I was overly sensitive to everything I watched on TV, everything my parents said, and everything I heard people say around me. Even covers of scary books could make me anxious.
After watching those war-amps commercials with Astar from Planet Danger (the ones where the gold robot got his arm cut off and then reattached it), I never wanted to go outside ever again. Amputees also terrified me for a long time.
The root of much of this fear I can attribute to terrifying PSAs I was forced to bear witness to as a child. Concerned Children’s Advertisers sure knew what they were doing, because after watching PSAs like “Hip Choice” (one of their anti-drug PSAs), the mere idea of doing drugs makes me shiver.
I was afraid of some PSAs for valid reasons, where as some terrified me irrationally.
The house hippo ad left me begging my mom to check under my bed for hippos night after night, although I’m not entirely sure why.
Concerned Children’s Advertisers brought many tough issues to my attention at an early age. I learned about the world- drugs, amputees, land-mines, poison consumption, exercise and obesity- all through 30-second clips meant to scare me into good behaviour.
This method of social control proved effective. I definitely never wanted to play on a farm for fear of losing an arm or a leg to a tractor blade.
The same shock value has been translated into PSAs of today, using human emotion (in large part, fear) to drive home a message. A recent anti-smoking PSA features a crying child who has lost his mom in a busy place. The tagline of the commercial reads: “if this is how your child feels after losing you for a minute, just imagine if they lost you for life”.
It is hard to imagine that this is the tact advertisers have to take to get a message across. Media is already saturated with the graphic, the shocking, and the sensational. In order to be effective, these PSAs have to be a cut above.
Who knows what the future will bring…