Public Service Announcement

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"My doc, he showed me a picture of a smoker's lung. Ahh, it was gross and disgusting. Then he showed me a picture of a healthy guy's lung. Ahh, it was gross and disgusting."
Norm MacDonald

Commercials put on by the government for public safety or information. Also known as Government Information Adverts or Public Information Films. These commercials usually try to get you to stop smoking, obey the speed limit, look when crossing the road, or submit your tax return on time. Anvilicious by nature.

Now You Know. And Knowing Is Half the Battle.

The Advertising Council is responsible for many such messages on American television. Some of the UK Road Safety ads (which are also shown in cinemas before the feature) are quite disturbing, as are the anti-smoking ads in the United States.

Those shown during children's cartoons are often either educational or traumatizing. All varieties are susceptible to Detournement.

A subtrope is the kind put on by networks themselves, just to say: We Care.

Examples of Public Service Announcement include:



Argentina[edit | hide | hide all]

  • An Argentinian ONG's ads about road safety have ran for so long that many of them have became catchphrases. Since Argentina has the second highest rate of fatal traffic accidents, they seem not to work.
    • Tranqui, 120. (Relaxed, 120 km/h)
    • ¡Lo que dé! ("As fast as she can go")
    • "no dispare contra su familia" (literally: "don't shoot (against) your family"), a pun on the verb "disparar", which means "to shoot" but it's also a slang for going very fast or be catapulted (as in a car crash) when used in adjective form. That sounds like a decent and clever campaign, right? It isn't.


Australia[edit | hide]

  • Possibly the most realistic drunk-driving video in showing the aftermath and the ER of the victim. Nightmare fuel with a four-digit octane number. If the the weeping/hysterical family doesn't get you, mopping the child's blood off the floor should.
    • The official slogan in Australia is as follows: "If you drink, then drive, you're a bloody idiot." Most would use harsher language.
  • You see this sort of thing all the time on Australian TV, and it will always end with "Authorised by the Australian Government, Canberra" or "Authorised by the New South Wales Government, Sydney" or whatever applies for your part of Australia. The most famous of these are short ads against domestic violence, which were parodied here on The Chaser's War On Everything.
  • A recent series of ads about excessive drinking shows the evening of a drinker through their eyes. In one a guy gets into a drunken punch-up and ends up badly beaten, while another sees a girl drunkenly seduced in the bushes at a party and finds people laughing at her while she struggles to find her panties. But probably the most chilling is the guy who stumbles onto the road while walking home and is fatally hit by a car- in first person.
  • You know what AIDS is exactly like? The Grim Reaper going bowling. (To make this ad worse, the bodies seem remarkably similar to Holocaust victims. Simon Reynolds is sick.)
  • Also from Australia comes an ad, backed by a music video called It's A Beautiful Day For Cancer.
    • An Australian could see that on TV anytime, and yet YouTube asks for proof of age before letting you see it.
  • Australia had some particularly chilling Domestic Abuse PSAs. One showed a couple eating dinner while the woman next door is presumably being beaten up by her husband. The man at the table very decidedly puts down his fork and picks up a baseball bat. He then knocks on his neighbour's door and hands him the bat. The voiceover says:

If you do nothing about domestic abuse, you might as well lend a hand.

  • Another Australian PSA that was regrettably pulled from the air was of notorious prison hardman "Chopper" Read describing how those convicted of abuse would be treated in prison. Very effective, since no one really thinks of prison hierarchy (or, for that matter, how it's maintained) when committing a crime.
    • He mentions in the ad that he had his ears cut off while in prison, but doesn't point out (as he has in his memoirs) that he had another convict do it for him so he would be able to leave prison temporarily!
    • Here's the ad. His laugh at the end is quite creepy.
  • This PSA about the drug "Ice" (i.e. methamphetamine). Seriously, the girl picking at her skin.
  • A particularly painful example is the recent "Don't be a Dickhead" ads. One of them says "when you drive too fast, gingers have sex", and another one says "when you drive too fast, an emo is born". Way to connect with the hip young dudes of today, middle-management types!
  • The recent bushfire ads in Victoria. Black smoke with audio of family desperately trying to save their home, then a blast, and then pictures of a destroyed house. Appear to be designed by some psychopath in the Victorian government for the purpose of deliberately traumatising bushfire victims. [1] Don't blame the CFA for this, we had nothing to do with it.


Canada[edit | hide]

  • Oh god, the preventit.ca workplace safety PSAs: "I'm a trope with a lot of potential. But that's never going to happen because I'm going to be in a terrible "accident"...
    • These grew progressively more tame and less terrifying, transitioning from "Witness the foreshadowed gruesome death/disfigurement" to "The dead man lives on as a narrating zombie" to "Merely hear about the gruesome death secondhand as the dead Rise From Their Graves to chat" to "Hear about the gruesome death that might have happened if someone hadn't stepped in to save the victim at the last second."
  • An ad against drunk driving sponsored by the Canadian government several years ago contained the tagline "If you drink, then drive, you're a bloody idiot."
  • A series of Canadian anti-domestic abuse PSAs feature a man eating breakfast at a restaurant with his family. A waitress comes over and pours him some more coffee, and she spills a little bit. The man says "...she spilled my coffee!" All of a sudden he grabs the waitress, begins swearing at her, and then pours the pot of scalding hot coffee down her chest. A voiceover says, "you wouldn't get away with it here, so why should you get away with it at home?"
    • Another and rather disturbing anti-domestic abuse PSA had a shot of a child sitting on the stairs in black and white. In the background, he could hear his infuriated father yell at his wife about how he comes home from a long day at work and all she could do for dinner was order a pizza. She frantically tried to explain to him that she didn't know he was coming home early and therefore didn't have time to prepare, but he just interrupted her by yelling at her some more and then the child flinched when he heard the sound of a slap and his mother crying. The PSA ended with the text "What's your excuse?"
  • The National Film Board of Canada put out an animated film Hot Stuff in 1971, showing the dangers of household fires in a disarmingly humorous fashion, depicting the universe consumed by fire started by a married couple and their hungry cat.
  • You're going to have a lot of trouble coming up with a clever way to admit that this drug PSA will render you incapable of hearing 'He Ain't Heavy' without bawling like a little girl.
  • The Coalition of Concerned Children's Advertisers have put out a number of classics over the years, including "North American House Hippo", "Creepy Claymation Drug Dealer with Zombie Eyes", and that Internet favourite, "Don't Put It in Your Mouth". Not to mention this gem.
  • A recent ad from Quebec government against domestic violence shows a husband screaming and hitting her wife... from the wife first person view. The actor was quite convincing, and the ad made the news for some time.
  • A Radio PSA was made about young girls and their need for good role models. And to do that, the PSA was a "commercial" for an Entertainment Tonight style tabloid where the major topics are about self destructive celebrities like Lindsay Lohan, Britney Spears and Paris Hilton.


France/Belgium[edit | hide]

  • The infamous UNICEF ad showing planes and tanks bombing the heck out of a Smurf village and lingering on the results. Although it was pulled from TV in the United States, it became the image link for Sugar Apocalypse.


Finland[edit | hide]

  • An example from Finland: Beware of thin ice. Many people claim it to have traumatised them. It was/is aired together with the country's most popular children's show.


Hong Kong[edit | hide]

  • A PSA from Hong Kong showed a teenage girl being killed when an unspecified object falls out of a tower block window onto her head. The ad then goes on to demonstrate that anything falling from that height can be fatal, from a housewife accidentally knocking a pot plant off a balcony to a guy throwing beer bottles out of the window.
  • A series of ads for a charity in aid of teen mothers used Gender Flip to show the problems of teenage pregnancy, including a girl screaming at her pregnant boyfriend to have an abortion, and a boy having to beg his mother for money because he's going to have a baby.
  • Hong Kong regularly airs fire prevention ads aimed at people living in densely packed apartment blocks. The ads are usually based around the safe use of fire doors, keeping exits clear so people can escape, and helping your neighbours in the event of a fire.


Iraq[edit | hide]

  • One Iraqi anti-terrorism PSA involves a man being kidnapped and tortured by terrorists, in graphic detail to the viewer, as they ask him what confession he belongs to - "Sunni or Shia?!?" - until he responds, "Iraqi", followed by a shot to the head... Probably Nightmare Fuel for us Westerners, though perhaps not too out of the ordinary for Iraqis..


Ireland[edit | hide]

  • The king of the scary ones is one shown in Ireland around 2007. Not only do tell you what's in fags ("cigarettes" for those across the pond) but they show you the inside of an extracted part of a smoker's body (it looked like vomit).
  • Ireland has some bizarre ones, too:
    • "This is Michael. Today he's going to hit his girlfriend so hard, she ends up with permanent brain damage.": Mike, his girl and two others drive off. They stop at a junction. A car rams into them from behind for no reason; they jump around in slo-mo. Later, a paramedic: "Three dead this vehicle; the girl is critical. They say the guy without the seatbelt did the damage."
  • Northern Ireland had this Tear Jerker advert using Harry Chapin's "Cats in the Cradle," with the main character's son eventually getting killed because he wanted to be like Dad, because Junior was involved in The Troubles, in order to encourage people to call the Confidential Helpline.
  • The most infamous road safety ad from Ireland is probably one where a drinking driver rolls his car and somehow goes over a fence and into someone's garden, landing on a child who was playing there. Don't watch without clean underwear to hand. It caused a wrenching case of Mood Whiplash the first time viewers saw it, as there's everything's pretty happy up to that point.
    • Uses "Man of the World" by Fleetwood Mac too. massive Tear Jerker.
  • A current ad A current ad running involves a young couple sitting on a wall kissing before a oncoming car looses control, flips and crashes into said wall, killing the boy and pinning his body to her now crush legs until they're cut free.
  • There was a series of Irish fire safety campaigns filmed from the perspective of a firefighter entering a burnt-out building, complete with raspy breathing through the mask. Each advert would end with a message scrawled on the wall in soot: "YOU FORGOT TO CHECK THE SMOKE ALARM, DADDY!"
    • Are these [2] [3] [4] the videos of that campaign?
    • A similar Irish campaign that relied heavily on parental guilt was one with a bunch of people sitting in a waiting room in the afterlife, with a stern-faced receptionist directing them to different doorways depending on how they died. Finally, only a cringing woman and a little girl are left in the waiting room, and the girl tearfully says that her mother didn't check the battery to the smoke alarm.


Japan[edit | hide]

  • After the 2011 Touhoku earthquake and tsunami, advertisers did not want to be seen to be trying to profit from the tragedy, so TV stations ran endless PSAs from Ad Council Japan. Viewers complained that they hated the jingle played at the end of the commercials, and the Ad Council eventually muted it. Particular criticism was directed at the frequent repeat of an ad encouraging women to get breast cancer screenings, when several hospitals had been destroyed and many more were full up with victims of the disaster.
  • There's a well known Japanese PSA where a class of schoolkids are drawing, but one boy just sits colouring pieces of paper black. He is taken to doctors and psychologists, but doesn't stop his work until finally the adults put the hundreds of sheets of paper together to create a large image of a whale. The message was to encourage children to think creatively.


Malaysia[edit | hide]

  • Currently, a CGI character called "Pak Abu" (Uncle Abu) teaches Malaysians on everything. Road Safety. Unity. Healthy lifestyle. Unfiltered Pirated Porn Movies.
  • Road safety campaigns since the 2000s have a tagline of "[insert road safety rules here], you can make a difference."
    • A happy family out for a Sunday drive! Big Bro takes off his seatbelt and leans over to insert in his new CD. And then... BOOM. Deadly crash that accompanies road safety PSAs.
      • One Proton ad has a female ghost thrown out of a car because she doesn't buckle up.
    • A boy who plays football for his school is incapacitated because a driver didn't notice him while the boy was crossing the road.
    • There's an ad where school desks, chalkboards, computers etc are run over by a car, symbolising kids who die/get injured by road accidents.
  • One ad about septic tank safety sees a boy falling into the tank just because he wants to pick up a ball.
  • One railway safety ad, 1990s. A schoolgirl and her grandfather gets hit by a train while crossing the railway.
  • Just as scary, a child safety ad by the Health Ministry sees a baby falling. Out the window. Of a house. On a cliff.
  • A 70s/80s road safety ad has body bags replacing cars and trucks on the city streets.
  • One animated ad sees mosquitoes having a party before insecticides and dragonflies bust them out. Party foul.
  • Another animated has a public toilet forcing (Yes. IT MOVES!) a man to flush after leaving.
  • Several 90s AIDS ads:
    • A bride running towards her groom while a voice pauses her over and over about the possibility the man has HIV. The bride eventually embraces him anyway, so he's probably clean.
    • Scenes of people ostracising HIV positive people, then in the end turns to one where a woman with HIV is comforted by her family.
    • A father rejecting prostitute service while abroad. He returns with a teddy bear for his daughter and chocolate for his wife. Message: be loyal to your loved ones.
    • Teenagers saying no to random sexual relationships.


The Netherlands[edit | hide]

  • A few years ago, there was a series of anti-smoking ads on Dutch TV, showing teens doing all sorts of anti-social things, justifying them with the line "Hey, at least I don't smoke!". The idea was to show people that smoking was worse, except the teens did things like kicking people working under their cars in the groin, causing the car to collapse on them. Most people agreed that they'd prefer to see the teens smoking.
  • There's a new "protect your privacy online" ad making the rounds in the Netherlands. While this sounds like a sensible idea, there are some problems with how it's presented. The tips they give you on the website of the campaign make it sound like you should better not voice your opinion ever on the internet and there are plans for some government controlled databases that hold a lot more private information than you would ever put online.
  • One Child Safety ad gives the message that whenever a baby or toddler needs help, it's cry will alert you. Unless it's drowning.
  • Th ese Dutch ads show poisonous substances that look like food with the tagline, "If you can't tell the difference, how are your children supposed to?" Though to be honest, most of the adults watching it should probably be able to tell the difference between lemonade and paint thinner. Especially when there's a paintbrush sitting in it.


New Zealand[edit | hide]

  • A recent New Zealand Road safety campaign has put up billboards on major highways that cry Tears of Blood when it rains.
  • There's an infamous ad from New Zealand in which a man is paralyzed in a road accident because he was driving too fast, and then his wife receives a speed camera fine that was issued to him earlier on the day of his accident. The phrase "IT'S THE SAME DAY, DAVID!" is a widely known meme in NZ pop culture.
  • An anti-drink driving ad aimed at the Maori community showed a boy at a party trying to decide whether to say something to a drunk friend who is planning to drive. He debates the possible consequences in a humorous monologue, including being haunted by the ghost of his friend who offers him chips, and finally finds the courage to speak up in front of everybody. The ad was so successful it inspired the song "Ghost Chips" by The Cuzzies, and immortalized the phrase "you know I can't grab your ghost chips!"


Philippines[edit | hide]

  • The commercial discouraging people from buying rock salt and use iodized instead.
  • As well as that ad about LPG tanks.
  • An anti-garbage ad about a pig eating through a bedlam with the message "Don't be a pig. You are not a pig" is pure Narm. It had been a Memetic Mutation for a while in the 1990s.
  • Filipino AIDS awareness ads. For example, the ad of a rusty and rotten water pipe, or the torn dress with some bloodspots.
  • A breastfeeding advocacy ad has the following: "Dog's milk is for puppies. Pig's milk is for piglets. Cow's milk, for my baby? My baby is not an animal."


Sweden[edit | hide]

  • In an amusing spoof of these, the Swedish bus company Väst Trafik features several of these being made fun of to fit with the message "take the bus" ("Sleep behind the wheel. Way behind the wheel", for example).
  • Swedish ads for paying your TV licence fees are... bizarre, to put it mildly. "Do you want a snail in your eye?" anyone? The newest one is more like "If you pay your licence fees the TV-people will stalk you and perform musical numbers."


United Kingdom[edit | hide]

  • The Green Cross Code ads from the 1970s; starring Dave "Darth Vader" Prowse.
  • The "Don't die before you've lived" road safety ads aimed at teenagers. One purported to be a trailer for a The Bourne Identity-style movie and ended with the star being hit by a car as a teenager. There were also posters for this, which seems to have focused on the London area.
    • The Australian RTA ran a similar ad. It looked like a car ad, with shots of the car from sexy angles and a Powderfinger song as background music, then the collision.
  • This patently terrifying British advert features the disembodied voice of Donald Pleasance watching children drown as they play unattended by the river.
  • Parodied impressively by current-affairs spoof The Day Today, whose Spiritual Successor, Brass Eye, famously featured a montage of celebrities somberly relating increasingly implausible stories of the effects of a fictional new drug called "cake". It apparently stimulates an area of the brain called "Shatner's bassoon".
  • The United Kingdom has a number of government information adverts that sound more like...well, threats. Specifically, those involving paying your car tax, only claiming the benefit money due to you and making sure your TV license payments are up to date.
    • They couldn't get worse than the Mysteron-style rings of light hunting down benefit cheats.
    • The TV licence adverts were parodied in Not The Nine O'Clock News, which had The BBC staging the deaths of people who failed to pay the licence fee - the original slogan was 'Get a TV licence - it's cheaper than a fine'; the sketches changed this to 'a funeral'.
      • The TV Licensing department later followed this up with the aggressive and bullying slogan, "pay now or you'll pay later". It sounds like a protection racket...
  • Health Education Board Scotland, with the tagline "Think About It" is responsible for giving us this:
    • Cute girl, aged about 15, walking down school corridor, sees guy. They walk toward each other in slow motion with romantic music. He says to his friend, "[You] should've seen the state of her on Friday night!" Cut to her puking in a toilet. Imaginary narration: So ye see ladies, ye'll never get a husband if ye behave like a slattern.
    • A girl running around on a beach surrounded by a pastel-coloured aura (about the horrors of drugs).
    • Another anti-drug one did a split screen about how different a teenage boy's life is if he becomes a heroin addict, compared to saying no. The two stories converge as he passes by himself as a beggar on the street. Any spare change, pal?
    • An anti-smoking ad which depicted a cartoon land where there was intense pressure to chew blue sticks with various unpleasant side effects. The punchline "That tastes boggin'!" was a playground catchphrase for a while (imagine a Glasgow accent). The monotone narrator actually makes it funnier, oddly enough.
    • Another ad directed at secondhand smoke that would make Indiana Jones run screaming. Complete with a baby getting attacked by creepy phantom reptile.
    • Another campaign that started out as happy, funny scenes that ended with people randomly and violently and as realistically as possible run over by cars.
    • There was one where a woman is getting ready for a night out and is confronted with various nasty comments on labels, washing powder boxes, etc. with a male voiceover in a Domestic Abuse campaign.
    • One spawned in the wake of the MMR debacle featured a baby sitting on cliff surrounded by tigers, saying that parents were putting their kids in unnecessary danger by denying them the vaccine. However, Scotland wasn't as badly affected as England by the whole mess.
    • A parody of music videos with three Britney-esque girls singing about how the smell of their cigarette smoke scares all their boyfriends away. The ad became so popular that it led to an official chart release of the song.
  • This anti-drinking PSA from the NHS seemed to be setting up a Daredevil-esque movie, then twisted it around to show a drunken idiot falling to his death after climbing up scaffolding to retrieve a helium balloon. Another one, showing a fun scene of friends at lunch in a pub, ended by revealing that it was all an hallucination by a drunken bum accosting a woman at a bus stop.
  • One of the most famous UK ads from the 1990s showed a happy couple driving around to the sound of "In the Summertime"—and suddenly dying bloodily in an accident. "Have a drink, have a drive"... no prizes for guessing the message. - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=f5ma_Xv7rGM
    • It's a counterpart to the jolly seasonal 'Christmas Pudding', with a shot of said pudding blazing merrily which morphs into a car in flames.
    • The Think! adverts' gruesome shock endings are so well known that it is something of a twist ending that the protagonist of this fun, upbeat motorbike safety ad gets home safely.
      • On the other hand, there's these rather adorable adverts about crossing the street, all under the name of the "Think!" campaign.
  • A more recent UK campaign to get people to drive more slowly through residential areas involves the horrifying image of a dead little girl against a tree, who is slowly dragged backward into the street, bones snapping back into place, before being shown in reverse being hit by a car. She then says that if hit at 30 mph rather than 40 mph, she has an 80% chance of survival.
    • Quote Russell Howard on Mock the Week: "If you hit me at 40mph, there's an 80% chance I'll die. If you hit me at 30, there's an 80% chance I'll live." * twists head 90 degrees clockwise - "Stop trying to hit me...."
    • An equivalent ad from the early 90s (part of the "Kill Your Speed, Not a Child" Campaign) showed three successive scenarios in which the children were hit by a speed sign in place of a car. Each scenario opened with the parents alluding to the fate of the child, with the consequences getting increasingly nastier as the speed goes up (broken leg, potential brain damage, death). No gore to speak of, but the final shots of the unfortunate third child's sister screaming to her and her toy pushchair being thrown up in the air were rather chilling.
  • There were a number of UK adverts offering advice on how to avoid being a target of theft, including not leaving anything valuable in your car, making sure you'd locked up the house properly and being discreet about using your mobile phone. The advice was sensible. Unfortunately, the way it was presented sent out the message that "if you have something stolen, it's your own fault because you were stupid."
  • A recent UK campaign against "binge drinking" showed a young man preparing to go for a night out. He urinates over his shoes, covers his shirt in curry, smashes his face into a door and rips out his own earring, before leaving the house looking as if he's gone several rounds with Mike Tyson. Another ad, aimed at young women merely showed the heroine vomiting into her hair and ripping her clothes. The clear implication was that women don't get into fights. Have they never encountered the rage of a drunken ladette at 2 a.m.?
    • The BBC has shown that these ads backfired: Little did these guys know, that telling your friends how you peed in your shoes and smashed your face against the door is funny as hell...
  • A Public Service Announcement from the early 1990s in England warned about getting early immunisation for childhood diseases. A group of girls dancing in a circle, holding hands. The shot is out of focus with a washed out look and skewed diagonally. The girls sing a disembodied echoing lullaby with no words as the names of the various diseases appear onscreen. The advert has overtones of "We are all dead from these diseases, and your kids will be, too."
  • Britain has had some notoriously disturbing Fire Kills campaigns. [5] One featured an elderly woman battering down her door as the smoke builds up behind her, as well as two young children involved in another fire calling for their mum and dad. This one was pulled for being too distressing. It never stopped them from make plenty of other ones much creepier that one.
  • The British Government have recently started showing one where a guy crashes his car. As a voice-over details the impact ("The crash didn't kill him. Because he wasn't wearing a seatbelt, his rib splintered and punctured his lung and his arteries were ripped out of his heart") a close up on his torso shows the organs literally smacking against his skin and tearing apart, complete with grisly sound effects. Ghastly. A family-friendly version shown before the 9 p.m. "watershed" just shows him crumple against the wheel in slo-mo as the voiceover talks.
  • If you want nightmares, look no further than 'Robbie and Apaches, British PIFs on railway and farm safety respectively, which, in their uncut forms, are like mini-movies of pain and suffering.
    • As if that wasn't bad enough, Robbie was intended to be a milder replacement for an earlier film, The Finishing Line. How the entire generation that saw those films managed to not become traumatised is beyond understanding. The Finishing Line lasted two years, was televised in full on several occasions, and was 'withdrawn' rather than banned. The first five minutes can be enjoyed here, and the BFI has released the full version on a compilation DVD so that everyone can appreciate the nightmare.
    • Apaches, however, lends itself to jokes a la This is Your Brain on Drugs, albeit sicker, as one of the kids dies by falling into a slurry pit.
    • There was an urban version of Apaches filmed as well, this time warning kids of the dangers of building sites.
      • The urban version of Apaches is called Building Sites Bite and features an intelligent yet not Genre Savvy boy named Ronald who is sent by his cousins to different building sites and is given the challenge to "Find his dog and get out without getting hurt." Needless to say, the poor lad stumbles upon his death in every site, being buried alive in a trench collapse, electrocuted by a frayed wire in a half-demolished house, breaking his skull on a concrete wall after falling off a pipe, crushed beneath a pile of bricks and drowns in an abandoned quarry. The moral of the story was that he simply should have declined to go or at least heeded all warning signs. The creepy part? When Ronald is electrocuted, they zoom in in his burned hand, then his pale body, dead on the floor of the building, eyes wide open. That, and his cousins are unfazed by his deaths.
  • How about the stupidly traumatizing 'I'm Sorry I Killed You' UK advert? A boy in a car accident apologizing to his girlfriend for running her over. A group of 18-year-olds were left staring mutely at the sadist cop who showed it to us.
  • A very beloved British PSA in the 1960s featured "Reginald Molehusband," a man who was hopelessly bad at parking his car. Buses changed their routes to avoid him and people took bets on his performance, until the day he did it right (with a demonstration for the viewer). In 2007 the BBC launched a nationwide appeal for any existing copies of the film but none were found, so they remade it with the original actor.
  • There was one with Christopher Eccleston joking along with a dead boy racer and his mates. For some strange reason, it was only shown in cinemas in Scotland, despite being out with of HEBS.
  • A misguided, but not creepy example is the UK government's adverts for their car scrappage scheme, where you trade in your old car for a more eco-friendly one (or less eco-damaging to be more exact), and get a discount from the government. The message starts, after some examples of 90's culture, "Wouldn't it be great if we could get rid of everything over 10 years old?" Well, not when they're being played on a a classic rock station. In fact, think about it too much and it becomes decidedly sinister. Who made that ad? The future government in Logan's Run?
  • These Nightmare Fuel-filled ads were to be broadcast in the UK in case of impending nuclear war. The films were narrated by the famous Patrick Allen, including lines telling what to do if one of your family members dies in a calm, monotone voice. Even now, they can be Paranoia Fuel.
  • This British anti-drug PSA about the dark side of cocaine and the helpline called Talk to FRANK, voiced by David Mitchell as a dog.
  • The UK is now running a TV campaign against driving under the influence of drugs, in which police pull over a group of stoned partygoers with hugely magnified eyes (to represent the fact that drug use produces involuntary effects on the eyes.) The obvious message: feel free to smoke bongs and inject yourself in the car, as long as you're wearing sunglasses the cops will never know!
  • In the early 1980s, Superman was used in a UK anti-smoking campaign fighting the villainous Nick O'Teen. The punishment for trying to persuade kids to smoke? Getting thrown over a skyscraper! (Well, Superman always was a dick.)
  • The 'Belt Up In The Back' Campaign ads .
  • "Charley Says" is simply disturbing. That cat... became an icon years later when his yowling was sampled for dance music.
  • A film about the dangers of sending text messages while driving, made by Gwent Police in Wales. The full 30-minute version was shown in schools and on The BBC. It ends with the driver's family being hounded out of town by enraged locals and finally the cheery end-note that she was sentenced to seven years in jail. So put down that phone!
  • A new anti-speeding campaign shows a man who keeps seeing a dead child everywhere goes. It was a kid he knocked down. Made all the more chilling by that you know it's a dummy and you're still freaked out.
    • The official YouTube channel for the campaign shows a "making of" video for the film, which reveals that at least some of those shots were performed by the same child actor. So, you're right to be creeped out ...
  • Here's a vintage one about the dangers of...putting bags on a pram or pushchair. British PIFs could even make animation scary. That echoing scream and Edvard Munch-esque graphics...brrrr.
  • British PIFs also had, for many years, a healthy tradition of making and screening films around Guy Fawkes Night on November 5 each year. This is a particularly creepy one, up there with Donald Pleasance as the Grim Reaper. Again, the closing echo adds a lot.
  • Transport for London and Cabwise have been putting out new posters and commercials about illegal cabs. Here's the video and here's one of the posters. Thank you, TfL, for giving every female in London nightmares about cabs. Thank you.
  • Southwark Council in London made an extremely disturbing film about gun crime, in which a mother pulls out a gun at the breakfast table and shoots her (about five or six-year-old) son in the head, with the child's brain landing in the middle of the table and blood splattering all over the kids (who all start retching and screaming.) The message was that keeping quiet about who committed a shooting makes you as guilty as the offender. It has won advertising awards but is so graphic it was only permitted to be shown in cinemas before 18-rated films.
  • Tufty Squirrel was the mascot of a road safety campaign during the 1970s, beloved to people who grew up as kids during that time. He appeared in a series of films that showed children, in highly Anvilicious fashion, why they shouldn't run out into the road - Tufty's friend "Willy Weasel" was usually the Butt Monkey who would get run over. There was also a "Tufty club" for young children to join.
    • Also worth seeing is the hilariously demented adult-themed spoof. (warning: major childhood violation)
    • One Tufty Club book included a strip in which Tufty broke a number of safety rules, and then got out of being punished by bribing the grownups with invites to his birthday party.
  • This tremendously moving and effective "Embrace Life" seatbelt PSA from the Sussex Safer Roads Partnership. So many elements are just pitch-perfect: the simple music and dreamlike quality of the visuals grab your attention amidst the din of shouty advertising, the performances of all three actors are spot on (the grimace from the father as he faces the inevitable, the hope from the little girl, and the quiet determination from the mother), the fairy wings on the little girl giving her an angel-like quality, and the sudden violence of the impact shown by the table launching across the room. Unsurprisingly, it's gone viral.
  • There was one that traded off The Sixth Sense which started off looking like an PSA about Child Neglect with a teenager wandering around commenting on how his family didn't notice him anymore, then revealed he was dead having been hit by a car and never noticed.
  • In late 2010, the Metropolitan Police released an audio ad featuring the distorted voice of a man screaming abuse at, and then brutally beating his partner. It concluded by asking the listener what they would do if they heard something like that going on next door.
  • Ewan McGregor provided the voiceover for a Transport for London road safety campaign, showing a motorcylist going about his usual routine on the way to work: "The alarm that gets you up for work. The cereal you have for breakfast. The wife you say goodbye to. The road you cycle along ... (Crash!) "The legs you won't be able to use again …"
  • Helen Bamber Foundation is a UK-based charity that acts for victims of human rights abuses. They have put out a few well-known PSAs about sex trafficking. One starred Hollywood actress Emma Thompson as the two separate personalities of a woman who has been trafficked: "Elena", her real identity before she was sold into sex slavery, and "Maria", the name her captors use to pimp her out. Another had a young Eastern European woman trying to do normal things like buy groceries and train tickets etc. but the only words she knows in English relate to sex. More horrifying was a full-length PSA dramatising the ordeal of a girl sold into sex slavery. At one point she is raped by her pimps, with visuals of blood raining down the walls of the apartment below the brothel while a family with young children is eating dinner, probably a metaphor for their guilt as they have not told the police about the gang activity.


United States[edit | hide]

  • The picture for this trope comes from the World War II PSA which called on Americans to carpool in order to conserve fuel for the war effort - "When you ride ALONE, you ride with Hitler!".
    • Bill Maher updated and parodied this PSA in his book, "When you ride ALONE you ride with bin Laden: What the Government SHOULD Be Telling Us to Help Fight the War on Terrorism".
  • NBC do a series of these, featuring celebrities speaking earnestly into the camera on various topics, titled "The More You Know". These were parodied by Scrubs; see it here.
  • The Crying Indian PSA from Keep America Beautiful that is coupled with the narrator with a determined tone who says, "People start pollution, people can stop it!" Note that the "Indian" in question was, in fact, Sicilian.
  • "Take a bite out of crime!" says McGruff the Crime Dog.
  • The United Negro College Fund's "A mind is a terrible thing to waste" is so memorable that it's often parodied.
  • How about the drunk driving PSA from the 1980s, with the two beer mugs toasting in slow motion, and exploding on contact, with the sound of a car crash underneath? See it here.
    • And here's a pretty good variation on that idea.
    • There was also the ad which showed someone clearly drunk getting into a car with some friends. When the person starts the car, the next scene shows the car on fire and the people turned into burning skeletons.
  • A public health advertisement implicitly compares having a stroke to being savagely beaten by Michael Clarke Duncan.
  • These workplace safety ads run by the Utah Labor Commission. Nothing says "workplace safety" like taking a nosedive into molten metal.
  • "This is your brain." (shows egg) "This is drugs." (shows frying pan) Crack. Sizzle. "This is your brain on drugs. Any questions?"
  • The city of Las Vegas did one in 2008 to get people to reduce water usage. Involving a Groin Attack.
  • Mr. Yuk.
  • The Montana Meth Project puts out some pretty gruesome PSAs. Also does tobacco. You get to barf every time you see this. Warning, link not safe for anything.
    • 'Meth Cleaner Girl' is possibly the catchiest and most disturbing anti-meth ad outside of the Montana project.
    • Less well known than Meth Cleaner Girl, but from the same campaign, was an ad with a cheery song about how great you feel on heroin, juxtaposed with visuals of heroin users staggering around and puking into filthy toilets.
  • A number of MPAA-driven Digital Piracy Is Evil adverts have been shoved in front of movie trailers, such as stunt coordinator Manny Perry's very earnest "Respect Copyrights" and "Movies: They're Worth It." (Tagline: "YOU CAN CLICK -- BUT YOU CAN'T HIDE.") Appropriately, it's almost impossible to find pirated uploads of them on YouTube...

Ad: You wouldn't steal a car.
'Chopper:' (pulls on beer, glares at the audience) Yes I fucking would.

    • Abuse of Power - Inappropriate for All Ages
    • The huge irony of this is that most pirates cut these PSAs out, so the only people who will receive the PSA are those who bought the legitimate non-pirated films anyway or go to the cinema.
    • The ads have begun going a different route, showing how inferior pirated copies are to the real thing.
  • The Mythbusters, a high-speed camera... and flu avoidance.
  • Smokey Bear reminds American campers that "Only you can prevent forest fires." (The slogan changed the last two words to "wildfires" in 2001.)
  • "It's 10 P.M. Do you know where your children are?"
    • It's usually shown just before the evening news. In some versions depending on the market and what the curfew is, it says "11 P.M.".
    • According to an urban myth, a company did a phone poll at 10pm to ask parents if they knew where their children were. 90% were answered by children who didn't know where their parents were. If it isn't true, it should be.
  • "My name is Jesse Corti, and what I'm about to tell you is real." He goes on to explain a train accident that occurred in 1987 where a passenger train collided with a freight train, in which the engineer admitted to having smoked marijuana. "They say marijuana doesn't hurt anyone. But this time, 16 people died. And among them...Laura Corti, my wife."
  • Those brilliant Union Pacific short films The Days of Our Years (remember, never be happy about your newborn baby at work or your coworker will BURN OUT YOUR EYES WITH A BLOWTORCH) and Last Clear Chance (Crow: "I'm the Impish Officer of DEATH!"). Before there was videotape, there were Narmtastic PSAs.
  • There was a particularly nightmare-inducing '70s PSA called "House of the Hemophiliac." It shows eerie visuals of a camera panning around a house, zooming in on ordinary objects which would present a big danger to a hemophiliac: knives, table corners, the cat...
  • There was an anti-drunk driving PSA,which was aired in the '70s. An Eric Foreman-type kid is driving his girlfriend home; he's clearly had a few and is pleasantly buzzed - then he runs into her dad's parked car, putting a big dent in it. The ad ends with her dad coming out the front door, looking not pleased.
  • Don't Text and Drive is a PSA specific to Colorado, produced by the Colorado Department of Transportation (CDOT). It features a teenage boy, on voice over, talking about the day his sister didn't come home, the little sister out playing, and another teenage boy driving a car. The story is told out of chronological order: starting right after the collision, flashing back to the girl playing with her friends, cutting to the paramedics working on her, then cutting back to the driver texting, forward to paramedics again, then showing the driver inside the car and the sickening thud of the car hitting the girl. This ad had won a contest that CDOT held in state. For some reason, it is often shown on cable channels with a preschool/parent audience.
  • The Meth Project has started showing commercials in Georgia that are VERY SCARY. Watch the most scary ones here and here. Actually, the second one about the meth head robbing the laundromat is rather clever, because only a drug addict would rob a place known for only costing a few cents.
  • In a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles PSA, the turtles' anti-drugs message is undermined by Michelangelo's anti-munchies advice: "Get a pizza!" It also contains a hilariously lame response to an insult: "I'm not a chicken, you're a turkey!"
  • The Texas Department of Transportation created an advertising campaign (with print ads and a TV commercial) featuring a young woman named Jacqueline Saburido, the victim of a drunk driver who was burned over 85% of her body and has had to have her face completely reconstructed so she could breathe and eat independently again.
  • Yul Brynner's posthumous anti-smoking spot.
    • Best. PSA. EVER.
  • The 'bubble' PSA (which I cannot find on YouTube) was a pretty famous one in California - basically, instead of smoking, people went around blowing bubbles, and the camera followed the bubbles, to illustrate the dangers of secondhand smoke.
  • Nobody seems to have mentioned Operation Lifesaver's PSAs, like one for hunters, one about distracted driving, one featuring Road Runner and Wile E. Coyote, their versions of the Highways or Dieways ads, and of course, Sly Fox and Birdie.
  • The PSAs about Lead Poisoning by the EPA in YouTube. If you can find those videos of paint being spilled to a cereal, or baby's milk, that's it.
    • Watch one here. Mmmmm, delicious paint.
  • Dudley the Dinosaur, the American Dental Association's mascot for PSAs.
  • A man is beating the shit out of his girlfriend, and the guy in the apartment next door decides this is the last straw. He picks up a baseball bat and knocks on the couple's door... so that he could give the bat to the man so that he can finish his girlfriend off more easily. Cue tagline stating that this is pretty much what it's like if you hear/see scenes of domestic violence and don't report it to the cops. The video
  • A PSA by the Indiana Department of Child Services starts as a home video made by a dad of his wife and baby asleep on the couch. They try to get the baby's attention... only to realize she's not breathing. It then tells you that you should absolutely never sleep with a baby, even for a minute.
  • The Pennsylvania Department of Revenue aired, earlier in 2010, a rather creepy, paranoia-inducing PSA notifying taxpayers of a deadline for paying back taxes without penalty. Because, Tom, we do know who you are.
  • Don’t use the car! YOU’LL KILL YOURSELF!” Pretty much forgotten today, this anti-drunk driving PSA was infamous (and much parodied) in its day for its Narm.
  • While being in print form as opposed to commercials, consider New York City's "Two drinks ago" anti- binge drinking campaign. One shows a bloodied man assumed to have been beaten up, with the caption "Two drinks ago you would have walked away." The other shows a heavily intoxicated woman who looks as if she's about ready to pass out, with the words "Two drinks ago you could still get yourself home."
  • Several years ago, there was an anti-Ecstasy spot made to look like a prescription drug ad, complete with list of side effects and the concluding voice-over "Ask your doctor why Ecstasy is not right for you."
  • One of these inspired the setting for Sesame Street. Specifically, one that parodied vacation ads - "Send your children to the ghetto this summer!" After listing off "amenities" (including "field trips" - to trash-strewn vacant lots), the actor playing the pitchman declared, "Don't want your kids playing here? Don't expect our kids to." The PSA ended by extorting, "Give jobs. Give money. Give a damn." On seeing the PSA, Jon Stone, one of the producers in charge of designing Sesame Street, concluded that setting the show on an inner-city street would be the best way to get inner-city kids to watch it (since they were the target audience).
  • Some of the most violent, disgusting, and disturbing anti-smoking commercials come out of Florida. Oddly enough, very few of these focus on quitting smoking, but rather on trying to avoid smoking outdoors. This may be due to a high population of older people who have been addicted for an extremely long time. A particularly disturbing commercial had everyone wearing gas masks while "Ring Around the Rosie" was sung in slow-motion in the background. At the end of the PSA, the mood and music lightened as a woman on a bench was shown to be smoking instead of wearing a gas mask.
  • Then there were several ads against crack, rock cocaine. One featured Pee Wee Herman, another had Clint Eastwood.
  • The Alamo Drafthouse theater chain in Texas has a strict policy of no talking or texting in the theater, and if you do either, then they "take your ass out" (their words). To send the message, they run "Don't Talk" PSAs before every movie explaining this policy, many of which have celebrity cameos. One of them features former Texas Governor Ann Richards literally throwing people out of the theater, and another one features a voicemail from a disgruntled customer who was thrown out on her ass and felt like venting to the management—and comes off sounding like an entitled (and stupid) asshole in the process.


Unspecified/Other[edit | hide]

  • A Brazilian PSA about seeing the eye doctor regularly. Those aren't balloons you're blowing up, Grandma.
  • This little gem pretty well demonstrates what bikers and drivers the world 'round think of each other.
  • From Cracked.com
  • Adam Hart-Davis and "Self-assessment. Tax doesn't have to be taxing."
  • Thank you, Larry and Vince. "You can learn a lot from a Dummy. Buckle your safety belt."
    • The costumes are in the Smithsonian now as tribute to how well the campaign worked not only at its intended purpose but becoming an icon immortalized in pop culture around the whole world.
  • Especially creepy are the anti-smoking ads. Remember the coughing baby? How about the woman smoking out of her stoma (a hole in her neck)?
  • An ad showing a young man riding his bicycle erratically, weaving through traffic, riding against traffic, and not watching where he's going, ending with, "And avoid... IMPACT!" as he slams into an opened car door, flies over it and leaves his blood and brains all over the pavement. (This was back before anyone even considered requiring helmets for anyone, let alone bicycle riders.)
  • One of the more memorable boat safety ads involves the narrator noting, "You don't think you need to wear a lifejacket yourself, but you'd never risk your kid's lives." The camera shows two children forlornly looking overboard of a powerboat into the water. "Good plan. They didn't need you anyway."
  • Red vs. Blue often releases "PSA" videos, though the only ones that weren't parodies were the two about voting (which were still humorous).
  • Probably the most well known PSA in Germany is Forklift Driver Klaus, which is hilariously bloody parody. It has become kind of a cult classic, as it has the appearance of a completely average 70's TV production combined with an amount of over the top Gorn way outside what you usually see in german TV. It's also narrated by the narrator of a series of actual road saftey PSAs.
  • "Simon [a boy of about 8] is about to kill his father... In a crash, [without a seatbelt] at 50 km/h, Simon is hurled forward at [n] times his weight...a 650-kilo cannonball. Imagine...an adult."
  • A fear of trains can be safely blamed on a Special Assembly at school, where the usually non-threatening visiting policeman presented a half-hour of reasons why venturing onto railways is inadvisable. Reconstructions, interviews with bereaved parents, avuncular coppers showing safe ways to cross- all to be expected. Then, 3 still photographs of dead kiddies done in by various trainly dangers. One perched on an embankment, presumably having been flung there by a passing express. One on a slab, peaceful apart from some serious electrocution burns. The last, photographed before being scooped off the tracks, was an upper body and head shot of a 'run-over' victim; until then, it had not been clear that people struck by heavy locomotives do not politely slide under the wheels, but undergo violent dismemberment. This particular example still had an intact head and arms and the worst aspect was their slightly puzzled expression- a sort of "Hmm, what's that odd rumbling noise?" face. Evidently the train had struck them before they could switch to 'Argh, impending death!' An undignified fainting spell was narrowly avoided. Twelve years later, including three years of daily train journeys, and the fear remains; the conditioning worked a little too well.
  • The National Lampoon did a comic book-format PSA parody "Heading For Trouble" that managed to fit in drunk driving, starting forest fires, littering, hitchhiking, chatting on police emergency phones while dressed in commercial trademark character costumes - sublime absurdism from Brian McConnachie.
  • In one episode/chapter of Bleach, Peche, one of Nel's Fraccion, pulls his sword out of his loincloth. Dondochakka then pops up and warns the people watching not to attempt to pull a sword out of their pelvis.
  • There was a PSA showing a home video of an adorable year-old baby repeating simple Spanish words for numbers from her mother. Then it shows a message saying how the baby was killed by an irresponsible drunk driver a month or so after the video was taken.
    • Many anti-drunk driving ads use this premise. Home movie footage is shown of a person who died in an accident caused by drunk driving. The most recent one featured a Marine who just graduated boot camp.
    • Australia had a similar one. A father and son were driving along talking about what they were going to eat for dinner and suddenly BOOM he hits a woman. We see her mangled corpse, a bleeding baby and the 4 year old crying "DA-da-dadyyyyy * sob".
    • The UK ran a similar campaign during the mid-1990s, which showed home video footage of children who had later been killed by speeding drivers, with famous voiceovers reading solemn poetry about death and grieving (including John Hannah's rendition of WH Auden's Funeral Blues as heard in the film Four Weddings and a Funeral.)
  • Your local Street Fighter machine would like to remind you that Winners Don't Use Drugs.
    • That one among many others beginning in the late-1980's, and for the most part is still included in new arcade games (in North America). NARC, which already had an anti-drug theme, was one of the first arcade games, if not the first arcade game to feature it.
  • Doctor Steel has made several of these covering philosophical subjects such as transhumanism, freedom of thought, and subjective reality and posted them on YouTube. He also has mock PSAs within his films The Dr. Steel Show, Episodes 1 and 2.
  • American and British schools alike bring in either acting troupes or guest speakers, to talk about social issues such as drugs. If the show is hard-hitting enough, it has the unfortunate side effect of making arouund a third of the audience pass out or cry. Don't do drugs, kids.
  • Adult Swim has a number of 15-second spoof PSA bumps, featuring such gems as "Educational television makes babies retarded".
  • Chainsawsuit had fun with PSA that are set up as a Non Sequitur Scene. And a warning about hiccups.
  • Fake Theme Park tries to keep up with the times here.