Why were Public Service Announcements from our childhood SO scary?
I still remember how terrified I was by some of the Public Service Announcements that were shown on television. Whenever I was watching my beloved Flintstones cartoons, Afterschool Specials, or Saturday morning cartoons – alone – I sat in fear wondering what scary PSA would pop up on my tv screen during the commercial break.
Okay, so I was a bit of a scaredy-cat as a child but…you have to agree, many of those Public Service Announcements were just downright creepy!
Stay with me…I need your help at the end of this post.
Drugs, Pollution, And Poisons – Oh My!
While PSA’s are still part of the television landscape today, Public Service Announcements of the 1970’s and 1980’s were a breed of their own.
Those were scary times, the 1970’s and 1980’s.
Drugs, pollution, poison, explosives…and even VD! If the topic wasn’t scary, chances are the actors or characters certainly were.
Big, googly eyes and strange-looking puppets. Dark surroundings. Ominous voice-overs.
I really have no words to explain why PSAs were made this creepy. I’m sure they were intentionally done this way for maximum effect – to keep kids away from all the bad things.
It sure worked for me! They made me afraid of anything with those dangerous labels on them!
So here, in no particular order are…
15 Scary Public Service Announcements From Our Childhood
To Pay Or Not To Pay
This one is almost laughable – now.
Back in the 1970’s, having to pay to watch television was a scary thought for adults but, there was something scarier than that for me – the Pay TV monsters!
Binkley & Doinkel
Hands up if you remember Binkley & Doinkel!
After Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau implemented the Hazardous Products Act in the early 1970’s, these two green aliens were created to help educate people about the new Hazardous Product Symbols identifying corrosive, flammable, poisonous, and explosive materials.
Somehow, as a kid, I always seemed to miss the message behind these PSAs.
Maybe this was because I was so terribly frightened by these two green aliens and their freaky-eyed dog!
Nevermind the rest of the cast of other freaky characters that made an appearance in this series of Public Service Announcements.
Don’t Put It In Your Mouth
This Public Service Announcement, while produced in the 1990s, has a very obvious nod to the 1970’s PSAs with its monster puppets and its message, aimed at kids – “don’t put it in your mouth“. Don’t be fooled by the cutesy voices, lol.
Again…what’s with the googly eyes?!
Astar From Afar
Or so I used to think.
This time it’s Astar – a robot. Astar had a great message but, again…creepy!
This is getting repetitive! Those EYES!
Just Say No
I vividly remember this PSA. I’m sure I looked “white as a ghost” when watching this one.
I found the music scary.
I never understood what all those coloured things were that were floating down from the sky.
And…oh. my. gosh.
Why was that scary man pulling the other man through that doorway?
This Public Service Announcement was completely lost on me…until I was an adult. The only thing this PSA did to me, was scare me.
Ironically, this PSA was produced by Hanna-Barbera.
When crack cocaine emerged in the 1980’s, Clint Eastwood was recruited for this Public Service Announcement. Dirty Harry was all over this “glamour drug of the 80’s”. A well-intentioned message but, it was dark, sinister…and creepy!
Americans used Clint Eastwood to deliver a message about drugs – Canadians – we used freaky puppets!
As a child, I couldn’t tell you what the anti-drug message was for this one. I was too worried about those freakishly big lips on the puppets.
And of course…those EYES!
On Top Of Old Smokey
Good ol’ Smokey The Bear wasn’t a creepy looking bear but, there was just something creepy about these two ads…
I can see the message behind this PSA quite clearly – now that I’m an adult.
As a kid though…I did not understand why this woman spoke the way she did..or why she morphed into Smokey The Bear…in such a creepy way!
This One Was Garbage
Another PSA with a great message but, one I found creepy because of the music and the voice-over. At the end, I always felt sorry for the tearful Native American.
Old Mother Hubbard
This one wasn’t so scary to me but, it reminded me of all the scary googly-eyed characters from the other Public Service Announcements.
It’s For Every Body
I saved this one until last because well…you’ll see.
Not creepy. Not scary.
Well…this one is more “scary” to me now that I’m an adult and I understand it.
It references adult subject matter.
I was definitely “curious and confused” as a kid watching this one! Oy!
So there you have it. 15 scary Public Service Announcements from our childhood. Did I miss any scary ones you remember? We would love to see more examples! Share in the comment section if you can.
And finally, here’s where I need your help. There are a few more “scary” PSAs I “vaguely” remember from the 1970’s but I cannot seem to find them online.
I don’t have many details but, does anyone remember PSAs about:
- drinking and driving (I think – not 100% sure of the topic) – this PSA showed a sequence of scary looking monsters (from the chest up) driving a car.
- fire safety – this PSA showed a fire alarm going off at a fire station and fire trucks racing out of the fire station.
- poisonous household materials – this PSA showed a dog grabbing poison from a child saying “don’t touch it – it is not for children”.
If you remember any of these, or can find them online…leave a comment/link below!