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Friday, November 21, 2014

Canadian PSA's That Were...Strange

I'll be the first one to admit it.  Having my formative years falling in the late 1980s and early 1990s was definitely an interesting experience.

For the most part, it was a good time (well, the time outside of school, that is).  The music was great, there was a great emphasis on environmental protection (something I wish the world would do more of), and the movies at the cinema were some of the best.  Seriously, if you were to take every film released between 1988 and 1996, I probably would like a good 75% of them.

But not all parts of pop culture were celebrated during that time period.  In particular when it comes to Canadian television.

Specifically public service announcements.

Now, I am sure that most of you know what a public service announcement is.  They are 30 second to one minute advertisements that usually air during blocks of children's or family programming that deal with a particular subject.  Subjects like drug use, alcohol use, safety precautions, cause awareness, and environmental awareness.  Here's an example of one of these PSA's that aired in both Canada and the United States, I believe.

Of course, not all of these PSA's were as cute as the one starring Tweety up above.  Some of them were strange, weird, or just plain scary.  Canadian ones in particular were all kinds of weirdness.  I think some of them might have been filmed by a director who was under the influence of the very things that they were trying to warn children and young adults about!

Anyway, we're going to take a look at some of these PSA's in a moment, but before we go ahead, I really want to give a shout out to one of the people who read this blog and gave me the idea to do this topic.

Viki A. from Pincourt, Quebec, this one's for you!

And, to begin, let's take a look at one of the very first PSA's that I remember from my early childhood years.  One that used to scare me when I was really young.

Okay, so as you probably have seen, this is a public service announcements for War Amps, an organization that helps people who have had amputated limbs cope, as well as providing financial services for children to receive artificial limbs.  It's a really great organization, and my family has used the War Amps key tag service for decades. 

It's just a shame that this commercial was so scary.  Here's a small child robot named Astar, who very well could be the love child between C-3PO and Big Brother's Zingbot, having fun the best way that robot children know how - swinging on moving gears, chains, and sawblades.  Of course, Astar ends up playing foolishly and accidentally severs his whole arm off in a sea of bright yellow sparks and ear-splitting noise.  Don't worry though, he can snap his arm back on in seconds.  But if a real child were to do what Astar did - well, frankly he'd probably be dead within the first ten seconds.  But at best, he would likely lose the same arm, and unlike Astar, there's no way of putting that arm back on.

It was meant to scare kids into not playing with dangerous toys, or doing dangerous things that could make you lose an eye, arm, or leg.  But really, all it did with me was make me want to avoid that creepy commercial at all costs.

Which wasn't easy, given that the commercial ran for FIFTEEN YEARS!!!

You know, let's go ahead with an ad campaign for smoking.  You know how nowadays, ad makers try to use grotesque imagery and sad stories to keep people from smoking, or to encourage smokers to quit?  Well, this was Canada's answer to anti-smoking ads circa '87.

Okay, so the lady singing is Canadian entertainer Luba, known for the singles "Let It Go", "How Many", and the uplifting single "Every Time I See Your Picture, I Cry".  And Luba's message is for all people to break free from the habit of cigarette smoking.

And by doing this, they have a whole bunch of teenagers dancing around dressed like extras from Degrassi Junior High.  If people want to join the party, they need to break free from the cigarette ads that pepper the alleyways, and change from black and white to their colourful 1980s bad selves.  Not exactly the most effective video to promote anti-smoking, but hey, it was the 1980s.  Most commercials didn't make sense then.

And speaking of commercials with loud, garish colours.

Hey, that's Gert!  And that's her brother Bert!  And these wascally wabbits are dressed like Screech from Saved By The Bell so that they can help YOU stay alert, stay safe, and look good doing it!

All right, so the ads themselves were a good idea, and provided a lot of great information for kids.  But, I don't know...using animated bunnies to promote personal safety...could there possibly be anything worse than that?

Well, okay, I forgot about the two fuzzy blue monsters who warn you not to "put it in your mouth, though it might look good to eat, like a muffin or a beet".  Yeah, my sister and I used to make fun of this commercial all the bloody time it came on, which back in 1993 or whatever year this came out was at least five times a day.  Before my voice changed, I could mimic the voices of the blue monsters quite well.  Now I look at this ad and I cringe at how horrible it is.  And they think that ads like this were supposed to help us AVOID drugs.  I wouldn't be surprised if this ad made some kids believe that they were already under the influence!

And, speaking of anti-drug ads, I can't even explain this one.

This one just has every single bad 1990s stereotype attached to it.  Ugly fonts, kids dancing, grown-ups acting like fools, and that one guy in particular looks like a "Movember" participant!

That's about all that I have to say about really weird PSA's from Canada when I was a child.  Do you have any from your own countries that you'd like to share?  Are there some that I left off this list.  Please leave all comments here.

In the meantime, I suppose you want to know what PSA's look like now.  Well, these aren't recent (I'd say they came out in at least 2006), but they certainly do make a good point about workplace safety.

As well as this ad that is really creative...but not what you might expect.

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