The 6 Most Counterproductive PSAs of All Time

To public service announcement creators: The more tempting you make your subject matter appear, the more likely your PSA will fail.
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.

Gofer Cakes

The 6 Most Counterproductive PSAs of All Time

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.

The 6 Most Counterproductive PSAs of All Time

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:

The 6 Most Counterproductive PSAs of All Time

Cover them with whipped cream:

The 6 Most Counterproductive PSAs of All Time

Blend them into a brownie smoothie:

The 6 Most Counterproductive PSAs of All Time

Great idea, terrible execution.

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

The 6 Most Counterproductive PSAs of All Time

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.

The 6 Most Counterproductive PSAs of All Time

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.

VD Is for Everybody

The 6 Most Counterproductive PSAs of All Time

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:

The 6 Most Counterproductive PSAs of All Time

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.

The 6 Most Counterproductive PSAs of All Time

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.

Party All Night

The 6 Most Counterproductive PSAs of All Time

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:

The 6 Most Counterproductive PSAs of All Time

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.

The 6 Most Counterproductive PSAs of All Time

"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:

The 6 Most Counterproductive PSAs of All Time

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.

The 6 Most Counterproductive PSAs of All Time

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.

The 6 Most Counterproductive PSAs of All Time

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

The 6 Most Counterproductive PSAs of All Time

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.

The 6 Most Counterproductive PSAs of All Time

Now she cries a single tear.

The 6 Most Counterproductive PSAs of All Time

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.

The 6 Most Counterproductive PSAs of All Time

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.

Cookie Monster PSA


Cookie Monster is perhaps the ideal character to speak to small children about healthy eating habits because, much like the children themselves, he is a totally amoral abomination who has no problems destroying large amounts of property in pursuit of temporary gratification. Or maybe he wasn't quite so ideal, because back in 1974, this is how it played out:

CM sits in an unnamed restaurant while an off-screen reporter asks him if he is eating cookies. He replies in the negative. The reporter, intrigued, asks what he is eating then.

The 6 Most Counterproductive PSAs of All Time

"Raw veal and dolphin caviar."

A dramatic pause ensues, and Cookie Monster lifts up the lid on his platter, revealing:

The 6 Most Counterproductive PSAs of All Time

Meat and fish, which, he explains, will help him become strong. The French waiter delivers another platter, and the same scenario plays out, except that this time:

The 6 Most Counterproductive PSAs of All Time

Cookie Monster is eating vegetables, which will help make him healthy. Repeat scene, you get the idea. And once he's done pecking at a healthy diet for 30 seconds, a god damn dump truck full of cookies drives up behind him and turns the air itself into chocolate chips:

The 6 Most Counterproductive PSAs of All Time


Cookie monster screeches "COOKIES!!!" and gorges on the sugary treats like an addled fiend, desperately trying to fill the void inside of him with food (a futile gesture, of course; that void is where the hand goes).

Why It Makes the Subject Matter Look Awesome:

Even in the PSA -- where he's at his most restrained and health-conscious -- Cookie Monster still eats at least seven times as many cookies as healthy food. So even if the kids listen to your commercial and model their behavior after Cookie Monster's diet -- which, remember, you're telling them is the healthy way to eat -- they're going to wind up reluctantly taking one small nibble of fish, one nibble of vegetables and then devouring six sleeves of Oreos while screaming at the top of their lungs.

We're Not Candy


PSAs are tough: You can't scare the kids too much or you'll just scar them, but you can't sugarcoat things too much, either, or the lesson will be lost. In the 1980s, the Long Island Regional Poison Control Center thought they'd hit the sweet spot: M&M puppets singing a cutesy song about how -- even though they look delicious -- you shouldn't eat them.

Jesus, what was the sugar-coated version -- did they refer to poisoning as a "tummy party"?

Here's an actual shot of the evil poisons at work:


Oh God, it's a barbershop quartet.

Here are actual lyrics from the song:

"We're not candy/even though we look so fine and dandy./When you're sick, we come in handy/but we're not candy."

That's it. "Don't eat us, kids, just have tons of fun with your singing pill friends!"

Why It Makes the Subject Matter Look Awesome:

Just look at those pills!

The 6 Most Counterproductive PSAs of All Time

"Swallow me for happiness!"

We've never seen something more nonthreatening and loveable in our lives. If they made pets shaped like that, we'd own 16 of them and sleep in a giant pile together so as to never be apart -- not for one fucking minute. This PSA depicts pills as sounding like Chipmunks and looking like Skittles designed by Jim Henson. And you're saying those cuddly little bastards up there are going to hurt children? Maybe you were misinformed, PSA, or hey -- maybe the pills are just pretending to be dangerous because they don't want to be eaten.

What, does that sound like an unreasonable assumption? Because that's the exact premise of the M&M ad campaign: "Please don't eat us, you totally wouldn't like it wait oh nooooo! You ate me and I was delicious. You found out the secret! You're so clever!"

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To be honest, it's easier to eat face-punchingly obnoxious characters.

So let's recap: If you disobey this PSA, you might die -- or -- you might just make some adorable new musical friends, get a fistful of candy and grow up to be Busta Rhymes.

The gamble is yours, kids.

Case Study: Acid

The 6 Most Counterproductive PSAs of All Time

In 1969, the Lockheed Aircraft Corporation (wait, what?) created a series of short anti-drug films based on the individual testimony of users who had bad drug experiences. The downside -- at least for the PSA creators -- was that the testimony was not universally negative, and sometimes even highlighted the benefits of using the drug in question. For example, "Case Study LSD":

It starts, like everything else in the '60s, with porn music playing against a backdrop of votive candles.

The 6 Most Counterproductive PSAs of All Time

Be prepared for the most sepia time of your life.

Just a bunch of assholes sitting around looking like assholes (it's a full-time job) until a pretty girl comes in ...

The 6 Most Counterproductive PSAs of All Time

Are those bangs or a helmet? We don't know, and no one in the '60s cared.

In voice-over, she begins to relate her cautionary tale:

The 6 Most Counterproductive PSAs of All Time

She only took the acid because she was "jacked up on marijuana." Wow, good thing she wasn't "strung out on wine coolers" or shit would have gotten real.

Then she "puts on pink Capri pants and a green and brown blouse" (the horror?) and heads out on the town. They "trip down" to Market Street to buy a hot dog ...

The 6 Most Counterproductive PSAs of All Time

"You kids are tripping face, huh? Try the relish!"

But when she puts it up to her mouth, she hears somebody screaming. She asks her friend, but he says he doesn't hear anything. When she looks down, she finds that the hot dog has a face, a voice and "seven kids at home."

The 6 Most Counterproductive PSAs of All Time

She reacts appropriately:


"Oh my God I love Trolls!"

Her friend doesn't believe her at first, but she eventually convinces him and they both have a long conversation with the meaty tube. Then, when she realizes she's probably just hallucinating, she eats the hot dog anyway. It "screams so loud you could hear it all over town." So she throws it on the ground and starts stomping:

The 6 Most Counterproductive PSAs of All Time

Everyone knows you eat the head of the hallucination first.

Why It Makes the Subject Matter Look Awesome:

Somewhere around the time she says "There I was, stomping up and down on this hot dog in the middle of Market Street," you realize why this all sounds so familiar: This is one of those hilarious anecdotes that your drug friends tell over and over again. That's half the fun of drugs -- the wacky (but ultimately harmless) stories you get to tell about your highs. It's like living through a war without the bloodshed. Any experienced drug user, like any experienced drinker, will have a cache of fantastic and funny stories to share with anybody who will listen. And they all turn on that phrase: "So there I was, ."

The 6 Most Counterproductive PSAs of All Time

"... existing in the '60s."

This girl suffered no negative consequences whatsoever. Her horror story about acid usage didn't involve killing a cat or peeling her skin off -- she just hopped on a wiener. That's exactly the kind of thing people who take acid hope they end up doing: Seeing and experiencing a bunch of bizarre stuff that, while sometimes disconcerting, is certainly not boring, and that doesn't end up hurting anybody. Nobody was dissuaded from taking acid by this tale, not even the narrator: Remember -- she starts off by saying "The first time I dropped acid ..."

Because, especially once you're prepared for it, doesn't holding a conversation with a working-class hot dog family man sound like a god damn blast?

For ideas that didn't go how they should have, check out 5 Retarded Health Campaigns That Backfired (Hilariously) and 5 Government Programs That Backfired Horrifically.

And stop by LinkSTORM to learn why your attempts to resist Cracked only makes us sexier.

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