Public health campaigns are just like regular advertisements, except that instead of selling McRibs, they're promoting awareness for a cause. Sometimes they're done with facts, sometimes they're done with heartfelt testimonials, and sometimes they're done with mind-ripping nightmare imagery that destroys any lingering belief in a loving god.
#8. "Where's Your Child?"
Australia's "Where's Your Child?" campaign (designed to emphasize the importance of keeping an eye on kids while they're playing around the beach, swimming pools and other popular drowning locations) featured a hard-hitting poster demanding that parents answer the titular question. Which is actually kind of easy. ("Duh, he's right there.")
To be clear, that image above isn't the ad -- it's a picture of the ad, which is placed at the bottom of an actual swimming pool. The posters were designed by the thoughtful folks in Watch Around Water's Department of Terrible Ideas, presumably to give lifeguards a heart attack every 17 seconds and allow water-winged toddlers to delight in the experience of wading across a decal of the sunken corpse of a young couple's hopes and dreams.
"Wait, we only had one ad down there? Crap."
Hundreds of life-size photographs of a drowned little boy were subsequently put in swimming pools across the country, which is kind of like painting Osama bin Laden's silhouette on the back of that curtain that separates first class from coach, or tying a bag of fingers to the underside of new lawnmowers.
#7. "Giving Children Back Their Future"
This image of what appears to be Anthony Kiedis with Benjamin Button disease tying off a vein in a haunted bathroom is the work of Barnardo's, a U.K.-based nonprofit organization that generates support for kids who suffer from poverty, abuse and sexual assault. They've received numerous complaints over the years for their controversial tactics, but none generated so much hate mail as their "Giving Children Back Their Future" campaign. Possibly because of the whole "baby doing heroin" thing.
The other ads in the series weren't any sunnier -- one showed a small boy about to jump off a building, and another had an infant desperately clawing for a bottle of whiskey, possibly because they'd both just seen a Barnardo's ad. They were attempting to make the point that children who are victims of abuse are much more likely to succumb to self-destructive behavior as they get older and end up drowning themselves in liquor or blasting smack in some AIDS-soaked dungeon.
Bartle Bogle Hegarty via Coloribus.com
"We have another one of a toddler installing Windows 8, but it was making people vomit."
It's debatable how well that point was made, but we assume that most of the money Barnardo's raised from "Giving Children Back Their Future" came from people who just never wanted to see those pictures again.
#6. "Children Will Put Anything in Their Mouths"
Oh, look. It's a child eating dog shit.
Evidently, people failing to pick up dog poop is such a huge problem in the U.K. that a local councilor named Dave Butt (that is his actual name) launched a campaign to stop dog owners from leaving steaming piles of fudgebutter all over the place instead of picking them up with their hands like civilized human beings. He designed a series of 6-foot posters to be hung in bus stations across the borough of Torbay to try to curb the rampant scourge, but really all he did was put up a bunch of pictures of a little girl eating a cake of shit by the smeary fistful.
Councilor Butt (which incidentally sounds like the name of a character Tom Arnold must have played at some point in his career) made sure that the fine for "dog fouling" was prominently featured on each poster, although the ambiguity of the text makes it unclear whether the fine is for not picking up after your pet or for allowing a 3-year-old to cram a mound of rancid shit into her face like it's a tub of Ben & Jerry's.
"Don't waste that! There are starving children in England!"
That being said, Councilor Butt (weeeeeee) stands by his ads. He claims that not only has he received no complaints about the graphic nature of the posters, but that dog poop complaints have been cut in half since the campaign launched. Although, if the only thing keeping British children from shoving poop into their mouths is their lack of access to it, there is probably a larger problem there.
#5. "Smoking Means Being a Slave to Tobacco"
A French anti-smoking group called Droits des Non-Fumeurs (Non-Smokers' Rights) wanted to come up with a campaign that would really grab people, so they produced a series of ads by tapping into our collective instinctual fear of old man face rape. To be fair, that guy's crotch could be a pulsing jet of flame. Or we could be looking at a particularly zany novelty cigarette vending machine.
The ad's caption reads "Smoking means being a slave to tobacco." Droits des Non-Fumeurs is basically saying that every time you light up at a bar, you are wrapping your lips around the throbhammer of a Marlboro executive while he happily takes your money. Plenty of people were seriously offended, and not just smokers. In fact, the majority of the negative response to the ads accused Non-Fumeurs of minimizing sexual abuse to make their point, arguing that the organization was essentially telling the young people of France that the heartbreaking debasement of a power-hungry man in a three-piece suit forcefully docking his wrinkled chubmarine between their teeth was preferable to the horrors of smoking a cigarette.