Bubble Gum with someone, a man blows a bubble, grabs hold of it, and floats away.
- Ambiguous Gender: The yoghurt boy in "Fancify the Rainbow" is called that by the valet. All the same, its Motion Capture actor is Sveta Onopa and DDB Chicago lists the creature as "yoghurt boy (yoghurt girl)."
- Anthropomorphic Food: The portrait of Steven Tyler in "Rock the Rainbow" is made of skittles and alive.
- Balcony Wooing Scene: Averted in "Romance the Rainbow." The guy throws skittles at the window to get the attention of his love interest. The window is open and rather than answering she is contently munching away at the skittles that come in. Until she scoots over to let her mother have a bite. Then her father, then her grandmother, then a burglar, then the cop that came to arrest the burglar, and then a beaver. All the while the guy rhythmically keeps calling out to Cathy.
- Beast with a Human Face: The sheep in "Blend the Rainbow" have human faces and talk as humans do.
- Blob Monster: The yoghurt boy of "Fancify the Rainbow" is a humanoid form made out of yoghurt. The rich kid in the commercial has his skittles pushed into the Yoghurt Boy's body to create yoghurt-coated skittles.
- Cumulonemesis: An elderly woman and her pet cloud, Freddie, are the stars of "Nurse the Rainbow," "Pet the Rainbow" and "Groom the Rainbow." When the cloud is happy, it is white and rains skittles. When it's unhappy, it turns into a storm cloud and unleashes lightning.
- Duet Bonding: Two people fall in love in "Duet the Rainbow" because they both unleash a beam of light that plays "Gonna Make You Sweat (Everybody Dance Now)" upon opening their mouths after eating skittles.
- Financial Abuse: The mother in "Harvest the Rainbow" refuses to call a doctor for her son, who has a skittles tree growing out of his stomach, because he's her orchard. Similarly, she considers his dream of going to college silly. From the state her son is in, he's not had a bath or change of clothes in a long time and may not be let into the house anymore. All that matters to the woman is her skittles harvest.
- Giant Spider: The narrator of "Trap the Rainbow" is a huge spider who explains that on Halloween he befriended a boy named Billy, in part by ruining Billy's friendship to another boy named Ted. He illustrates this with a few short stories, after which he admits he's joking and that he ate the two boys.
- Glass-Shattering Sound: In "Rock the Rainbow," Steven Tyler has his portrait made out of Skittles. Said portrait is alive and to prove itself to its owner it keeps singing "Dream On" higher and higher until it falls apart. Only its mouth stays in one piece and continues to sing.note
- Grows on Trees: There's a tree that grows skittles in "Harvest the Rainbow". It grows out of a boy's stomach.
- Living Drawing: Steven Tyler is given a portrait of himself made out of Skittles in "Rock the Rainbow." It talks back when he disapproves of it, but falls apart when it's challenged to sing a few high notes. The mouth stays intact, though.
- Not-So-Imaginary Friend: Two children in "Haunt the Rainbow" divide their Halloween loot. Only, the one dressed as an old-timey ghost isn't actually dressed up, but really is a ghost and he threatens the other child into handing over the skittles. Then the child's mother enters and the ghost boy reappears behind her with the skittles. The mother is furious that her son ate all the skittles instead of sharing with her and leaves in anger. The ghost signals the boy not to talk about him before disappering to evade the mother's gaze.
- The Magic Touch: A man in "Touch the Rainbow" turns everything his hands touch into skittles, whether he wants it or not and whether what he touches is alive or not. He mentions killing a man just this morning and demonstrates how he can barely function due to his touch by picking up his ringing telephone and thus turning the device into skittles.
- Midas Touch: A man in "Touch the Rainbow" has a hands-only touch that turns objects into piles of the rainbow candy. He is unwaveringly clear about the fact that it makes his life hell.
- Pinocchio Nose: In "Tease the Rainbow," a boy has skittles raining out of his ear every time he tells a lie. His friends and mother go out of their way to ask him the kind of embarrassing questions no one would be truthful about.
- Polka-Dot Disease: In "Contract the Rainbow," the "Skittles Pox" makes people grow skittles on their bodies. Picking a skittle off of a patient and eating is a surefire way to catch the disease.
- Prehensile Hair: "Share the Rainbow" features a man in a job interview who possesses a long prehensile beard. He uses it to pick skittles off a table and place them in his mouth and the mouth of his interviewer.
- Puff of Logic: In "Believe the Rainbow," three teens sit on a rainbow and enjoy their Skittles. One teen asks: "Hey, what if this rainbow doesn't exist and it's just in our imagina-," and then the rainbow opens under him and he falls out of the sky, presumably to his death.
- Rapid Aging: A man's lifespan is tied to a Skittle-filled hourglass in "Warp the Rainbow". The more Skittles disappear from the top half, whether by falling through or by being taken out, the more he ages. His roommate doesn't care and eats the Skittles, watching the man age at a very rapid pace.
- Ride the Rainbow: No, they haven't made an ad with that verb yet (as far as we know), but the "Believe the Rainbow" ad has to be the closest to this. After all, how did those kids manage to get up on top of and sit on that non-existe- (rainbow opens up below the troper)
- Rotten Rock & Roll: Parodied in "Rock the Rainbow". When Steven Tyler enters the scene, he utters the line: "Okay, let's do this. I've got minds to twist and values to warp."
- The Tooth Hurts: "French the Rainbow" features a boy with skittles for teeth, and a girl who eats them out of his face under the guise of kissing him.