Nightmare Fuel/Advertising

Everything About Fiction You Never Wanted to Know.
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"I was scared of death before I saw that. Now I'm scared of life!"
Russell Brand, on old British government PSA's

Attentive readers may notice that most of these are Public Service Announcements. This is no accident.

Particularly scary commercials can become a Memetic Mutation, and in decades' time fall into Popcultural Osmosis. Unfortunately, the side effect is that nobody can remember, "What Were They Selling Again??"

Talk about Well-Intentioned Extremists.


PSAs

Animals

  • Hello RSPCA PSAs! This How much is that doggy in the window ad starts off with a dark, slow zoom in on a dog with an instrumental "How much is that doggy in the window?" song being played over it. After a while though, they dog looks to his right and sees a gun pointed at his face with a voice over telling us to give us (the RSPCA) a pound, or otherwise, they'll have to pull the trigger, either giving us the message that if they don't get enough funds, they might as well stop what they're doing or have to kill off animals they can no longer take care of (due to over breeding). Still though, scary advertisement, to say the least.
  • There was an anti-fox hunting film in Britain shot from the perspective of the fox being chased, with a lovely shot of the shredded carcass at the end.

Environmental

  • Not television, but Greenpeace had a delightful banner ad at one point which was intended to highlight the nuclear waste problems of the Mayak power plant in Russia. For some reason, they thought that it'd be a fantastic idea to advertise it with a large, black and white, disturbingly lit image of a deformed baby in a jar. And put it on the front page of their website. It didn't make some people want to find out more about the issues, it made them suffer for months and have nightmares. Anyone insane enough to want to see it is welcome to do so.
  • Also by Greenpeace: Here's their parody of response to Dove's famous "Onslaught" campaign. Just for comparison, here's the original Dove campaign, the imagery in which is scary in and of itself... and is even scarier when you know that Dove is owned by Unilever, which also owns Axe Body Spray. Hypocrisy at its worst, ladies and gentlemen. Especially nasty are the very disturbing and utterly gratuitous images of actual dead orangutans, often obviously decomposing or mouths fixed in unsettling grins. Which, naturally, ended up being paused on because it's not immediately obvious what the relevance is. Protip: don't do that.
  • "No pressure!" Although probably meant to be funny in a Black Comedy sort of way, this ad campaign for reducing carbon is just... unsettling. It has people getting blown up for refusing to reduce carbon, including children. And not in a cartoon-y Refuge in Audacity sort of way either, but in a bloody and graphic manner, complete with visible organ pieces. Squick. And can you believe this was a short film? No wonder the critics hated it!
  • There used to be an ad that aired on Cartoon Network in the US very early in the morning, usually not long after the channel had changed from the adult block into the kids block. It was an environmental awareness ad that featured a little girl lying in various places around her room while images of various environmental problems flashed across the room, things like destroyed forests, toxic waste, and polluted rivers. All of this happened while creepy children's music played in the background. At the end she sits up and asks you how the world is going to be when she grows up.
  • More mild than most examples here, but the new 'Energy Life.com' commercial- the 'Wasted Kilowatts' one? Creepy men in black body suits crawling around your basement, your attic, your fridge...
  • Greenpeace ran a cinema ad protesting the Nestle company, known for using palm oil, which contributes to deforestation and the loss of orangutan habitats. In the ad a man unwraps a Kit Kat, which turns out to contain severed orangutan fingers, and he bites into them with blood dripping from his mouth and a demonic grin. It's so frightening that YouTube pulled the official upload of the ad and Greenpeace had to host it on Vimeo instead. It did make it back to YouTube, however.
    • Actually, in America The Hershey's Company manufactures Kit Kat bars, not Nestle. So, what is Greenpeace? Crazy.
  • Anthony Hopkins narrated a charity film showing exactly what happens during the annual pilot whale hunt in the Faroe Islands, tone all too cheery compared to the eerie animated visuals of whales being harpooned and shrieking in agony. The film is very graphic but got a U certificate in the UK (equivalent to a G stateside) because it is a cartoon.
  • Those Web PSAs by the EPA depicting a whitewash paint, apparently with lead, being poured on a cereal, or baby's milk bottle.
  • Though not contracted nor paid for by the organization itself, some advertising agency wound up sending the World Wildlife Fund into issuing public apologies for this ad idea, which pushes all the wrong buttons for obvious reasons.
  • There was a disturbing anti-pollution PSA that aired in the USA in the early 1990s. A typical family is sitting around their living room while the kids watch cartoons on television. Without warning, a hazmat team enters and dumps oil everywhere: in the fish tank, on the TV, on the family... and the family just sits there, zombielike, and lets it happen. Then an ominous-sounding narrator asks the viewer if he or she would willingly let something like that happen in their home.
  • Greenpeace did a commercial purporting to be home-video footage shot on a hand-held camcorder, of a family playing by the seaside. A plane then comes in to land above them and as they scream and panic, the camera shows that the plane is crashing into a nuclear power station next to the beach. There is then an endline asking "Do we really want more nuclear power stations?"

Domestic Violence and Bullying

  • "Broken Toy", an anti-bullying video. The shots of the children are grainy in a documentary style, with mumbled, very real-sounding dialogue. It features a young boy who was constantly being bullied; at one point he manages to make a friend with another boy, whom is later shown having to move away. Eventually the boy is taunted so badly that he's pushed out into a street, gets hit by a car and nearly dies. One of the really scary things about this video isn't so much the video itself as the fact that schoolyard bullies can really be this bad. Kids? Innocent? Forget that!
  • Recently, there have been some British adverts against domestic violence. One of them features a teenage boy verbally and physically abusing his girlfriend. The camera then cuts to his bedroom window, where he is outside, looking in on himself and his girlfriend, banging on the window and screaming at himself to leave her alone. The idea is a very good one, that if you could see yourself, you might think twice about domestic violence, but it's still creepy. There was also a matching set done for the girl of the relationship, encouraging her to speak out about being abused. They are just as horrible, and a real Tear Jerker. And now they've done one for rape, it's just as horrible.
  • An anti-bullying PSA shown to us in year 7. Basically a kid being bullied, and each day the bullies get more aggressive, and on the final day you see the kid standing on a chair -- he kicks the chair away and his legs stay suspended, and immediately, you can tell what he's done.
  • An advertisement for the NSPCC which was hugely controversial when it was first launched in the UK in 1999. Named Can't Look it showed teddy bears in the sort of wallpaper you'd see in a baby's bedroom, a mug with Rupert The Bear an Action Man like action figure and posters of footballers and pop starts all covering their eyes, over the sound of off-screen child abuse, the advert was genuinely disturbing at the time, the message being that covering our eyes doesn't stop bad things happening. This advert was banned before the watershed after complaints... showing that some of us truly can't look.
  • Another NSPCC classic, Cartoon Boy, shows a Cartoon Boy being abused by his father, with cartoonish results that are out of keeping with the seriousness with which his father attacks him... culminating in the boy being knocked down the stairs... only to finally be shown as a real child, no longer cartoonishly affected but lying either KOed or killed at the foot of the stairs. "Real children don't bounce back" indeed.
  • There was a PSA ad awhile ago about domestic violence that featured a little boy sitting on some stairs while the viewer can hear the father berating the mother very nastily about her not having dinner ready in the background. There's an audible smack and the mother screams and cries as her husband beats her all while the little boy listens on. The fact that you could only hear it and not see it made it all the worse. Here it is.
  • Many years ago, there was a PSA about child abuse that showed a jack in the box playing a lullaby tune, before the payload sprang forth - an archaic baby doll with a porcelain head - to the sound of a baby crying. Then, out of nowhere, a baseball bat swings around and smashes the doll's head. The best part? This little horror played in the middle of a block of daytime cartoons.
  • There was a Public Service Announcement in Hong Kong that showed a red liquid dripping onto the floor from a table. Camera pans up to show that it is coming from an overturned glass, with a caption about a toddler whose abusive parents beat him to death for spilling his juice.
  • In the 2000's, Canadian broadcasters began running a PSA aptly entitled "She spilled my coffee!" in which a family is sitting in a restaurant. The father is served coffee by a young waitress, but she accidentally spills it. She apologizes before the father curses at her, grabs her by the neck, slams her against another table and sadistically spills the coffee pot on her body as she screams in agony and he slaps her, leaving her to slip off the table onto the floor and cry. Worse, nobody stops this from happening. Finally, as the father sits back down in his chair and the family continues to enjoy their time as if nothing happened, an announcer says "You wouldn't get away with it here, you shouldn't get away with it at home." This PSA was one of many made by Homefront in Calgary and, unsurprisingly enough, was considered controversial for TV.


Drugs, Smoking and Alcohol

  • An anti-smoking PSA featured hundreds of mechanical babies scattered across the city streets. It is arguably the creepiest thing ever aired before 6 P.M. on a family network, especially toward the end.
  • Australia possibly has some of the scariest anti-smoking ads in the world. Amongst some of the ads are: a woman with mouth cancer complete with rotting lips; cameras zooming down people's throats to show tumors; cutting brains in half; and a gangrenous leg about to get sawed off. ALWAYS EXPECT A BRAIN CUTTING OFF! Thailand and Hong Kong are much the same way.* Link to the mouth cancer video!
  • There's an anti-drug PSA from sometime in 1998 that features a narrator asking "after everything you've been through, can you still say marijuana is harmless?" Cut to a young man on a hospital bed with a respirator, trying to say that...and then a stoned surgeon, with a scalpel in one hand and a joint in the other, looks down at him, says "Well, let's see if I can still make a straight line!" laughs maniacally and begins to bring the scalpel down on the patient. Here is a link for those who want it.
  • This PSA about the effects of huffing shows a girl trapped in her room as it becomes flooded, as an allegory for how huffing deprives the brain of oxygen and is, thus, similar to drowning. The girl's dead corpse floats by the camera at the end (right before the "Partnership for a Drug Free America" text fades in)!
  • A young woman staring straight at the camera while "Happy Birthday to You" plays faintly in the background. Then some spooky voices sing "How ooollld arrre youuu nowww, la dee dee dee deeee." And her face begins to morph and disintegrate until she becomes a lifeless corpse with empty blue eyes. And it ends with someone throwing a sheet over her face.
  • An anti-drug ad that showed a montage of people partying, dancing, etc. while a voice narrates how "he's your friend", "I make everything better", but all the while the voice grows more menacing; at the end the voice says, "You want to know who I really am?"
  • This anti-drug PSA from the eighties. A drug-dealer named Snake, half-hidden in shadow, as he introduced himself and spoke of how much you'd be willing to go to get more drugs from him. His voice become more and more distorted as he moved in a fluid manner, saying how we would "lie to your parents, steal, cheat on your homeboys." He finished up by saying, "Hey, do I look like the kind of guy who'd do that to a kid like you?" He then appeared in the light, revealing he is a human snake and hissed in a distorted voice "Yessss!" The ad ends with a freeze-frame of Snake hissing at the camera. Brrr!
  • This anti-drug ad. It features a rather creepy young boy "burning" every time his older sister smokes marijuana.
  • The UK's series of anti-drug PSA includes the deeply disturbing Brain Warehouse. It's not the products as such (nor the fact that they can be freely handled by all the customers) that's scariest. It's the salesman's smile.
  • Recent anti-steroid PSAs have featured: things fading away into nothingness (in the last one, it's actually an entire person disappearing); a statue's limbs crumbling away (as a metaphor for what will happen to those who use), and in a supreme example of a scary metaphor, a deflating football, basketball and volleyball and a baseball being crushed like a soda can They're not allowed to say it on TV, but we all know exactly what they're saying. Talk about "scared straight".
  • Tick. Ominous warnings are even more potent when delivered by eight-year-olds. Or as insanely annoying as a certain bad Metallica song. Take your pick.
  • This surprisingly well-animated PSA by Hanna-Barbera, where a dude wanders through a psychedelic landscape of pills and spliffs...then walks into a closet full of zombies, which grab him and age him 50 years in two seconds while a Scare Chord plays.
  • The PSAs for the Meth Project.
  • This anti-drug PSA from Canada features two extremely creepy puppets being offered drugs by a third. The commercial gets scary near the end when the kids refuse the drug dealer's wares. Defeated, he removes his sunglasses, revealing the horrific toll his puppet narcotics have taken on him. A less-creepy alternate edit had to be used for later airings.
    • Another variant manages to be more terrifying than the original version. It plays out as the previous two, but at the part where the puppet drug dealer removes his shades, the image lingers on his eyes, and then the camera zooms in closer to the freaking eyes!!
  • This New Zealand anti-drug PSA show a man snorting a piece of his own brain!
  • A terrifying PSA in the 70s shows a wind-up monkey while a young girl's voice intoned, "They say that people on heroin have a monkey on their back. Isn't that cute?" Right as she finishes, the camera zoomed in on the monkey, which transformed into a freeze-frame image of a real monkey screaming at the camera. The ad in question. Pleasant dreams.
  • There is an ad that's a girl telling her parents "of course she'll be safe tonight," and then she rolls her eyes and starts getting ready to go out. She gets in the shower, turns the water on, and screams because it's bloody. She turns around to see HERSELF, naked and bleeding at the other end of the shower, begging herself not to go out tonight. It's from the Montana Meth Project ads, see it here.
  • A few years back there was this anti-smoking advert in the UK. It had a bunch of people smoking, and the smoke makes a skull shape. It was really creepy at the time.
  • An over-the-top 'Frank' drugs-prevention ad: Pablo the drug smuggling dog. You need to see it for yourself.
  • A similar one, possibly cut from production- you be the judge!
  • There's an anti-smoking ad that plays before some movies in US theaters with a bunch of people on a float going through some town, singing. Except they're all cancer victims, and some of them have tracheotomy scars, and some don't have tongues, and some are missing the entire lower half of their face... it's freakier than most R-rated films, but they show it before PG-13 movies. Gosh darn it, guys!
  • From the same people who brought you Broken Toy comes The Boy Who Was Swallowed By the Drug Monster.
  • This anti-coke ad. A man sitting in his car while a decaying zombie dances around him. If that's not bad enough, we also get a closeup of his rotting teeth.
  • This anti-smoking PSA which seems to imply that smoking is a one-way ticket to hell, with demonic skeleton creatures ready to drag you down should you choose to light up a cigarette.
  • This anti-smoking PSA is half-horror and half-Tear Jerker, showing a former chain-smoker with a tracheotomy getting ready for her day.
  • This PSA from Concerned Children's Advertisers explaining talk of disgusting chemicals being added to drugs shows quick-cut, slow-motion shots of a needle being tossed into the air before smashing onto the dark, filthy road in a nighttime setting. Wow. Exactly what a kid needs to see while innocently sitting in front of the TV watching Sailor Moon on YTV when the commercial break comes.

Safety

  • A series of Public Service Announcements airing in Canada show the effects of workplace accidents on average people. The short commercials are produced by the Canadian WSIB (Workplace Insurance Safety Board), and often feature a person being killed in an accident right at the beginning, then proceeding to explain their mistake to a fellow employee. However, one of the commercials involves a young sous chef working at a restaurant, who explains how she wants to be a head chef, and talks about her fiancee. She explains that she is going to have a "terrible accident", grabs a heavy vat of boiling water, and slips on a grease puddle carelessly left on the floor, causing the entire pot to douse her in the boiling liquid. She starts screaming at a hysterical pitch, and as a co-worker yells for help, there's a split-second shot of her skin boiling, and then the picture cuts to black. The worst part? These commercials air during not only primetime hours, but during shows aimed at children. Here is the link to all five Prevent-It Ads. The chef one is first, but the most disturbing are when the accident victims sit up and describe their mishaps while dying. Without pain. Creepy. Or the one where the corpse at a funeral gets up and explains why his face and hands are covered in burn marks (something to do with high-voltage power lines).
  • A recent series of Australian workplace safety ads featured, among other things, a chef pouring boiling water on himself, (at least that one was the only one that wasn't as graphic as the prevent-it.ca ad is) a teenager in a bakery having a finger cut off in a bread slicing machine, a woman falling off a ladder and breaking her neck and a builder's apprentice shooting himself in the eye with a nail gun (or maybe it was a splinter hitting him in the eye).
  • While they don't seem nearly as extreme as some these examples, New Zealand ACC ads are incredibly scary indeed. They start off as ads for other products - house paint, muesli bars etc. - and then accelerate rapidly into horrible domestic accidents. In the house paint ad, the guy falls off the ladder, onto the concrete below, and breaks his back. However, in the muesli bar one, a woman advertising them trips on a Tonka truck and lands, face first, on a glass table. It ends with a lingering long-shot of her trying to get up out of the table and whimpering softly in agony. Hilarity ensues.
  • A PSA by the Federal Railroad Administration warning you the danger of railroad crossings started with a railroad crossing crossbuck sign on a black background as there's some creepy horror-type music playing in the background. An off-screen voice says "A lot of drivers ignore this warning." Then the crossbuck sign fades into a skull and crossbones as the voice continues, "Almost every 90 minutes, one of them is hit by a train." After he says this the skull and crossbones fades back into the railroad crossing sign as "ALWAYS EXPECT A TRAIN" appears on the bottom as the music fades with scary synthesized sounds. Scaring people into not ignoring railroad crossing signs or signals with a scary Halloween-ish PSA is a little too far; no wonder they show more kid-friendly cartoons about this stuff to kids in elementary schools (such as Sly Fox and Birdie).
  • This train crossing safety PSA from the Metropolitan Transit Authority of New York.
  • A PSA for car safety shown in movie theaters in England involved showing actual footage of children being hit by cars as they played in the street. There's another one with just a toy and a splash of blood lying in the street.
  • There is a print advertisement showing the aftermath of grisly accidents, showing open wounds, blood, stitches, with slogans like "I thought I could wing it", "I wanted to show off", etc.
  • Nacaids made an infamous ad where the Grim Reaper bowls for AIDS victims. This ad, written by Simon Reynolds, shouldn't be watched before bed.
  • So you're writing a Government Information Advert to prevent little towheaded British children from drowning. Why not get Donald Pleasance to wear a hood and stalk them?
  • This vintage Smokey the Bear commercial from 1973, for a split-second near the end, is the. Most frightening. Thing. Ever... To elaborate for those who'd rather not watch, we slowly move in on Joanna Cassidy's face as she's talking with a really scary facial expression... then she peels off her skin disguise to reveal Smokey underneath with a terrified look in his eyes.
    • The ending was redone in 1980, where Smokey removing his Joanna Cassidy mask is less scary and more natural, and Smokey himself is more friendly and cuddly-looking.
  • A different terrifying Smokey Bear one is set with a grandfather walking with his granddaughter in a world where people let forests burn. Then the birds died. The air became unfit to breathe...and it's implied we're heading for extinction. It then zooms out to show the grandfather and girl in gas masks...with a spooky breathing noise here. Watch and be scared.
  • This British speeding PSA. Holy crap. That creepy version of "I Can't Take My Eyes Off You" contributes to a lot of the horror.
  • This British drink-driving public information film from the 1970's. Why did British television have to be so scary in those days?
  • Some Australian drinking and driving ads are horrifying.Here's one. When you compare TAC ads to other countries, they get the point across in the most horrifying ways. No wonder there are some which can't be played until 9:00 on prime time TV.
  • A UK drinking and driving ad began as the "Light and Cheerful" kind, with a man sitting down at a bar next to a beautiful woman, picking up a beer, and setting down his keys. The woman frowns and a voice over says "Before you drink and drive, think of the choices you'd be forcing onto others." It then showed clips of blood soaked people in wrecked cars, a woman trying to walk and screaming in agony, a man in a semi-vegetative state, an attractive looking woman turning around to reveal a horribly disfigured face, and a police officer delivering the bad news to an elderly woman, all while everyone stoically considers the choices forced upon them. The scene then cuts back to the happy bar as the man sets down his beer, and the woman smiles.
  • A British PSA on texting and driving. There were about 5 girls in the car, cruising down the highway. Practically all of them had cell phones in their hands talking about stereotypically girlish things when suddenly out of nowhere, you see a car on the horizon, the girl at the wheel start to panic, then a blackout with screams and the sounds of the crash echoing in a weird, tinny fade out. When it fades back in, it shows a close up of the driving girl's eyes. As the camera pans out, you see that the car is completely flipped, and the rest of the girl's friends are bloodspattered and motionless, presumably dead. The one surviving girl whispers the names of her friends, screams, and it ends.
  • A poster at entitled "Not everyone who gets hit by a drunk driver dies." showed pre- and post-crash photographs of a twenty-year-old woman who was in a car hit by a drunk driver and trapped in it when the car caught fire. The Snopes page describes her injuries and links to several pages with images of her. There was also a TV commercial in which she held up a "before" a picture of herself and introduced herself before lowering the picture and revealing what she now looks like. She has since been the topic of several surgery-themed documentaries.
  • Wisconsin has these DOT radio PSAs that are just a mother and son talking after they've been in a horrible car accident, slowly coming to grips with their situation and ending with them realizing that nobody is coming to help them.
  • In New Zealand, there's an ad where a strange old man sits by a Wheel of (mis)Fortune and he watches the road, accompanied by haunting music and freaky noises. As a car enters the intersection, he spins the wheel. Where the wheel stops on decides the car's (and their occupant's) fate. There are three versions of this ad.
    • In one ad, the wheel stops on "Near Miss". The car in question almost hits another car. After the miss, a police car is in pursuit.
    • In another ad, the wheel stops on "Miracle". The car in question almost comes into contact with two cars. They all spin and, after all that, they remain unharmed.
    • In the final, but much more frequent ad, the wheel stops on "Death". The car in question is hit by a speeding car. Everything stops in slow motion as the horrific scene is showered upon by a rain of broken glass.
  • In an ad on British TV, a man is shown without a seatbelt and he crashes into another car, then the camera goes X-Ray and a narrator, a very monotone creepy middle aged lady's voice, explains how the airbag saved him from going trough the window, but then in extreme detail goes into how his ribs break, his lungs get punctured and his heart suffers physical trauma, as the organs go through this on later afternoon TV before 6! Enjoy.
  • A similar ad exists in Denmark, except it doesn't actually show the person crashing, there's just a middle aged man telling you in detail exactly what happens if you drive a little too fast and loses control over your car. He ends the whole thing with, "Have fun."
  • There is a workplace safety video called Will You Be Here Tomorrow? that skips the "what is workplace safety?" and goes straight into a montage of people being maimed, dismembered, and killed in excruciating and extremely graphic ways, including a man being hurt by a nail after it jumps into the air as forces itself into his eye just because he hit it wrong.
  • There was a PSA about firearm responsibility. It begins with a cartoonish version of two siblings playing cowboy, complete with the hats and bandanas. The little boy goes "Bang, bang", shooting his sister, who collapses on the ground covered in blood. The boy says "Jenny, wake up, it's only a game." The ad pauses as the boy stares down at his sister. Then he says "But she didn't wake up." Then they showed a message telling families to lock up their guns.
    • There were two others in the series, both with the same crude, childish drawings and child's narration. One has a boy describing how he shot a friend who came over to play - "There was a hole in him." The other is a girl talking about how her little sister loved pink dresses and Barbie dolls, until the narrator found mommy and daddy's gun and shot her. At the end she sadly says "I made Kelly go away. I hate me," making this a real Tear Jerker as well.
  • A recent British PSA features the effects of texting while driving. Heads get smashed through windows, necks are snapped, blood is all over the place and a dead baby is shown staring ahead, unmoving. It's extremely realistic and horrifying.
  • The UK advertising campaign 'THINK!', which deals with road safety, has always had a few Scare Them Straight moments. However their most recent advert about drug driving features a car full of youths with their eyes digitally enlarged. The girl's huge, blank eyes as she stares out of the window are particularly creepy.
  • In Ireland, there is a series of car-related PSA's that are absolutely horrifying. One of them starts with a loving couple cuddling on a bench, with the words "Today (boy's name) will hit his girlfriend so hard, she'll end up with permanent brain damage." They get in a car with two other people, and everyone wears a seatbelt except the boyfriend. They get in an accident, and the camera graphically shows him bouncing around the cab, striking other people with his head, before cutting to the crippled girlfriend at the funeral for the other three passengers. The second, WAY more horrifying drunk driving PSA involves a man happily playing with his toddler in his own back yard, when an SUV suddenly crashes through the fence. The bloodied driver exits his car to view the man clutching his son's dead body and silently wailing while the narrator asks if you could live with the guilt.
  • This anti-drinking PSA[1]. It showed a home video of an adorable 1-year-old, repeating his mother's words for numbers in Spanish. Then writing appears on the screen, telling the viewer the baby died in an actual crash, which was the result of the mother trusting a friend to pick the baby up. The friend, of course, had been drunk. Why would they show this on a kid's station? This commercial was one in a series of similar PSAs. All of them showed home movies of adults and children in happy moments and then the writing on the screen would have the names of the people in the video, their date of death, and stated that they were killed by a drunk driver.
  • There was a similar UK PIF, featuring home video of variously-aged, similarly-deceased children.
  • Currently, England is running a "Speed Kills" PSA which some have taken to calling 'Dead Ginger'. Watch and be horrified.
  • The "Jimmy Gets Electrocuted" public information film. Creepy electronic music makes it even more unnerving.
  • In the UK, Transport for London and the Metropolitan Police run an annual campaign called "Know What You're Getting Into", about the dangers of unlicensed minicabs. All its TV spots are terrifying. Notable among them include a man in a car talking about his conviction for rape and then leaning out of the window to offer a passing woman a lift; a woman getting into a minicab and talking on her mobile phone then breaking off as she realises the driver isn't taking her where she asked to go, screaming "What's happening? Where am I?"; and one with blurry, distorted visuals of a group of girls forcing their drunken friend into an unlicensed car.
  • A Hemophilia Foundation PSA from the '70s: eerie, distorted visuals of a hand-held camera travelling around a house, with sudden extreme close-ups on ordinary objects that would be very dangerous to a hemophiliac like knives, the corners of a table or a cat scratching at the camera. All the time there is the sound of a Creepy Child laughing in the background.
  • There was a London-only PSA showing a cheery, smiling mother making breakfast for her vast family of children and then pulling out a gun and shooting one of them in the head, with blood all over the table and splattering over the other kids. Then a voiceover says that keeping quiet about gun crime is as bad as shooting the victim yourself. To stop it from being banned completely, the PSA could only be shown in cinemas for 18-certificate films. Watch it here.
  • Fire safety adverts seem to be creepy in general. These, are good examples.
  • There was a fire safety PIF in the UK a few years ago. The ad starts with a close-up on a man's face, emotionless and apparently dead. He then suddenly breaks down in tears as the camera zooms out to reveal him standing in a house that's been completely destroyed by fire, to the accompaniment of disembodied voiceover (his presumably dead daughter saying "Alright daddy?") and as his sobs echo, a voiceover says "A fire doesn't have to kill you to take your life". See it here.
  • This New Zealand one advocating fire alarms. It's tame in content compared to many others on this site, but the narrator's voice alone is more than unsettling.
  • There is also a very creepy anti-speaking-on-the-phone-when-driving ad, in which a man is calmly talking to his wife through a mobile phone, they talk for about 30 seconds before you hear a thump, the man jerks forward and just lays there (presumably dead) with a bleeding nose as his distraught wife repeatedly calls his name while crying. Finally found it!
  • A series of bus ads on the DC Metrobus system make mention of crossing the street only during the 'Walk' portion of the pedestrian signals. Some are relatively low-key, but there's one in particular where a car is barreling straight into a woman. Said woman is flying, rag-doll through the air, scattering brown paper bag with groceries, purse, and shoes. To make it all the more nightmarish, a baby in a stroller is sitting in front of the woman.
  • There was a British radio PSA in the mid-1990s with a cheerful, motherly-sounding woman (if not Judi Dench, then a remarkable simulation) relating the tale of little Alice and Bob, whose favourite fairytale was Peter Pan. They wanted to be like him, and got their wish - when the car crashed on their way to school. They weren't wearing seatbelts, so Bob got to fly (through the windscreen) and Alice never grew up! Just like Peter Pan! Made all the more horrific by the way the narrator lovingly describes the children's injuries in intensely graphic detail. Enjoy the horror here [dead link] (scroll down to #8).
  • A TV ad against texting while driving. It showed a first-person view of someone reading messages on an iPhone, the messages saying stuff like "If you have to pick up Chris at 11, and the party ends at 3, and you have 50 miles of gas worth in your tank..." and then it ends with the final text message being "What are your chances of surviving this crash?" and then you can feel the guy's Oh Crap reaction as he jerks his head up and sees a car roaring towards him...then the screen goes black. Congratulations. You just died in a car accident. In first person.
  • On Dutch TV in the early nineties there was a PSA advising kids not to try and climb the fences surrounding the giant electrical transformers that power the countries. How did they do this? By showing a distressingly realistic and graphic portrayal of a young teenager electrocuting himself followed by his distraught brother kneeling down next to him and putting a hand on the transformer as the screen goes to black with a hideous zapping noise and the warning 'don't risk your life, don't climb the fences'
  • Another corporate campaign from the UK here, reflecting on why using a mobile phone at work can be a very bad idea. This one's called Hit or Miss.
  • There was a PSA in the early/mid-nineties about keeping your guns away from children. It showed a young boy and his two friends, playing some sort of cops-and-robbers game with squirtguns. the boy runs through the kitchen and hides upstairs as his mom tells him and his friends to play quieter...he hides under a bed in his mother's room, and his friends go into his mother's bathroom to find him. Then the kid pulls out a real gun that was hidden under the bed, aims at his friends, and we cut to his mother and baby sister in the kitchen, startled (and in Mom's case, horrified) by a sudden gunshot. And then as the narrator speaks, we realize it's a little too quiet in the house now.

You think your kids can't get to your guns? Think again.

  • This ad features bloody (fake) dead bodies, a crashed car and Christopher Eccleston making tasteless jokes.
  • This fire safety PSA from the UK NOT FOR THE WEAK AT HEART!!!
  • A British PSA shown in cinemas which advises against buying drugs from the internet shows a man taking a pill from an envelope and swallowing it. He looks confused for a moment and pulls from his mouth a whole dead rat, then vomits into his sink. A close-up of the rat on the floor is then shown while the narrator talks about rat poison being used as ingredients in non-prescription drugs. View here.
  • This seatbelt PSA from the early 1970s. While the line "they wrinkle my dress" might sound a little narm-y, the tympani combined with the imagery delivers quite an eerie effect.
  • The Winnipeg Police Service is committed to safer streets. You don't want to hit an unsuspecting little girl with a car, do you?
  • This UK ad, a combination of anti-littering and general safety, made my life a living heck as a child and is no more comfortable to watch as an adult.
  • Ever wondered how you, if you own an electric substation, could use a way of keeping children away from them without necessarily shouting "Stay out of here! This is not a playground!"? Here's a good way!
  • There was an anti fire arms commercial that took place in Alice in Wonderland where Alice went into a room with a gun and shoot herself
  • This Finnish clip warns children about thin ice. It features weird animation, spooky music and a scary grumbling bear in the end - traumatizing Finnish children for a few decades now.
  • This harrowing Canadian advertisement for Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD Canada) depicts a black-and-white scene of a baby lying in a crib crying with nobody coming to take care of her. After slowly zooming out, the picture finally goes to black, with the sound of the baby crying still audible, and explains that drunk driving kills 4 Canadians every day, including the baby's mother, the baby was named Emily. This troper vaguely recalls that it played during daytime programming, possibly even on YTV.


Health

  • "Watch Your Own Heart Attack" was a short TV film run by the British Heart Foundation, a charity that funds research into heart disease and promotes prevention. Rather graphically showed you in first person the symptoms of a heart attack and what to do if someone is having one.
  • An Australian charity ran a PSA that started as a cartoon showing Alice in Wonderland riding through a field of flowers on the White Rabbit's back. Unfortunately, the rabbit's fur causes her to have an asthma attack, and the scene changes to show a real child struggling for breath (implied to be fatal by the caption on screen) and unable to reach her beloved toy rabbit which is only a few inches away from her. Disturbing to say the least.


Product Advertising

  • This horrible ad produced by Scion manages to make something that would be Narm (IE, people with square heads) and turn it into horror with the use of Body Horror, Nightmare Valley and What Were They Selling Again?.
  • There was a series of car commercials that, at first, seemed rather simple and aimless, featuring friends talking about whatever silly little subject comes to mind, when suddenly, BAM! Car accident. No one is hurt, but the commercial then cuts to one of the friends looking at the wreckage, saying "Holy-", the commercial cutting off to the pricing and safety features of the car.
  • An ad for the game Turok: Evolution showed two people swinging on a swing-set when suddenly, at random, the boy's hand becomes slashed and bleeds. Roars are heard and it cuts to numerous dinosaurs running about. It then cuts back to the boy and girl, both screaming. Cut to more dinosaurs before the final cut of the swingset, which has red mulch and a broken, red swingset seat.
  • There was a set of commercials for The Legend of Zelda Majoras Mask. During which, people around the world watched on as the moon slowly descended upon them. A radio show took calls and kept a countdown going. In one ad, it showed a boy, playing alone in a white room, sweat rolling down his forehead while he continuously glances upwards... at the end, everybody is running for their lives... here's the link.
  • This car ad. Possibly viral, possibly leaked, possibly carefully stage-managed by Ford- you decide.
  • There was a run of car insurance ads that started off looking like normal commercials. People talking in their cars. The conversations were always very normal, things you could relate to. They would draw you in, making you think "haha, my friends and I talked about that last wee-" BAM! Car accident. Followed by the "friendly" agent man saying "Now is not the time to think about car insurance."
  • This Sprite ad looks like the unholy bastard offspring of Hideo Nakata, David Cronenberg, David Lynch and Takashi Miike.
  • The commercials for the Goldwater Law Firm (the one that defends people who die or suffered from the side effects of medical products) play some incredibly unsettling, horror movie-type music in the background. It also doesn't help that they're talking about the horrible side effects of certain medical products. Here's a link.
  • Orkin had a series of commercials in which a creepy person repeatedly tries to get into suburban homes using a variety of flimsy stories, such as delivering a pizza, his car broke down and he wants to call his brother, etc. The creepy part is that the person is a six-foot tall termite/ant/cockroach. Not guy in a cute costume, but a giant, talking insect that sounds like a serial killer. One can hope that someone thought it would be funny, perhaps they wanted it to be just a little creepy. What they managed was "Giant alien insects are going to try and con their way into your homes to rape you and dangle your intestines from the ceiling". That would suffice better for an ad for a new shotgun.There's another one where a giant mosquito tries to get into a pool with a couple that where having a romantic moment. He drops his swimsuit and asks "are we...dipping skinny" before the Orkin guy shows up.
  • Buy Macintosh. Or be frozen alive in your cryogenic chamber.
  • There was an ad for Wrigley's in the UK that showed a man retching and spitting up a dog (literal "dog breath") after a night's heavy drinking. It was banned after more than 700 complaints that it had terrified both child and adult viewers alike. Obligatory YouTube link.
  • German ads for K-fee energy drink. These ads were screamers, starting off with a calm environment... then a goblin or zombie (depending on the ad) would come out and scream its freaking head off and say "You've never been so awake". What's funny though is that they parodied three of them for their decaf version.
    • Another variation is often referred to as the "Ghost Car Ad" due to the prank associated with the ad- telling people that a ghost appears when the car goes around the bend. It doesn't, it's another zombie screaming its head off. Check it out!
  • Maynard's wine gums ads. Not so much scary as just creepily hallucinatory. Even the bus stop poster ads were disturbing!
  • This ad for Danish Bacon, modeled after the Exorcist. The full version of the ad, which showed the girl snarling and a creaking noise playing as her head spins round, was removed from TV after around 200 concerned parents complained to the Independent Television Commission about the scariness of it. They did permit this version to stay on the air but it could be shown only after the 9pm "watershed"
  • The 2010 Halloween commercial for Snickers features two kids dressed as an adult woman (one on top of the other's shoulders) convincing a neighbor to stock up on the candy kids want. That sounds funny and charming, right? Wrong. The kids are horribly outdated in their dress, the proportions of the body are like something designed by Dr. Frankenstein, and behind the pallid, molded face, are two piercing, unblinking eyes. And then the creepy caress, the voice ("I'm only trying to help you" as the woman tries to wrestle her cart away and can't),...
  • This little horror advertising Assassin's Creed II can potentially be a mixture of this, Uncanny Valley, Paranoia Fuel, and Nothing Is Scarier. It's just pictures of characters' faces with an ominous churchbell playing. And yet it manages to creep the pants off of many people who see it, especially if they see it in the middle of the night for the first time without knowing what it is.
  • These new ads for an unidentified drug to treat rheumatoid arthritis really know how to get their point across. Seriously, they talk about how preventing an illness can salvage your hobbies. And then, we see the very items each respective ad is named for decaying in a frightfully realistic fashion. It's a real double-whammy of disturbing.
  • The Burger King commercials, with that eerie-looking King. They had the one where a guy wakes up in the morning and opens his blinds to see The King standing there.
  • This Nokia N900 commercial. It starts with a guy in a business suit talking with 3 other guys about the Nokia N900. When one of them is reminded that there are people watching the room behind one-way glass, he flips out, transforms into something, and starts the wrecking the place. He yells, "I am the medium! I am the message! I am the one." and transforms into a phone. Um, what?
  • This particular Virgin Mobile advert is pretty funny when you first see it. But when you're up at night, alone, and that psycho music is playing...Especially at the very end, when you think the thing is over, but in actuality there's a quick flash of her EERIE GRINNING FACE before it closes. Sweet dreams, folks!
  • Local Haunted House has a radio ad that starts with a guy calling On Star, "This is On Star, how can we help you?", The guy mumbles, then screams "They're trying to get into the car!", "Oh, you need to get into your car, let me just unlock those doors.", "NO! They're trying to... ", sound of unlocking doors, screams and growls and groaning. "Is there anything else we can help you with today?", Demonic voice, "No, he'ssss... goooood."
  • A jello ad that is just made of this trope: it's late at night and the parents are facing their children in front of an open refrigerator. The mom tells a story about a little girl who fell down a deep dark well filled with monsters and boogeymen, with no cartoons, and she was trapped there for a hundred years with no hope of escape. While she tells this, the children look as if they're crapping in their jammies in pure terror. She ends it with "And that's why we don't take Mommy's nightly [insert jello name] snack" right before Dad tells the kids to go to bed. Even worse is the one where the mother tells her daughter she will ship her off to work in a coal mine if she takes her mommy's snack. It is all too close to a representation of child exploitation for comfort, and one wonders how it hasn't been banned. Here's the link.
  • There's these advertisements for a cleaning product known as SKOE 10X. Both of their commercials are essentially animal women going to the bathroom on the floor, and none of it's censored. Add in the fact that it's usually shown at late night, and you're bound to confuse it for horrifying scat porn that made it on TV somehow.
  • This Coca Cola commercial urges viewers to watch and unlock secrets about the formula. It's extremely disturbing, complete with blink-and-you'll-miss-it weird, flashing images and creepy smiling ladies from the sixties.
  • This commercial A woman walking to her car in a parking garage late at night is stalked by a creepy little ghost girl who suddenly appears and disappears. Turns into Nightmare Retardant when she starts telling the woman about all the money she could be saving on an iPhone.
  • Heyyy, cookies!!!
  • Mild these days perhaps, but this Australian ad for flyspray.
  • This commercial for Austrailia's Bluetongue Brewery Beer features a Japanese businessman getting the "Full Whale Experience" at a sushi bar. It was made using money donated by the Sea Shephards, a group of eco-pirates who disrupt Japanese whaling activities...that, or Bluetongue really hates the Japanese.
  • This Tango advert.
  • Back in 2009, this troper heard a Planters Peanuts commercial on the radio where an interviewer was speaking with an older man who ran the facility where they gave Planter's Peanuts their characteristic crunch. When the interviewer asked why Planter's Peanuts were so crunchy, the older man, who had a vaguely Germanic accent, exclaimed that they used "the rendered fat from boiled children" and laughed maniacally. Oh, and to put the cherry on top, the ad ended with a child's scream followed by a crunch. I only heard it once (at 8:30 in the morning on the way to work, no less), and I honestly thought I had hallucinated the commercial until I read online that this was one of a SERIES of disturbing radio commercials Planters was doing. Creepy. As. Fuck.


Other

  • Children See, Children Do: The commercial starts off cute enough, with a kid mimicking her parent in their daily commute...up until you see she's smoking a cigarette just like her mum. Then it starts getting weird: some of it is unintentionally fun, such as a kid mimicking her mom while she's screaming at another driver and giving the bird, or the aforementioned payphone users start getting frustrated at the payphones, but most of it is pretty jarring, especially near the end when a kid is just about ready to punch his mom out alongside his abusive father...
  • this, OH GOD Those are the ugliest shoes I have ever seen.
  • A Kraft Macaroni and Cheese ad from 1993 had the boy turns his face into a scary-but-funny face and makes screechy noise at random with his BIG LIPS!?
  • This ASPCA ad is certainly short and not at all sweet.
  • Any and all of these infamous Public Information Films detailing what to do in the event of a nuclear war. Picture being a child in the 1980s in the UK. Sitting happily, watching He Man on TV, then the commercial break. One of these plays. Your parents, who have been acting oddly already today, break down completely. Your mother starts to cry. Your father's face is totally white, and he's shaking. Every single member of your family, everyone you could possibly talk to, is terrified. And none of them dares tell you why. That's pretty much what those films would have done if they ever aired for real.
  • The 1943 Wartime Cartoon "Education for Death". "He sees nothing but what the party wants him to see, says nothing but what the party wants him to say, and he does no more than the party wants him to do." The final shot shows rows of marching Nazi soldiers turn into rows of gravestones with the narration "For now, his education is complete. His education... for death." You know what makes this truly scary? The fact that this actually happened. Demons, monsters and witches are make-believe. Nazis and the Holocaust are very real. Disney effectively exposed children to a real-life tragedy.
  • The Unicef PSA where the Smurfs' village gets bombed . Talk about a childhood killer, especially when one learns Peyo's family approved it.
  • This advertisement. So...toxic resins are blobby gang-rapists? Is that the message they mean to convey?
  • There was a PSA about early detection of pancreatic cancer. A man is in a car behind a similar looking man and goes, "That's Jim and I'm Jim's pancreatic cancer." He goes on to talk about the onset of the man's pancreatic cancer. It's creepy to imagine your health problems, personified and discussing their onset.
  • This PSA is meant to raise awareness of the problem of landmines. It's mostly just disturbing.
  • A 1984 anti-abortion propaganda video The Silent Scream. Until 2004 it was a regular part of Religion classes in Croatia. According to the media, lots of students have been heavily traumatized by it.
  • An Autumn 2011 Discovery UK ad for Deadliest Catch is this: a deep man's voice singing a slow version of "Row Row Row Your Boat" while clips from the show play in the background, with no context for any of them.
  • How, for the love of everything holy, has this page gone on this long with no mention of the American Stroke Association's "Time Lost Is Brain Lost" campaign? Special mention goes to this one, featuring Michael Clarke Duncan threatening to cripple you in the most menacing, downright disturbing way possible.
  • "What are your kids learning?" It's a PSA from The Learning Channel, where a boy watches a video online. It's never shown what's in the video, but there's a panting man and a bleating goat, and it's pretty obvious he's watching something... off-color. The kid runs off...and then comes back into the room with his pet poodle before shutting the door. The best part is the end, where the image cuts out...but you can hear the poodle whimpering.
  • This ad for The Central Institute of Technology in Australia. Just wait until you get to the end. For the curious, but afraid to click: A video that's half typical college advertising, half meta-humor, half horror. A guy shows his friend around the campus by snapping his fingers and "teleporting" him around. It's super hilarious, until the guy realizes he teleported himself through a rack of clothing. His friend tells him to teleport away and a scream comes from down the hall. Most horrifying is his friend's fear and horror upon realizing that he's dead. Why is he dead? Well, he teleported himself through an employee ladder! Blood is SOOOO awesome! PSYCH! Then again...
  • These anti-car crime ads from the UK shouldn't be as effective as they are, but the tone of the narrator and the horrible yelps of the hyenas - combined with the Adult Fear and violation of having one's car broken into work to make it very, very unsettling.
  • This advertisement starts out innocently enough, it's just Alice from Alice in Wonderland with a rabbit (which is it me, or does he look like the Nesquik Rabbit?) and it's not too badly animated. Until, Alice suddenly has an Asthma attack and and it soon turns to a real life girl having an Asthma attack. Then a slow zoom out on the (possibly dead)girl surround by black, with dark music ending out with "Asthma can kill. End of story" in red letters. Damn.
  • There was an ad in the '90s, I think for The 700 Club. The ad began with a shot of Earth from space, and the narrator ominously asked, "Could this be the end?" And immediately after, the Earth explodes. The narrator then says to buy a book about "the signs of the times". Okay, for any child who happened to be in the same room when this ad came on, it's scary as hell.
  1. (No link yet, if you find a link, just incorporate it into the example. DO NOT MAKE ANOTHER BULLET POINT TO PUT THE LINK.)