Hilariously Bad PSAs That Backfired Even More Hilariously
Where would we be without public health campaigns? Over the decades they've prevented forest fires, taken bites out of crime, and demonstrated how egg-like your brain is on drugs. Unfortunately, sometimes these campaigns are made by hilariously out-of-touch public officials who have no idea how to talk to their audience. As a result ...
Colorado Puts Up Human-Sized Cages To Warn Teens About Marijuana
Colorado officials were really put into a bind after the state legalized recreational marijuana and still wanted to warn young people about its risks. This would prove to be difficult, because for many years keeping kids off drugs involved outrageous scare tactics. So how do you go from "GARBAGE KIDS, YOU'LL DIE IN JAIL" to "Behave yourself, please, if it's not too much trouble?"
Their solution was obvious. Life-sized rat cages all over Denver. The cages even included huge water bubblers, because no expense should be spared when you're ... comparing weed to being a hamster? Making a comment on tacky art? Making a fan Honey, I Shrunk The Kids film? Honestly, what the shit is with the giant gerbil cages?
"It's like ... when you think about it, despite all our rage, we're still just rats in a cage, you know?"
Whatever the artistic message was meant to be (stoners smell like sawdust, maybe?), each cage came equipped with the same messages we've all come to find ridiculous. For instance, if you went inside, you could read hysterical ravings from scientists laughing at your brain damage, or see warnings of how pot can cause schizophrenia. Which isn't entirely untrue, but smoking pot is still magnitudes safer than wandering into giant hamster cages.
The campaign cost $2 million, which may or may not be a great deal, since there isn't a lot of consumer data on man-sized rat habitats. Marijuana activists weren't happy about any of it. Many men and women spent years fighting against exactly this type of absurdity to make pot legal, and suddenly these giant art installations arrive, dripping with antiquated fear tactics. Teens basically laughed it off by tagging the signs and posting photos of themselves rolling joints inside the metal bars.
"We scientists built giant cages for children! And we will have the last laugh
when marijuana makes YOU the crazy ones! HA HA HA!"
Multiple participants in the program backed out when they saw the lunacy of these fear cages. School districts refused to put them on campuses, and the entire city of Boulder straight-up rejected them, presumably on the grounds that "Holy Shit, Are You Kidding Me, Denver?"
On a bizarrely similar note ...
An Australian Anti-Pot Sloth Becomes A Mascot For Stoners
If you picture Australia as a lawless wasteland where kangaroo boxing is the only currency, you're very lucky. In the less exciting reality, it's a civilized nation very much like yours, especially when it comes to pot. Which is to say the drug isn't exactly legal there, but everyone totally smokes it.
To avoid the Marijuana Apocalypse, the government needed a way to communicate with young people ... a way to convince them not to get high. Maybe some kind of mascot who could represent all the terrible side effects of pot? Running with that idea, they created Stoner Sloth. As you know, a sloth is like a monkey mixed with Wolverine that moves so slow it seems to spend its entire life snuggling. Female sloths scream into the night when they want sex, and they often shit half their body weight. So if you want young people to not be like your mascot, a sloth probably isn't your best choice.
"We're more or less the greatest animal. Hi, I'm Sloth."
The Stoner Sloth ads featured stupid situations where the sloth failed at basic tasks, like passing salt, and they were immediately mocked online. At-risk youth simply were not fazed by the dangers of slurred speech and poor salt passing. Stoner Sloth was meant to be a meme-able weapon against drug use, but he was quickly adopted as a mascot for the other side.
"Pass the salt? Fuck you, I'm not like you, DAD."
Needless to say, the intent of the $500,000 campaign was definitely not to provide the weed community with the perfect, awesome mascot. One of the campaign's creators, the National Cannabis Prevention And Information Centre, tried to back away from it, claiming they never would have agreed to it in "its present form," as if there's some alternate universe where a high-as-fuck sloth is an effective tool for change.
The campaign was such a failure government officials were making fun of it. Australia's own science agency started making stoner sloth memes and the actual premier tweeted they were weird as shit.
OK, not exactly, but "Quite something," is premier code for "weird as shit."
And in a twist that seems too perfect to believe, the organizers of the campaign had no idea the domain StonerSloth.com already existed. Amazingly, it led to a Colorado-based pro-marijuana site, and the owner of the site said the campaign drove a sudden surge of traffic from Australia.
Think about that for a second. It means that even if you were in the tiny, tiny group of people who took the ads seriously enough to seek out more information on the dangers of marijuana, you were sent to a page with the exact opposite message. There have been a lot of failed, widely ridiculed anti-drug campaigns, but this may be the first to clearly, objectively promote the use of drugs.
Or, maybe not ...
A '70s Anti-Drug Movie Makes Drugs Seem Fun
While we're on the subject of hallucinogens and mixed-up messaging, we turn to the early 1970s. The psychedelic '60s were over, and people were starting to realize rampant mind-expanding drug abuse was a danger to America's future. So in 1971, the National Institute Of Mental Health produced a film to warn of the dangers of LSD. It was called "Curious Alice."
It begins with Alice, the same one from Alice In Wonderland, falling asleep while reading. She finds herself in a dream world, only less colorful and magical than the one you're familiar with. She ends up in a gray room lined with medicine cabinets, each filled with pills and booze.
"Ugh. W-where am I? Last thing I remember was Keith Richards asking if I wanted to party."
Some more surreal insanity happens, but as you'd expect from a bad cartoon tasked to a government agency, there's not a lot of artistic depth. Alice eventually encounters a flask on the floor with a note that says "Drink Me." We're not saying she's dumb, but it takes her only six seconds to decide, "This note makes some good points, fucking glug-glug." She drinks the entire thing and instantly goes insane. She falls through her own mouth into a forest of neon, smiling with wonder the whole time. Whatever was in that flask was pure, amazing happiness.
"Drugs are AWESOME."
"Seriously, anything that isn't drugs is DEAD TO ME."
What follows is 10 minutes of pure idiot nonsense. It's a clumsy, low-budget adaptation of the original Alice In Wonderland story that includes a bit of anti-drug education, but it's surrounded by so much other insanity it might as well be in Esperanto. It seems like the filmmakers' only message is, "Using LSD will, like, turn your world into Alice In Wonderland, for real!" Among the sliver of the audience gullible enough to believe the message, half were probably scared and the rest thought it looked amazing. Both wound up with bad information. That's what this film is: a way to make only the very stupid a bit stupider.
There isn't even really a lesson in the film. Alice doesn't overcome some allegory for addiction or learn any tips for dealing with a cocaine headache. She simply wakes up, brushes it off, and moves on with her life. If you take nothing else from this government-funded film about the dangers of LSD, it should be this, children: Drugs are weird and fun, and they have no consequences whatsoever.
"Cats don't talk when you're sober? Man, I need to go score some more 'Drink Me' flask."
Not that recreational drug use is the only subject that seems to cause PSA creators to lose their goddamned minds ...
Flint Tells Citizens To Enjoy Safe, Wonderful, Terrific Lead
As you're probably aware, Flint, Michigan, had a bit of a public safety crisis on its hands recently when it was discovered their tap water contained more lead than a dead gunfighter. Before it blew up into a national story, Flint tried to sweep the potential danger under the rug with a fun, informative poster on their website.
"Don't drink bath water! YUCK! And avoid irreparable learning disabilities? ICKY!"
"Hey Flint! It Is Safe To Wash," which is what the poster actually fucking says, shows a pair of babies soaking in the poisonous water under fun fonts describing the harmlessness of the toxic metal. It looks like a sudden ad parody in a serial killer's manifesto, but to be fair, the poster isn't wrong. Bathing in lead-laced water is apparently fairly safe as long as it's at low temperatures and you avoid drinking it. Unfortunately, the babies in the ad still wonder where mommy goes when her face goes behind her hands, so it might not be the best idea to toss them in poison and hope they keep their mouth closed.
Eventually, the city took down the poster and replaced it with a more official-looking fact sheet, claiming the first one was "outdated." Flint officials made no mention of the original poster being the work of a stranger now known as The Scrapbook Strangler, despite that obviously being true. The new sheet maintains how lead-filled bathwater is sort of safe but specifies more clearly that soaking babies in contaminated fluids shouldn't be anyone's Plan A. It's a step in the right direction, Flint!
An Anti-Drunk-Driving Program Warns Of Banging Undesirable Women
In a 2012 study, 1.1 percent of Tennessee drivers admitted to driving drunk as recently as a month before. It was over three times higher in Montana, which may indicate more honesty in Montana, or even less to do. The point is, if one person in Tennessee admits to driving drunk, there are probably 20 others ashamed enough to keep it to themselves. So Tennessee public safety officials set out to do something to help prevent it. Something very, very stupid.
They decided to mass-produce coasters so bars could stick a safety message right on the bottom of every drink. You're probably thinking, "That makes sense. I'm sure it was something simple like DON'T DRINK AND DRIVE or TAKE A CAB, MURDERER." You're right, those would have been good. Instead, they went with ...
"Buy a drink for a marginally good-looking girl, only to find out she's chatty, clingy,
and your boss' daughter."
In 20 words, they managed to sexually objectify women, mock them for two different gender stereotypes, and include absolutely nothing about drunk driving. As any sane person could see, this was madness, so a local newspaper, The Tennessean, asked the Tennessee Governor's Highway Safety Office (the ad wizards behind the campaign, who totally crush ass, you guys) what they were thinking. The director gave a statement saying that they never intended to cause offense, and each of the coasters and fliers were designed to "reach the young male demographic." That's right, they made fliers too. Want to see one?
"After a few drinks the girls look hotter and the music sounds better. Just remember:
If your judgment is impaired, so is your driving."
Does the Tennessee Governor's Highway Safety Office really use bangability as an indicator of impairment? And if so, how do you measure that during a traffic stop? Do police officers say, "Here, look at this photo of this awful, ugly woman," and let the suspect go if they remain flaccid? Do they give them a DUI if they get out of their car and fuck a pumpkin?
Unsurprisingly, the state apologized and discontinued the campaign, which somehow ended up costing $80,000. It's hard to receive a lecture about judgment from an agency who thought putting these in bars was a good idea. To make matters worse, fliers with these messages were posted in the women's bathroom in at least one of the bars, presumably to remind the unattractive, clingy girls who can't shut up that they need to wait until all the men are drunk before they can seek out disappointing sex. Sorry, ladies. Not all drunk-driving bar fliers have happy endings.
A Danish Get-Out-The-Vote Video Simply Rules Too Much
For all the craziness on this list so far, this PSA from Denmark takes the cake and all cakes forever. To gear up for their EU voting day in 2014, the Danish parliament put out a pro-voting ad that has to be seen to be believed.
In it, a character called Voteman encourages his citizens to go out and vote the only way he knows how: fists, dicks, and throwing stars. He doesn't care if your weak little body dies getting there; Voteman will get you to the polls. The commercial opens with Voteman beheading a man for not being interested in the election process. Then he sits back and lets five women pleasure his loins. And not in a suggestive way -- he is 13 inches deep in a cartoon woman's mouth amid a sea of asses and boobs.
"I'm polling the electorate."
That's everything you need to know about Voteman, but the commercial still gives you his origin story. He once didn't vote, and the world went to shit. He devoted his life to making sure it never happened again. The ocean of tits is simply a side effect of the glorious democratic process.
Changing into his leather chaps, Voteman hops on his pet dolphins to hunt non-voters.
"CIVIC DUTY BEFORE TITS AND BOOTY!"
From there, it's just a barrage of shurikens and judo murders. It's the only voting PSA that features nipples, flopping dong, and multiple slayings, and there's a good chance it's too over-the-top to be effective, but Voteman is how we want all public service announcements delivered from now until the end of time.
"Good news, non-voter. In Hell, there are no civic responsibilities."
There's nowhere to hide from Voteman on election day. He actually bursts into a couple's bedroom and throws their bed out the window, certainly to their nude death.
"Election day? More like ERECTI-"
"Um, Rob ..."
"Nggh ... don't interrupt. Let the joke land."
Strangely enough, Voteman wasn't a huge success. The campaign pretty much offended everyone imaginable. It was posted on Danish social media and quickly deleted, but enough people were upset that a spokesperson for parliament responded with the suggestion that the government "be more careful with what we put our name to."
"The severed head is fun ... but is it 'Danish government' fun?"
To make matters worse, the ad didn't even do anything to actually get out the vote. In fact, despite more voters being eligible this time around, voter turnout was lower than the previous voting day, in 2009. So maybe Voteman went too far. Or maybe his message was lost in the bouncing tits and bloody heads. All we know is that if there's ever a dispute between Voteman and apathetic disillusionment, you should be on Voteman's side every time.
If you're looking for a new party game to play, Chris recommends you download Cheer Up! for free today, and look for it on Kickstarter later in 2016.
Deep inside us all -- behind our political leanings, moral codes, and private biases -- there is a cause so colossally stupid that we surprise ourselves with how much we care. Whether it's toilet paper position, fedoras on men, or Oxford commas, we each harbor a preference so powerful that we can't help but proselytize about it to the world. In the next live episode of the Cracked podcast, guest host Soren Bowie is joined by Cody Johnston, Michael Swaim, and comedian Annie Lederman to discuss the most trivial things we will argue about until the day we die. Get your tickets here!
For more times people probably should've just decided to spend money elsewhere, check out The 6 Most Counterproductive PSAs Of All Time and 5 Idiotic Health Campaigns That Backfired (Hilariously).
Also, follow us on Facebook, and let's look at some cool shit on the internet together.