Top Halloween Costumes of 2016 by Paid Search Ad Spend

It’s October and time once again for AdGooroo’s, annual look at the top Halloween costumes of the season.

To assess the most popular costumes this year, we compiled a ranking of the top 20 costumes by text ad and product listing ad spend on 2,959 Halloween costume keywords on U.S. Google desktop search from August 1 through October 4.

Halloween Top 20 Costumes 2016

Holy Itch, Batman!

Superhero comic characters have long been among the most popular Halloween costumes and 2016 is no different—there are 9 in AdGooroo’s Top 20 this year.

However, we were quite surprised to find a relatively obscure Batman villainess at the top of our ranking—Poison Ivy. With nearly $159,000 in paid search spent on Poison Ivy costume keywords over the past 2 months, the character has generated around $58,000 more in paid search ad spend than the next two most popular costumes, Pirate and Ninja Turtle, which each generated $101,000, respectively, during the period.

So what gives?

After some (brief) online research, we believe the apparent popularity of Poison Ivy costumes this year may be due to two factors—recent pop culture relevancy and a dual appeal to children and adults.

First, Poison Ivy is featured in the “DC Super Hero Girls” comic, video and merchandise line, which debuted in October 2015 and is aimed at young girls.

Second, we suspect the character has gotten swept up in the same zeitgeist that propelled another somewhat obscure Batman villainess, Harley Quinn, to the top of Google’s Halloween costume searches in 2015.

It turns out fans were searching for Harley Quinn costumes in droves last year after seeing actress Margot Robbie’s portrayal of the character in online previews for the more adult-oriented film Suicide Squad, which was released in theaters this past August. Now online reports are suggesting Poison Ivy, who is Harley Quinn’s partner in the comic books, may appear in a new Harley Quinn film starring Robbie.

Whatever the case, the sudden popularity of the character this Halloween may not mean a windfall in licensing fees for DC Comics owner Time-Warner. A recent search found what appeared to be more than one Poison Ivy knockoff at the top of the product listing ad results, including “Lethal Beauty” and “Toxic Temptress”:

Halloween 2016 poison ivy costume search

Although Harley Quinn costume keywords generated nowhere near enough paid search spend to make our Top 20 Halloween costume ranking in 2015 (just $27,000), the character ranked #5 this year with more than $80,000 in spend during the two-month period.

Other superhero character costumes in this year’s Top 20 include the general term Superhero($73,000), Batman ($61,000), Wonder Woman ($58,000), Catwoman ($54,000), Spider-Man($53,000), Captain America ($41,000) and the aforementioned Ninja Turtle ($101,000).

What’s Old, What’s New

Additional costumes in the Top 20 ranking this year include Star Wars ($90,000), Little Red Riding Hood ($55,000), Alice in Wonderland ($53,000), Mermaid ($48,000), Power Ranger($47,000), Mad Hatter ($45,000) and Dinosaur ($42,000), all of which appeared in last year’s ranking along with all of the superhero costumes cited above except for Poison Ivy and Harley Quinn.

Also new to our Top 20 costume ranking this year is that curious mix of Victorian era industrialism and science fiction, Steampunk ($58,000), as well as Ninja ($41,000) and Peter Pan($39,000).

Hillary or Trump? Let Us Gaze Into Our Crystal Ball…

Halloween 2016 presidential candidatesEvery four years news reports tell us of a decades-old phenomenon in which the sale of presidential candidate Halloween masks can be used to correctly predict the outcome of that year’s election. Simply put, whichever candidate has the better-selling mask at Halloween will win the November presidential election.

Although such an endeavor is clearly unscientific, and even a little stupid, we decided to dip our toe into the election prognostication business. (After all, the same could be said of many of the people who appear on television with election predictions.)

And the winner is…Hillary.

Halloween 2016 Clinton vs. Trump

Two Hillary Clinton costume keywords generated a total of $2,981 in paid search ad spend from August 1 through October 4 compared to $1,909 generated by ads served on five similar Donald Trump costume keywords during the period. That’s a difference of 56 percentage points.

You heard it here first, folks.

The Least Popular Costumes

halloween 2016 least popular costumes

Sometimes surprising, sometimes obvious, but always interesting are the least popular costumes each Halloween. The following ten represent a selection for 2016 based on paid search spend (or lack thereof) from August 1 through October 4.

halloween 2016 austin powers kid


The film Austin Powers will be 20 years old next year, so it’s understandable if few kids are interested in dressing as the character this Halloween, as the $12 total spend on the keyword term ‘austin powers costume kids’ suggests. (Although fans of the films may be heartened to know that total spend on Austin Powers costume keywords for adults hit nearly $2,200 during the 2 months studied.)

halloween 2016 grim reaper women

They say every woman dreads the prospect of being at an event where someone else is wearing the same dress as her. Well that’s going to be highly unlikely if you show up this year as the living personification of death; the keyword term ‘grim reaper costume for women’ generated just $10 in spend, August 1-October 4.

halloween 2016 adult gingerbread man

The keyword term ‘adult gingerbread man costume’ made the Least Popular list this year with just $7 in spend. We’re not sure what’s more curious—the number of costume options we found when searching the term or the fact that someone thought it was a good idea to market a “sexy” version for women. (Then again, check out the PLA results for the next item.)

halloween 2016 harambe

The keyword term ‘harambe costume’ generated only $7 in paid search spend in the two months we studied, but that doesn’t guarantee you won’t run into someone dressed as the unfortunate Cincinnati Zoo gorilla that was killed last May after a toddler climbed into its enclosure. Year-over-year paid search spend on 11 general gorilla suit keywords topped $20,600 in the two months we studied, a 122% increase over the $9,300 spent on those terms during the same period in 2015.

halloween 2016 zombie dog

Speaking of animals, 63 keywords related to costumes for dogs (as in people wanting to dress up their pet, not people wanting to dress as a dog themselves) generated $158,000 in paid search spend in the two-month period we studied. Contributing only $3 to that total was the keyword term ‘zombie costume dogs’.

Halloween 2016 beyonce, mr robot, stranger things

There are many published predictions that Beyonce Lemonade costumes as well as costumes for the TV shows Mr. Robot and Stranger Things will be popular this Halloween. However, we found almost no paid search spend for keywords related to these pop culture items—just $3 in total across all three. Judging by the product listing ads we encountered, only Mr. Robot appears to have an official, mass-produced/inexpensive costume item on the market (a mask). Otherwise, it looks like Etsy or Do It Yourself are your only options.

Halloween 2016 baby werewolf and oompa loompa

Finally, Oompa Loompa and werewolf costumes for babies are not at all popular this year, but they sure are adorable.

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