The 6 Most Counterproductive PSAs of All Time

To public service announcement creators, their videos serve as a terrible portent of doom for the audience. And if they do their job right, it works: Nobody wants to be Helen Hunt jump-kicking through plate glass. If they do their job wrong, however, it mostly just reminds the audience that our preferred form of mischief is pretty fun, and hey -- it's been a little while since we did it, hasn't it? Well, here are six PSAs that definitely did their job wrong, because they make their subject matter look downright tempting.

#6. Gofer Cakes

The President's Council on Physical Fitness and Sports has one central goal: to embarrass fat kids into making healthy lifestyle choices. Sometime around 1997, they had an exciting idea: If we show children how ridiculous they look in the throes of cake-induced ecstasy, they'll never want to eat junk food ever again, right?


And that faulty logic is how Gofer Cakes -- the tastiest cake product you'll never get to eat -- were conceived. In the PSA, four friends arrive home from school and run straight to the pantry. As they put their bags down, a jingle starts to play:

"Go fer a mouthful/Go fer the fun/Gofer cakes are for everyone!"

The pantry door then opens to reveal a box of cakes, and from that point onward, this is a video documentary of the happiest moments in four children's lives.

Something tells us we probably shouldn't keep this picture on our hard drives.

Given her age, the term "orgasm" might not be appropriate, but we don't know what else to call that face, and she hasn't even taken a bite yet. The kids aren't just happy with eating them, though. They build chocolate cake forts:

Cover them with whipped cream:

Blend them into a brownie smoothie:

Great idea, terrible execution.

And generally continue to have dangerously inappropriate foodgasms all over mom's furniture:

Before they finally start to pass out into a sugar-induced coma:

Then an adult voice drones, "Exercise lately?" while the following message appears:

Co-sponsored by James Brown.

Why It Makes the Subject Matter Look Awesome:

Where was the downside in this, exactly? That they were all spent after their sugar high? So what? You're spent after most anything fun, from sex to exercise to an intense round of Mega Man 2. That satisfied, post-coital and -foodal period is one of the best parts of the experience -- when every desire has been sated, and you're so happy you can do nothing but flop around like an endorphin walrus.

Those kids aren't sick; they're not puking into a bucket or stroking out from a sugar clot -- they're just in a temporary, blissful chocolate refractory period.

And it's no wonder. Look back at those screencaps! You've never enjoyed anything as much as those children did those chocolate cakes. They make fudge smoothies (which, we're sorry, is a bad idea how? That's the entire business model of Cold Stone Creamery) and even build whole fortresses out of chocolate; that's like the most fun afternoon of anybody's childhood. Have you guys never seen Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory? It's like all the best parts of that movie come to life, and without all the child murder.

Suffocated in a transparent tube if not for Gofer Cakes.

Gofer Cakes was literally the most effective advertisement we have ever seen, it's just in the opposite direction they intended. If somebody actually started selling these things, they'd be sold out within 15 minutes and at least one person would be crushed to death -- not in the stampede or anything, but because one less mouth equals one more Gofer Cake for the rest us.

#5. VD Is for Everybody

The American Social Health Association wants you to put your genitals in a plastic bag, and there's nothing wrong with that goal. We understand that they don't let you ride the zip line unless you put on a helmet, and you don't get sex without a condom. Toward that end, the ASHA created their public ad campaign "VD Is for Everybody." Holy shit, that tagline makes venereal disease sound like a pack of Lunchables -- something that's best shared with friends.

In the PSA, a group of attractive, well-groomed people smile at the camera while a catchy, upbeat tune plays in the background:

"VD is for everybody/not just for the few/Anyone can share VD/with someone nice as you."

We're not blind to irony. We get what they were going for: First they make it seem like something nice and bubbly that everybody can get, and then they slam you with the awful realization of what a venereal disease really entails. But the PSA never makes it to that twist; it's just a solid minute of shiny, happy people holding hands:

Is there supposed to be some transference between these people? Because that makes us uncomfortable.

Why It Makes the Subject Matter Look Awesome:

OK, since you (hopefully) know what VD is, you already get the implied level of irony. But if you know what it is, and you know you don't want it, this PSA didn't help you, did it? Check that lineup: Young woman, preteen, baby.

Hey, yeah -- wrap your dick up, baby; nobody wants your baby STDs.

The ad is obviously at least partly geared to people who haven't had sex yet. What if that were you? This PSA features beaming, ecstatic, attractive people living their lives in total peace and contentment, and then it ends.

After watching this, if somebody told you to watch out for VD, you'd be all "Oh yeah, I know all about that stuff. Saw this video in school. It's cool." Then they'd leave, confident that you were aware of the danger, while you'd leave, confident that stuff like "a satisfying career" and "meaningful relationships" are overrated, because the true secret to happiness is a set of leaky genitals.

#4. Party All Night

The Church of Scientology, perhaps most well-known for their ability to have good ideas and execute them in a sane fashion, decided to get in on that lucrative "public betterment" market. So they created Drug Free World, a campaign warning teenagers about the dangers of recreational drugs.

This is the main character of their PSA, and our impending cautionary tale:

Implicit message: Cute girls are into drugs.

Look at her! She's pretty, healthy and well put-together. Man, that's going to make her inevitable fall so much worse. She's probably going to start bleeding from the eyes any second now.

"At least you're not in a work safety PSA. Come back with all your limbs."

Oh, OK, she uh ... she has a nice home life, too. Whoooo boy. It's gonna be rough when they abandon her to a crack house.

Now her equally pretty, happy friends arrive in a nice car and start doing coke with her. OK, here we go. This is the turn:

She's having a great time at the party, really cutting loose, when oh no -- she falls into the pool! Probably drowns horribly, clawing at the floor, too fucked up to realize she's upside down and -- oh wait.

Her thetans have dried her from the inside.

No, OK. That one was a fake out. She's totally fine ... for now. She just changes and goes right back out with her friends.

And wait ... life of the party again? Cocaine sure is letting her have a lot of fun before it ruins her life.

Aaaaand ... Ke$ha!

Ah, here we go: She's having a minor freakout in the bathroom. The overdose is next, surely there's about to be a horrific overdose and --

The Spring/Summer catwalk collection by Coke and Chanel.

Nope. She's up and walking just fine. All of her cokehead friends are not only still with her, but deeply concerned, despite the fact that she's walking into the hospital under her own power, instead of, say, being rolled from the car as it whips through the ambulance lane.

Now she cries a single tear.

Guess her friends went to score more cocaine.

And sits alone in the waiting room. Here's the young girl's damning parting lines: "They said if I did coke, I could party all night. They lied."

Why It Makes the Subject Matter Look Awesome:

She's right, it didn't let her party all night ... just most of it. If anything, this PSA seems to be implying that you shouldn't do coke because it wears off too quickly.

Let's break it down: In the first half of the PSA, coke does nothing but bring her closer to her friends and allow her to let her hair down. It makes her seem cooler and more adult, and allows her to form a personal identity separate from her parents. It's basically a social shoehorn.

We're guessing her parents paid for the shoehorn. too.

The second half of the PSA -- the "awful downside" -- makes coke seem like the perfect expression of teen angst. She overdid it a little bit and didn't have an amazing time for the last hour of the party and now -- the poor girl -- she's basically suffocating in all of this love and attention. There aren't any lasting consequences, and although her lipstick is a little smeared, it's more in a "pretty punk" kind of way, rather than a "I mistook this dogshit for eyeliner" style. She self-destructs gorgeously, vomit-free and still ready to hit the town after.

We wonder if "cocaine" is just another term for "too many Jagerbombs."

Think about it: What teenage girl doesn't want to be a beautiful tragedy? If you slap a vampire up in this bitch, you'd have tweens lining up around the block to get in.

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