Tuesday, October 25, 2011

10 Worst Public Service Announcements

It's easy to make a mediocre public service announcement. Just work with a small budget, hire some average actors, and provide a message that most people have already heard. Most PSAs leave a small impression on the viewer, even if it's just because they're reinforcing an idea, but it takes a real talent to make a seriously terrible public service announcement. These 10 commercials aimed at raising awareness about different plights of our society have really raised the bar for bad acting, poorly executed ideas, and pushing the envelope a little past good taste.

  1. Real Children Don't Bounce Back

    If you thought you'd never hear a laugh track during a child abuse awareness ad, you were wrong. The producers of this public service announcement found a way to show child abuse on-screen, but the combination of a cartoon child in a live-action world and brutal abuse paired with goofy noises is off-putting to say the least. The animated boy's very real father hits him, throws things at him, flings him against the wall, and puts a cigarette out on his head, all before tossing him down the stairs where he becomes a real kid. The light-hearted take on such a serious problem is disturbing, as is the image of the poor cartoon boy soiling himself out of fear. The PSA makes its point, but how many children and dumb adults did it confuse in the process? Laugh tracks normally mean the content is funny, and this is no laughing matter.

  2. Prevent It workplace safety PSA

    Maybe it makes sense that people who are watching people get their teeth knocked out in a hockey game would only be affected by shocking PSAs, but this Canadian ad for workplace safety is surprisingly horrifying. There were several different commercials that made up the campaign that played during Hockey Night In Canada and kept children everywhere from ever wanting to get a job. Even working retail is dangerous! The point of the ad is to show that you have to be careful and follow safety procedures at work, but the underlying message is that death, or at least disfigurement, is lurking around every corner. There was obviously no better way to show this to viewers than to demonstrate the way the oil from a deep fryer will melt your face off or the manner in which you might be impaled if you drive a forklift.

  3. Mr. McGregor sexual abuse PSA

    This PSA is guaranteed to make you squirm, because not only does it feature an adorable little boy telling the story of how he was sexually abused, it makes you watch him act it out. The kid explains that he goes to a home daycare after school because his mom works late. Mr. McGregor, the husband of the babysitter, sometimes chooses a special boy to help him out in his workshop. You'll groan as you watch Mr. McGregor guide the boy's hands on the saw and gently unbutton the kid's shirt. You might cover your eyes when Mr. McGregor spills paint on the child and makes him take off his clothes. And you'll want to die when the little boy describes, without euphemisms or dancing around the subject, how Mr. McGregor touched his penis. You may know more about sexual abuse after watching this, but you'll also view old men a lot differently.

  4. Smoke-Free Grads by 2000

    Some seriously awful PSAs come from Canada. This one attempts to keep kids from smoking cigarettes throughout their time in school, an undeniably worthy cause, but leaves the viewer wanting to take up smoking just to avoid being associated with this campaign. An alien bear arrives on earth with his rock band to deliver a moderately catchy, incredibly annoying message through song. The kids in the video join in the song, ensuring that it gets stuck in your head, and then get hold of some cigarettes just so they can break them in half. Obviously no one ever told them how expensive those things are or what they could buy you in prison. The worst message of this PSA is that if a bully tries to pressure you to smoke and you break his cigarette, he'll pat you on the back, when in reality, he would at least stuff you in your locker.

  5. Nightmare on Drug Street

    Instead of leaving kids in the dark about how to do crack, this public service announcement (that was actually part of a short TV series about the consequences of drugs) basically spells it out for you. "This is crack, and this is what you smoke it with," one of the bad kids explains. Little Eddie does crack a couple of times, collapses on the floor, and eventually ends up in a juvenile detention center. It's hard to tell whether this is punishment for the drugs (which he was only trying as a scientist) or for the kids' plan to build a nuclear bomb for the science fair. The real lesson of the commercial comes when the viewer learns about all the awful things in juvey -- most notably that there's no junk food and that your little brother isn't there to steal your underwear.

  6. Dunkelziffer sexual abuse PSA

    After watching this PSA, you'll probably wonder what the producers were thinking and what exactly they wanted that tentacle to resemble. This seriously creepy ad will haunt your dreams and probably make you do the opposite of what the producers want you to do. Who wants to hang around long enough to help a person who is always followed by a hairy, phallic tentacle? You'll get the point: sexual abuse is scarring and interferes with every phase of a person's life. But there has to be a far less creepy way to depict the influence of abuse than to show a fleshy, headless snake slithering up the legs of an elderly woman. This is a German PSA, so maybe it'd be wise to stay away from the TV if you're traveling abroad because even a language barrier won't save you from this one.

  7. VD Is For Everybody

    If you didn't know what VD was before watching this public service announcement, you would probably conclude it was something relatively happy, like insurance or a community grocery store. Not once do you hear that VD stands for venereal disease or learn about its symptoms or how it's contracted. The nice waltz music leads you to believe that the people they are showing -- a violinist, the librarian, a baby -- are living fulfilling lives and would be further enriched by the addition of VD. You're not even tipped off that the thing they're advertising might be health related until the announcer tells you to go to the pharmacy or talk to a doctor. Where some PSAs go too far with the scare-us-straight philosophy, this one doesn't even approach the subject.

  8. Pee-wee Herman anti-crack PSA

    Pee-wee Herman isn't exactly someone you would want to take advice from on how to be cool. And Paul Reubens himself would end up being a terrible role model for the kids he was telling how to live. He had been arrested in 1971 outside an adult theater and in 1983, around the time the PSA aired, he was arrested for possession of marijuana. It's not quite crack, but it's still an illegal drug. A decade or so after the public service announcement, he was arrested for indecent exposure in an adult theater and again in 2002 for child pornography. Add in the fact that one of Reubens' biggest non-Pee-wee roles was that of a drug dealer in the movie Blow and you've got one meaningless anti-drug PSA.

  9. The Situation and Bristol Palin safe sex PSA

    If there's anyone in the world that you don't want our youth taking sex advice from, it's Mike "The Situation" Sorrentino from Jersey Shore and Sarah Palin's daughter, Bristol. The Situation is notorious for bringing home different girls every night (or sometimes multiple girls in the same night) and having his friends take the "grenade" or ugly one. That sounds like a guy with a healthy respect for women and sex. Bristol was a teen mom who now advocates abstinence. Even if you didn't know the back stories of the two, their interaction in the PSA is totally unbelievable and the acting would make you think they're not actors at all. Oh, they're not? Then have someone else deliver the important message.

  10. Joanna Cassidy and Smokey the Bear

    Smokey the Bear is a lovable figure from our childhood, but most would agree that the animated version of Smokey is far less creepy than the man-in-a-Smokey-suit version with a mouth that barely moves. If bad Smokey was the only thing wrong with this commercial, it would have been forgotten as another low-quality PSA, but it gets worse. The producers of the forest-fire prevention ad recruited Starsky and Hutch actress Joanna Cassidy to deliver the message, and while she's attractive, she appears to be heavily sedated or about to seduce someone. Then the traumatic part happens: she removes her face. Viewers are subjected to the sight of her skin and teeth coming off and revealing that she was weird Smokey all along. The moral of this ad: don't start a forest fire because Smokey the Bear could be lurking underneath the skin of someone you love.

Taken From Online Degree

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