This phobia is really weird but true, and unfortunately I have it.
I am afraid of PSAs (Public Service Announcements).
When I was young, and still to this day, I see some really scary commercials about certain topics like fire safety, cigarettes and even an unsettlingly silent milk commercial with a pure black background. Okay, okay, the last one is pretty dumb, but the commercials are usually at least close to unsettling!
A certain PSA I remember faintly is about cigarettes, the main target of most modern PSAs, where someone is buying cigarettes and pays the money, but then peels off their skin and puts it on the counter as well. For some reason, the people thought the idea was incredible and make a second one where someone yanks out their teeth. A company that makes most of the really scary PSAs I watch now are The Real Cost, an anti-smoking group funded by the FDC. A common commercial of theirs usually found during adult television blocks or at night that doesn’t bug me that much but grosses out other people called Little Lungs. In this commercial, an anthropomorphic pair of teenage shrunken lungs has a party, but cannot blow out the candles, leading to himself getting caught on fire, then blown out the indie with a hose and getting impaled with a piece of glass. This does a good job grossing people out, especially because Little Lungs is still alive after all this. But hey, I watch Happy Tree Friends, why worry that this dark humor doesn’t freak me out?
Another common one that is dark humor without the humor is one I like to call, “The Teeth Commercial.” In this little horror, a man gets a delivery alone in the middle of nowhere at night that contains the grossest pair of teeth imaginable. He looks away and realizes that his teeth and the gross teeth switch out. It even comes with its own horror music and a black background at the end containing its company name? Because of this and many other Real Cost commercials, even a poster at school by the company with a picture of smoke and a message is able to freak me out!
There’s another nightmare fuel set of commercials with dummies that look like Slappy from Goosebumps talking about people dying from cigarettes. If not that, it’s rat poison in them. I mean, I get they tried to be funny, but I cannot laugh when there are some $5 dummies and an unsettling sound effect before and after each commercial!
I will do as much as squint and stick my fingers all the way up to my eardrums when these commercials come on. It doesn’t help that I have memory of every one, and nor does it help that YouTube has some nightmare fuel that can even scare you with a simple thumbnail!
But despite all these evil, uncanny commercials, there are some good ones out there. Tobacco Free Florida tries to let some people who quit tell their story, and I can tell they are trying to get out of the uncanny valley. And there are some great PSAs, like the Russian “Can’t Buy a Brain” PSAs, that teach kids about stuff that isn’t cool to do while telling a smoothly animated story about a crime boss selling some stuff to a group of wannabe criminals that remind me of Gorillaz (not the animal). Heck, even some famous PSAs like Dumb Ways to Die, which was basically my childhood! So, maybe let’s change these commercials and make them more soothing to watch, like that Micheal Jordan anti-drug PSA, because even though I understand these commercials are trying to scare someone out of something bad, they end up targeting – and scaring – the wrong people. Let’s leave the scares to shows and movies, not commercials!
Enjoy your life,