Hello RSPCA PSAs! This How much is that doggy in the window ad starts off with a dark, slow zoom in on a dog with an instrumental "How much is that doggy in the window?" song being played over it. After a while though, the dog looks to his right and sees a gun pointed at his face with a voice over telling us to give us (the RSPCA) a pound, or otherwise, they'll have to pull the trigger, either giving us the message that if they don't get enough funds, they might as well stop what they're doing or have to kill off animals they can no longer take care of (due to over breeding). Still though, scary advertisement, to say the least.
Another RSPCA ad entitled Sam involves a dog being placed in an oven whimpering as the announcer compares the heat in the oven to the heat in a locked car on a hot day. It ends not telling you of the dog's fate as you hear one last whimper...oh, and did I mention that the BBFC rated it 'U', meaning they found it suitable for four year olds and above?
There was another ad possibly by the RSPCA that showed people going to a house to tend to an injured kitten. From memory the ad ends with a shot of the kitten left on the operation table having died from the horrific injuries it sustained.
There was an anti-fox hunting film in Britain shot from the perspective of the fox being chased, with a lovely shot of the shredded carcass at the end.
This PSA for the PETA . It actually compares preparing fish for cooking to domestic violence, school bullying and mugging.... seriously. If those don't scare you, the silently screaming CGI fish might.
Speaking of PETA, PETA UK has a PIF entitled Fur is Dead which is just a collage of animals dying with text backgrounds reading things like "foxes are dead", "dogs are dead", "rabbits are dead", etc. Sweet dreams!
A British theatrical PIF called "Smile" produced by the British Union Against Vivisection shows the face of a young woman becoming scarred as she applies makeup (symbolizing the pain experienced by animals used for cosmetics testing). She lets out a horrifying, electronic scream with her head close up and the screen fading to black. It will scar you for life. Narrated by Dame Judi Dench.
This horrifying PIF compares the sale and wearing of fur to flies and maggots swarming around a dead animal's corpse. Pure, unadulterated Squick.
There exists an 18-rated PIF from the UK called Catwalk in which a group of supermodels walk down the catwalk in their fancy new dresses, while the audience is cheering and taking photos, when all of a sudden the dresses suddenly seem to explode in animal blood, as the girls continue to walk down the catwalk as if nothing is happening while the audience is screaming and covered in blood, complete with some quite creepy music in the background. The PIF ends with the slogan: It takes 40 dumb animals to make a fur coat. But only one to wear it.
The most ironic part of this PIF is the fact that the only part of it the BBFC took problems with is that the slogan was originally going to say "40 dumb bitches" instead of "40 dumb animals", in which the former is certainly a bit more shocking and powerful, but the BBFC thought it might promote violence against women...in an ad in which women practically explode blood from their dresses.
An organization called Compassion in World Farming created a PIF for theaters called "Welcome to the Battery" encouraging people to buy free range eggs by giving audiences a glimpse into the lives of battery farm chickens. It starts with a polite bespectacled man informing the audience that they will soon be confined into cages "for your protection", and that their teeth will be surgically removed ("This greatly reduces incidents of cannibalism."). Why? Because they are about to become part of "one of the world's most cost-effective production systems." Cue footage of chickens in rows of cramped cages in a battery farm. "This system has been tested on 45 million specimens. With, I might add, your approval." We close on one sickly looking chicken which seems to be having trouble breathing as CIWF implores you to buy free range eggs. ("They don't cost this much.") Watch it here."You have nothing to worry about."
An 80s PIF by the League Against Cruel Sports starts with a man mounting his horse for a fox hunt, as a child sings the old song "A Hunting We Will Go". As the man rides, the voice is drowned out by an ominous choir singing something resembling "O Fortuna" from Carmina Burana. The sky turns dark and the hunter's face changes to a crazed expression as text refutes the notion that fox hunting controls the fox population, but rather encourages them to breed for the purpose of being hunted. These foxes, says the ad, are chased to exhaustion and then torn apart by dogs bred specifically to move slower and prolong the chase. As the ad ends, we see the hunter has become a Psychopathic Manchild riding an adult-sized rocking horse in an eerily lit room. The children's song plays again, not sounding nearly as cute.
Greenpeace had a delightful banner ad at one point which was intended to highlight the nuclear waste problems of the Mayak power plant in Russia. For some reason, they thought that it'd be a fantastic idea to advertise it with a large, black and white, disturbingly lit image of a deformed baby in a jar. And put it on the front page of their website. It didn't make some people want to find out more about the issues, it made them suffer for months and have nightmares. Anyone insane enough to want to see it is welcome to do so.
Also by Greenpeace: Here's their parody ofresponse to Dove's famous "Onslaught" campaign. Just for comparison, here's the original Dove campaign, the imagery in which is scary in and of itself... and is even scarier when you know th+at Dove is owned by Unilever, which also owns Axe Body Spray. Hypocrisy at its worst, ladies and gentlemen. Especially nasty are the very disturbing and utterly gratuitous images of actual dead orangutans, often obviously decomposing or mouths fixed in unsettling grins. Which, naturally, ended up being paused on because it's not immediately obvious what the relevance is. Protip: don't do that.
Greenpeace ran a cinema ad protesting the Nestle company, known for using palm oil, which contributes to deforestation and the loss of orangutan habitats. In the ad a man unwraps a Kit Kat bar (they're manufactured by Nestle in the UK but Hershey's in America), which turns out to contain severed orangutan fingers, and he bites into them with blood dripping from his mouth. It's so frightening (EVERYBODY in the video's scared of the guy) that YouTube pulled the official upload of the ad and Greenpeace had to host it on Vimeo instead. It did make it back to YouTube, however.
Greenpeace did a commercial purporting to be home-video footage shot on a hand-held camcorder, of a family playing by the seaside. A plane then comes in to land above them and as they scream and panic, the camera shows that the plane is crashing into a nuclear power station next to the beach. There is then an endline asking "Do we really want more nuclear power stations?" Watch it in all of it's horror here.
In 1991, Greenpeace made a PIF entitled Antarctica about Antarctica's freedom from violation...seems like it could be played innocently if done right, right? NOPE! It not only contains graphic images of seals getting clubbed, it also contains a pile of dead and dying dolphins in which their blood flows into the ocean. All real. Did I mention it's rated 'U' by the BBFC as well (see the entry for Sam for the meaning)?
"No pressure!" A failed attempt at Black Comedy, this short advertisment film for reducing carbon is just... unsettling. It has people getting blown up for refusing to reduce carbon, including children. And not in a cartoon-y sort of way either, but in a bloody and graphic manner, complete with visible organ pieces. The campaign got massive critical backlash for it's realistic violence.
There used to be an ad that aired on Cartoon Network in the US very early in the morning, usually not long after the channel had changed from the adult block into the kids block. It was an environmental awareness ad that featured a little girl lying in various places around her room while images of various environmental problems flashed across the room, things like destroyed forests, toxic waste, and polluted rivers. All of this happened while creepy children's music played in the background. At the end she sits up and asks you how the world is going to be when she grows up.
More mild than most examples here, but the EnergyLife.com commercial 'Wasted Kilowatts' has creepy men in black body suits crawling around your basement, your attic, your fridge...
Anthony Hopkins narrated a charity film showing exactly what happens during the annual pilot whale hunt in the Faroe Islands, tone all too cheery compared to the eerie animated visuals of whales being harpooned and shrieking in agony. The film is very graphic but got a U certificate in the UK (equivalent to a G stateside) because it is a cartoon. Here's the video
Those Web PSAs by the EPA depicting a whitewash paint, apparently with lead, being poured on a cereal, or baby's milk bottle.
Though not contracted nor paid for by the organization itself, some advertising agency wound up sending the World Wildlife Fund into issuing public apologies for this ad idea. It pushes all the wrong buttons by comparing the death toll of the September 11th terrorist attack to the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami, complete with a terrifying image of several airliners flying right into the New York skyline.
There was a disturbing anti-pollution PSA that aired in the USA in the early 1990s. A typical family is sitting around their living room while the kids watch cartoons on television. Without warning, a hazmat team enters and dumps oil everywhere: in the fish tank, on the TV, on the family... and the family just sits there, zombielike, and lets it happen. Then an ominous-sounding narrator asks the viewer if he or she would willingly let something like that happen in their home.
Planetstupid.com showcased how an average European flight produces the weight of an adult polar bear in greenhouse gases for every passenger by depicting actual polar bears falling form the sky to their deaths, with nary a Gory Discretion Shot in sight. That fact that they're falling into a seemingly abandoned city doesn't help matters.
Some time in the 2000s, the Ad Council released an ad for a website about global warming. It features a man standing on some train tracks as a train approaches in the distance. He talks about how experts say the long term effects of climate change could become irreversible in the next 30 years. "30 years?", he scoffs. "That won't affect me." He steps off the tracks, revealing a little girl standing behind him as the train closes in...
Domestic Violence and Bullying
"Broken Toy", an anti-bullying video. The shots of the children are grainy in a documentary style, with mumbled, very real-sounding dialogue. It features a young boy who was constantly being bullied; at one point he manages to make a friend with another boy, whom is later shown having to move away. Eventually the boy is taunted so badly that he's pushed out into a street, gets hit by a car and nearly dies. One of the really scary things about this video isn't so much the video itself as the fact that schoolyard bullies can really be this bad. Kids? Innocent?Forget that!
There was also this one extended PSA called "Tears on the Highway" which had a similar message, probably made by the same producers which is shown at local elementary schools. It features again a young boy being bullied on a school bus full of children. As the situation worsens from the bullies verbally abusing the kid to a fist fight, the bus driver gets distracted and gets in a full on collision with a semi-truck, killing nearly every child on the bus including the young boy (there is no Gory Discretion Shot either, you watch as these kids die horrible deaths). As the video ends a camera zooms into the boy's smiling face as the scene fades to red.
There are some British adverts against domestic violence. One of them features a teenage boy verbally and physically abusing his girlfriend. The camera then cuts to his bedroom window, where he is outside, looking in on himself and his girlfriend, banging on the window and screaming at himself to leave her alone. The idea is a very good one, that if you could see yourself, you might think twice about domestic violence, but it's still creepy. There was also a matching set done for the girl of the relationship, encouraging her to speak out about being abused. They are just as horrible, and a real Tear Jerker. And now they've done one for rape, it's just as saddening.
An anti-bullying PSA showed a kid being bullied, and each day the bullies get more aggressive, and on the final day you see the kid standing on a chair — he kicks the chair away and his legs stay suspended, and immediately, you can tell what he's done.
An advertisement for the NSPCC which was hugely controversial when it was first launched in the UK in 1999. Named Can't Look it showed teddy bears in the sort of wallpaper you'd see in a baby's bedroom, a mug with Rupert Bear and an Action Man-like action figure and posters of footballers and pop stars all covering their eyes, over the sound of off-screen child abuse [There's a man molesting a girl and a woman shutting up a baby]. The advert was genuinely disturbing at the time, the message being that covering our eyes doesn't stop bad things happening. This advert was banned before the watershed after complaints... showing that some of us truly can't look. However, it manged to be continuedon the air.
Another NSPCC classic, Cartoon Boy, shows a animated cartoon boy being abused by his live-action father, with cartoonish results that are out of keeping with the seriousness with which his father attacks him... culminating in the boy being knocked down the stairs... only to finally be shown as a real child, no longer cartoonishly affected but lying either KOed or killed at the foot of the stairs. "Real children don't bounce back" indeed.
One disturbing NSPCC campaign was run in the style of a mock fairytale about a little girl who, just like Cinderella, was left alone at home while her family went out on the town. The advert ended with a fire starting and the girl being trapped with no way to escape.
this NSPCC ad about victims of abuse being unable to speak out against their abusers is horrific. The puppet girl is especially creepy.
this NSPCC campaign these masks are very realistic the ad did get complaints that they were far too realistic and distressing for children
There was a domestic violence PSA shown in the 1990s by Futures Without Violence (formerly known as the Family Violence Prevention Fund). It featured a little boy sitting on some stairs while the viewer can hear the father berating the mother very nastily about her not having dinner ready in the background. There's an audible smack and the mother screams and cries as her husband beats her all while the little boy listens on. The fact that you could only hear it and not see it made it all the worse.
Many years ago, there was a PSA about child abuse that showed a jack in the box playing a lullaby tune, before the payload sprang forth - an archaic baby doll with a porcelain head - to the sound of a baby crying. Then, out of nowhere, a baseball bat swings around and smashes the doll's head. The best part? This little horror played in the middle of a block of daytime cartoons.
In the 2000's, Canadian broadcasters began running a PSA aptly entitled "She spilled my coffee!" in which a family is sitting in a restaurant. The father is served coffee by a young waitress, but she accidentally spills a little bit of it on the plate. She apologizes before the father curses at her, grabs her by the neck, slams her against another table and sadistically spills the coffee pot on her body as she screams in agony and he slaps her, leaving her to slip off the table onto the floor and cry. Worse, nobody stops this from happening. Finally, as the father sits back down in his chair and the family continues to enjoy their time as if nothing happened, an announcer says "You wouldn't get away with it here, you shouldn't get away with it at home." This PSA was one of many made by Homefront in Calgary and, unsurprisingly enough, was considered controversial for TV. Another ad in the series that was also banned features a female employee accidentally speaking over the manager during a board meeting, and being sadistically beaten in front of everyone.
The "Coffee Shop" PSA in which the mother is wearing a "Child Abuser" shirt is a subtle piece of Fridge Horror, especially as the little girl looks back through the window at you...
Barnardo's, a British charity that works with vulnerable children, is well known for these. Its greatest hits include:
A TV and poster campaign showing underage prostitutes with digitally aged faces to show that sexual abuse has stolen their childhood. The NSPCC later did its own version with adults speaking in children's voices about living with molestation.
A series of posters featuring distance shots of people who have died horribly (through murder, suicide, drug overdose, etc.) with text explaining that they really "died" as children because of abuse or neglect.
An advert that began with a group of men going out to hunt "parasites" and "scum" that "destroy lives." We're led to believe that they are hunting foxes, but they instead begin shooting at a group of teenagers. The advert states that every line of dialogue in the film was a quote about children, made by members of the public on the website of a national newspaper.
Children talking about their dreams for the future (becoming a policeman, running a candy store, being an athlete or Hollywood star) juxtaposed with a caption stating what really happened to them such as "fatal overdose at 17", "murdered by pimp", "jailed for life for an armed robbery" and so on.
There was a radio PSA about internet pedophiles where we hear a young girl talking about a guy that she and her friend met on the internet. He's 17 with his own car and wanted to meet them, but the girl didn't want to go. She wonders whether her friend went alone, and reflects that she hasn't heard from her since ...
One ad from think u know a charity that helps protect children online had a child's voice talking about his interests while the camera is panning down from the ceiling showing us that it is not a little boy.
Neighbors. Made worse by the fact you can hear the woman blatantly screaming "I can't get up!" and the husband keeps taunting her. We don't see what happens upstairs. And then there's the fact the neighbors in the title just shrug it off and go to bed. Way to pack a punch there.
There's a brief ad currently being shown before movies in the US that features a little girl treating her doll the way her mother treats her. Sadly, the mother hasn't set a good example.
A 1970s-era anti-hate PSA, in which we see a cartoon man walk towards the viewer with an increasingly red and angry face that gets bigger and bigger until said face fills up the entire screen and then explodes. In the background, we can hear a song: "When you hate/who do you hurt the most?/Hate hurts YOU!" In this case, the angry cartoon man's face exploding is timed to go along with the "YOU!" part of the song. Here's the ad in question.
This ad for Samaritans is a bit indescribable, really. There's a woman in a dark room who is talking to the camera about...something, but the only noise that comes out of her mouth is some sort of horrifying electric-guitar noise. At the beginning, she seems perfectly content and fine, but by the end of the ad she's reduced to screaming "STOP!" through her tears as the camera backs out to reveal that she's stuck in a dark corner. Some text pops up in the bottom right that says: "THE SAMARITANS UNDERSTAND."
The fact that the audience can get the gist of what she is talking about but are only hearing the electronic noise is pretty horrifying because it feels like a massive guilt trip she is opening up but nobody is listening or there to help her. Way to pack a punch there.
Some adverts about child abuse and abduction can be utterly traumatizing. In the 1970s, there was a British PIF about child abduction that ended with a girl of maybe eight or nine cowering on a sofa with a look of sheer terror on her face as the ominous shadow of her tormentor loomed over her menacingly.
An ad for a rape crisis charity showed a woman in bed having nightmares, while a soundtrack plays of her being raped by a neighbour and then people saying various offensive, unhelpful or victim-blaming things to her (such as asking what she was wearing and whether she was having an affair with the rapist.) Eventually she wakes up and screams.
Housing charity Shelter ran an ad showing a family forced to live at a "bed and breakfast" (cheap hostel accommodation offered to the homeless) in a room the size of a solitary confinement cell in jail. Tempers begin to fray with the baby screaming, mother nagging and father shouting. Eventually he lunges for his daughter because her out-of-tune music practice is irritating him; his wife gets in the way, and the ad ends on a freeze-frame of the guy about to violently beat her.
An ad for a domestic violence hotline has a cover of Peter Gabriel's "Mercy Street" by Emy Reynolds playing while a woman stands in front of a bathroom mirror. Bruises continually form on her face and fade away, but become progressively worse. Text gives the ad's message that abuse doesn't stop on its own, further emphasized by the ending in which the woman quickly turns around as the screen cuts to black, suggesting whoever did this to her is about to do it again.
Implied by the bruises on her neck that just because she survived the abuse this time doesn't mean that she will survive next time making this ad a heartbreaking one as well as horrifying
This israeli anti-racism ad. If the heavy metal hatikva isn't scary, wait until you learn hebrew. Then things get worse. MUCH Worse.
Drugs, Smoking and Alcohol
Most television anti-smoking PSAs in the 21st century are surprisingly graphic, airing inside footage of brains, lungs, etc. effected by cancers created by smoking. These appear on various channels, even before the watershed.
An anti-smoking PSA from the late 60s showed a smiling cartoon guy smoking in a bright pastel landscape by a pond, where a cheerful fish kept easily dodging the paw of an equally happy cat. A soft-spoken, sing-song narrator explained that everything was safe here because it was all make-believe, and in the real world, the smiling guy would be risking lung cancer or emphysema. The voice took on an unbelievably chilling tone for the closing lines: "Why are we talking to you like this? Because when we talk to you like adults, you don't listen. " Guaranteed to keep you from ever touching a cig, ever.
An anti-smoking PSA featured hundreds of mechanical babies scattered across the city streets. It is arguably the creepiest thing ever aired before 6 P.M. on a family network, especially toward the end.
The UK anti smoking PIF entitled 'Mutations' shows mutations caused by smoking appearing on the lit cigarette.
This anti smoking ad http://youtu.be/0hySFt8O11A about a man called Anthony who is suffering from cancer and had to have his voice box removed. He talks about how his daughter is coming to visit. The ad ends with a caption informing the audience that he died ten days after filming.
There's this anti-smoking PSA at the beginning of War Horse where this guy is dressed like a cowboy, and he is playing his guitar at what looks like a tailgate party, and starts singing in a creepy monotone about how you don't always die from smoking. See it here.
Not only is it a monotone, it's actually him singing with his stoma (the hole you get in your throat after needing tracheal surgery due to excessive smoking) with the mic pressed to it. It got the point across, alright.
Australia possibly has some of the scariest anti-smoking ads in the world. Amongst some of the ads are: a woman with mouth cancer complete with rotting lips; cameras zooming down people's throats to show tumors; cutting brains in half; and a gangrenous leg about to get sawed off. ALWAYS EXPECT A BRAIN CUTTING OFF! Thailand and Hong Kong are the same way.
There's an anti-drug PSA from sometime in 1998 that features a narrator asking "What if the joint were in someone else's hand? Would you still say marijuana is harmless?" Cut to a young man on a operating table...and then a stoned surgeon, with a scalpel in one hand and a joint in the other. The young man repeatedly has to remind the surgeon why he's there ("I've never had anybody die of tonsillitis before." "But I'm here for appendicitis!") and no one else in the ER seems bothered by this. As the young man is put under, the surgeon looks down at him, says "Well, let's see if I can still make a straight line!" laughs maniacally and begins to bring the scalpel down on the patient. Here is a link for those who want it.
This PSA about the effects of huffing (meaning inhaling something poisionous) shows a girl trapped in her room as it becomes flooded, as an allegory for how huffing deprives the brain of oxygen and is, thus, similar to drowning. The girl's dead corpse floats by the camera at the end (right before the "Partnership for a Drug Free America" text fades in)!
Another one from the Partnership, this time with a young woman staring straight at the camera while "Happy Birthday to You" plays faintly in the background. Then some spooky voices sing "How ooollld arrre youuu nowww, la dee dee dee deeee." And her face begins to morph and disintegrate until she becomes a lifeless corpse with empty blue eyes. And it ends with someone throwing a sheet over her face.
There was another version made that was just as frightening, if not more since the person doesn't throw a sheet over her face so her lifeless corpse is on the screen for a few seconds longer.
An anti-drug ad that showed a montage of people partying, dancing, etc. while a voice narrates how "he's your friend", "I make everything better"; but all the while the voice grows more menacing and the people in the montage change from happy partygoers to frightened/injured victims; at the end the voice growls, "You want to know who I really am?"
There is one PSA for the partnership for a drug free association from Singapore about how nobody knows the effects ecstasy can cause on the brain with creepy visuals of a man trapped in a chair while he is being force fed ecstasy the narrator says in a sinister voice "Try ecstasy and you're the guinea pig"
This anti-drug PSA from the eighties. A drug-dealer named Snake, half-hidden in shadow, as he introduced himself and spoke of how much you'd be willing to go to get more drugs from him. His voice become more and more distorted as he moved in a fluid manner, saying how we would "lie to your parents, steal, cheat on your homeboys." He finished up by saying, "Hey, do I look like the kind of guy who'd do that to a kid like you?" He then appeared in the light, revealing he is a human snake and hissed in a distorted voice "Yessss!" The ad ends with a freeze-frame of Snake hissing at the camera with his snake tongue flailing about. Brrr!
This anti-drug ad. It features a rather creepy young boy "burning" every time his older sister smokes marijuana.
The UK's series of anti-drug PSA includes the deeply disturbing Brain Warehouse. It's not the products as such (nor the fact that they can be freely handled by all the customers) that's scariest. It's the salesman's smile.
Tick. Ominous warnings are even more potent when delivered by eight-year-olds. Or as insanely annoying as a certain bad Metallica song. Take your pick.
This commercial for the Australian Quitline stop-smoking phone service features a...well, rather hot woman with a lip and teeth problem. She talks about the side effects of cigarettes. Oh, god, if she didn't smoke cigarettes, she wouldn't've got mouth cancer! Don't you just want to give her a hug and tell her everything will be alright?
You know, at the end of the ad, she's actually correct. Quitting is hard, but not quitting is just frickin' worse!
This surprisingly well-animated PSA by Hanna-Barbera, where a dude wanders through a psychedelic landscape of pills and spliffs...then walks into a closet full of zombies, which grab him and age him 50 years in two seconds while a Scare Chord plays.
Another variant manages to be more terrifying than the original version. It plays out as the previous two, but at the part where the puppet drug dealer removes his shades, the image lingers on his eyes, and then the camera zooms in closer to them!!
This New Zealand anti-drug PSA show a man snorting a piece of his own brain!
A terrifying PSA in the 70s shows a wind-up monkey while a young girl's voice intoned, "They say that people on heroin have a monkey on their back. Isn't that cute?" Right as she finishes, the camera zoomed in on the monkey, which transformed into a freeze-frame image of a real monkey screaming at the camera. The ad in question. Pleasant dreams.
There is an ad where a girl on a phone tells her friend that she lied to her parents about sleeping over at their house so they could go to a party. She hangs up and decides to take a shower. While in the shower, she sees blood in the water. She turns around and screams when she sees her future self, bleeding from various (possibly self inflicted) injuries, and begging her not to go. It's from the Montana Meth Project ads, see it here.
From the same campaign, a boy and a few other customers are in a laundromat when a junkie rushes in demanding people's money. He beats up a man, taking his wallet, and threatens a woman with two kids. He sees the boy and grabs him by the collar, revealing he is the boy's future self, and shouts "This wasn't supposed to be your life!"
A few years back there was this anti-smoking advert in the UK. It had a bunch of people smoking, and the smoke makes a skull shape. It was really creepy at the time.
There's an anti-smoking ad from the Truth organization that plays before some movies in US theaters with a bunch of people on a colorful parade float going through Hollywood, singing a upbeat sounding song about different flavors. Cue the shocked reactions of pedestrians when they realize the people on the float are all cancer victims singing about the flavors tabacco companies use in their products. Some of them have tracheotomy scars, some don't have tongues, and some are missing the entire lower half of their face... it's freakier than most R-rated films, but they show it before PG-13 movies. Gosh darn it, guys!
The saddest part of this commercial is knowing that the woman died in 2013. She was only in her early 50s. RIP.
This PSA from Concerned Children's Advertisers explaining talk of disgusting chemicals being added to drugs shows quick-cut, slow-motion shots of a needle being tossed into the air before smashing onto the dark, filthy road in a nighttime setting. Wow. Exactly what a kid needs to see while innocently sitting in front of the TV watching Sailor Moon on YTV when the commercial break comes.
This delightful little film from the Russian Ministry of Health plays on a slang phrase for delerium tremens. It's horrifying enough if you don't understand Russian but when you select the captions, it gets really horrific as the squirrel rants about spiders crawling everywhere and the need to kill someone's wife.
When I Grow Up This ad is meant to drive home the point that you can't do the things you dream of doing if you do drugs. We see a man running from a cop, a woman dancing until she suddenly collapses, and a woman pounding hysterically on her unconscious (or dead) boyfriend's chest, all set to an ominous background music that gradually builds up throughout, culminating into something of a Last Note Nightmare at the very end. Just...brrrr.
This Drug Free America PSA from 1989 starts with someone putting on a suit and tie as an upbeat party-type song plays ("Life is Like" by The Suburbs, to be specific). "When Juan turned 16, he smoked crack to celebrate", a narrator tells us. "He wanted to start a new life." Judging by the eerie music that drowns out the song, and the reveal that the clothes are being put on a young man by a mortician preparing for his funeral, it didn't go as he planned.
A 2012 series of anti-smoking PS As from the CDC called "Tips From Former Smokers" would show various people with stomas explaining how their lives have been affected by smoking. Some of them were shown individually, but the most commonly aired one showed several people speaking through their voice boxes giving tips on living life with a stoma. See it here.
This Drug Free America PSA from 1998 was alledgedly done in response to claims that the fashion industry at the time was promoting heroin use in young people. It features an attractive model sitting down in front of a mirror, letting her hair down and removing her fake eyelashes, makeup, etc. Finally, she removes a set of false teeth from her upper mouth that she uses to cover up the teeth she lost due to heroin abuse.
This anti-smoking commercial shows a man stomping a lump under the rug he believes is a pack of cigarettes... it was actually his daughter's runaway hamster.
One campaign showed stoned teens getting up to various antics, with "replays" of the scene each time to show different outcomes, the final one always tragic or fatal (running over a child, raping one's girlfriend at a party, playing around with a gun that goes off, being busted by the cops, and walking out of a babysitting job leaving the screaming baby alone in the house.) The "drive-thru" one was parodied by Dave Chappelle. While nothing visually graphic happened, the Mood Whiplash and Adult Fear were more than disturbing enough. What's your babysitter doing while you're not there?
The Nightmare Fuel in this Drug Free America ad is more subtle than most. It features Sasha Mitchell (known for his roles on Dallas and Step by Step) sitting in a hospital room and talking about how two years ago, his brother and his best friend, Rick, used crack to celebrate his birthday. The commercial is vague, but it seems that they both overdosed. "You know, sometimes I think Rick was the lucky one. He died." He looks over to the bed and wishes a happy birthday to his brother, who is in a vegetative state.
The Truth organization made a short series of ads depicting the statistic that a third of tabacco users ultimately die from it. They accomplish this by posing as ads for seemingly harmless products...that happen to make every third person who uses them explode. Examples include teenagers using acne medication, bungee jumpers drinking soda, and basketball players showing off new sneakers. The sneakers ad is particularly cringeworthy as it takes place in a stadium, with lots of innocent bystanders around when the third player explodes.
A series of Public Service Announcements airing in Canada show the effects of workplace accidents on average people. The short commercials are produced by the Canadian WSIB (Workplace Insurance Safety Board), and often feature a person being killed in an accident right at the beginning, then proceeding to explain their mistake to a fellow employee. However, one of the commercials involves a young sous chef working at a restaurant, who explains how she wants to be a head chef, and talks about her fiancee. She explains that she is going to have a "terrible accident", grabs a heavy vat of boiling water, and slips on a grease puddle carelessly left on the floor, causing the entire pot to douse her in the boiling liquid. She starts screaming at a hysterical pitch, and as a co-worker yells for help, there's a split-second shot of her skin boiling (as pictured above), and then the picture cuts to black. The worst part? These commercials air during not only primetime hours, but during shows aimed at children.
Here is the link to all five Prevent-It Ads. The chef one is first, but the most disturbing are when the accident victims sit up and describe their mishaps while dying. Without pain. Creepy. Or the one where the corpse at a funeral gets up and explains why his face and hands are covered in burn marks (something to do with high-voltage power lines).
While they don't seem nearly as extreme as some these examples, New Zealand ACC ads are incredibly scary indeed. They start off as ads for other products - house paint, muesli bars etc. - and then accelerate rapidly into horrible domestic accidents. In the house paint ad, the guy falls off the ladder, onto the concrete below, and breaks his back. However, in the muesli bar one, a woman advertising them trips on a Tonka truck and lands, face first, on a glass table. It ends with a lingering long-shot of her trying to get up out of the table and whimpering softly in agony.
A PSA by the Federal Railroad Administration warning you the danger of railroad crossings started with a railroad crossing crossbuck sign on a black background as there's some creepy horror-type music playing in the background. An off-screen voice says "A lot of drivers ignore this warning." Then the crossbuck sign fades into a skull and crossbones as the voice continues, "Almost every 90 minutes, one of them is hit by a train." After he says this the skull and crossbones fades back into the railroad crossing sign as "ALWAYS EXPECT A TRAIN" appears on the bottom as the music fades with scary synthesized sounds. Scaring people into not ignoring railroad crossing signs or signals with a scary Halloween-ish PSA is a little too far; no wonder they show more kid-friendly cartoons about this stuff to kids in elementary schools (such as Sly Fox and Birdie).
This train crossing safety PSA from the Metropolitan Transit Authority of New York.
A PSA for car safety shown in movie theaters in England involved showing actual footage of children being hit by cars as they played in the street. There's another one with just a toy and a splash of blood lying in the street.
One PSA from the Czech Republic called Grotesque shows several people about to go to the beach and cramming themselves and their beach inflatables into a fairly small car while cheerful music plays in the background. The driver turns around to look at them all then starts the car. the light mood of the ad changes dramatically when the driver's smile fades revealing that everybody else is dead and voiceover informs the audience how two or three people dead and hundreds killed every year in such a small country is not a joke at all. He then says that too many people in a car and obscuring the view of the driver is one of the most common causes of road accidents.
There is a print advertisement showing the aftermath of grisly accidents, showing open wounds, blood, stitches, with slogans like "I thought I could wing it", "I wanted to show off", etc.
Nacaids made an infamous ad where the Grim Reaper bowls for AIDS victims. This ad, written by Simon Reynolds, shouldn't be watched before bed.
This vintage Smokey the Bear commercial from 1973, for a split-second near the end, is the. Most frightening. Thing. Ever... For those who'd rather not watch, we slowly move in on Joanna Cassidy's face as she's talking about forest fire prevention with a seductive look on her face... then she peels off her skin disguise to reveal a poorly made Smokey underneath, explaining that he thought this was the best way to get our attention.
The ending was redone in 1980, where Smokey removing his Joanna Cassidy mask is less scary and more natural, and Smokey himself is more friendly and cuddly-looking.
A different terrifying Smokey Bear one is set with a grandfather walking with his granddaughter in a world where people let forests burn. Then the birds died. The air became unfit to breathe...and it's implied we're heading for extinction. It then zooms out to show the grandfather and girl in gas masks...with a spooky breathing noise here. Watch and be scared.
This British speeding PSA. Holy crap. That creepy version of "I Can't Take My Eyes Off You" contributes to a lot of the horror.
There was an old British anti-speed PIF in the nineties from the very to the point campaign 'Kill your speed' with the narration of a young girl informing the audience that she will be killed because of a speeding driver while looking straight at the camera every time she changes location. There is no gore but it is still disturbing
The scariest part was probably the soundtrack: "Mysteries of Love" performed by Julee Cruise. Almost certainly chosen for her immensely creepy vocals rather than the relevance of the song.
This British drink-driving public information film from the 1970's. Why did British television have to be so scary in those days?
This PIF from the UK drinking and driving wrecks lives campaign entitled 'Eyes' is horrifying to say the least. For those who would rather not watch, the ad begins with a close up of the face of a young woman (Denise Van Outen) while paramedics attempt to revive her and the driver of the vehicle is being questioned about the accident. It was considered to be too graphic to be shown before the 9:00pm watershed.
Other horrifying ones from the drinking and driving wrecks lives campaign are DaveMirror although that qualifies as a Tear Jerker too and Kathy can't sleep
Some Australian drinking and driving ads are horrifying. Here's one. When you compare TAC ads to other countries, they get the point across in the most horrifying ways. No wonder there are some which can't be played until 9:00 on prime time TV.
The Queensland transport ones are very to the point but the king of the horrifying ones has to be Every K over is a killer pram A father and son crash into a woman pushing her pram killing her instantly and wounding her infant daughter. The horror and heartbreak begins when the father lifts up the infant crying and hearing his traumatized son crying "Da-daddddyyyy!"
Other horrifying campaigns are the slow downstupid campaigns the music doesn't help wonders
There is one Australian road safety ad in particular that this author remembers vividly. It aired in the early 2000s and started out with a shot of a teenage boy, handheld camera style. He says "this is my Summer holiday". Next we see a shot from inside a driving car. Cliff Richard's "Summer Holiday" begins playing, as the car continues travelling. Suddenly, the music stops as the car collides with something, sending the camera flying all over the place. It eventually falls just inches from the boy's lifeless face, blood trickling from his nose. Here it is, view at your own discretion.
A similar campaign in the UK showed teenagers filming themselves on a cameraphone as they walk home together, until one of them tries to cross the road without looking both ways and is hit by a car. For authenticity, only the crash scene was staged; they used a real group of teen friends (not actors) and had them film it on a cameraphone.
This PSA from New Zealand is horrifying. A family is about to be involved in a horrific car accident however all movement stops while voice over explains in graphic detail that if the driver had been driving at a certain speed his family wouldn't have suffered the injuries described.
A UK drinking and driving ad began as the "Light and Cheerful" kind, with a man sitting down at a bar next to a beautiful woman, picking up a beer, and setting down his keys. The woman frowns and a voice over says "Before you drink and drive, think of the choices you'd be forcing onto others." It then showed clips of blood soaked people in wrecked cars, a woman trying to walk and screaming in agony, a man in a semi-vegetative state, an attractive looking woman turning around to reveal a horribly disfigured face, and a police officer delivering the bad news to an elderly woman, all while everyone stoically considers the choices forced upon them. The scene then cuts back to the happy bar as the man sets down his beer, and the woman smiles.
A British PSA on texting and driving. There were about 5 girls in the car, cruising down the highway. Practically all of them had cell phones in their hands talking about stereotypically girlish things when suddenly out of nowhere, you see a car on the horizon, the girl at the wheel start to panic, then a blackout with screams and the sounds of the crash echoing in a weird, tinny fade out. When it fades back in, it shows a close up of the driving girl's eyes. As the camera pans out, you see that the car is completely flipped, and the rest of the girl's friends are bloodspattered and motionless, presumably dead. The one surviving girl whispers the names of her friends, screams, and it ends.
A poster at entitled "Not everyone who gets hit by a drunk driver dies." showed pre- and post-crash photographs of a twenty-year-old woman who was in a car hit by a drunk driver and trapped in it when the car caught fire. The Snopes page describes her injuries and links to several pages with images of her. There was also a TV commercial in which she held up a "before" a picture of herself and introduced herself before lowering the picture and revealing what she now looks like. She has since been the topic of several surgery-themed documentaries.
Wisconsin has these DOT radio PSAs that are just a mother and son talking after they've been in a horrible car accident, slowly coming to grips with their situation and ending with them realizing that nobody is coming to help them.
In New Zealand, there's an ad where a strange old man sits by a Wheel of (mis)Fortune and he watches the road, accompanied by haunting music and freaky noises. As a car enters the intersection, he spins the wheel. Where the wheel stops on decides the car's (and their occupant's) fate. There are three versions of this ad.
In one ad, the wheel stops on "Miracle". The car in question almost comes into contact with two cars. They all spin and, after all that, they remain unharmed.
In the much more frequent ad, the wheel stops on "Death". The car in question is hit by a speeding car. Everything stops in slow motion as the horrific scene is showered upon by a rain of broken glass.
Both ads were also shown in a longer version, where the wheel initially lands on "Near Miss". The car in question almost hits another car. After the miss, a police car is in pursuit.
In a follow-up advert, a driver is careful at every intersection, so the man doesn't spin the wheel. (This version is arguably the scariest, because it shows the man and his wheel at every street corner, intersection and road bridge!) When the driver is tempted to rush the intersection after abuse from another road user, the man goes to spin the wheel; but stops when the driver resists and does it properly. However, the next car behind him drives out without looking, and gets a spin of the wheel.
In an ad on British TV, a man is shown without a seatbelt and he crashes into another car, then the camera goes X-Ray and a narrator, a very monotone creepy middle aged lady's voice, explains how the airbag saved him from going trough the window, but then in extreme detail goes into how his ribs break, his lungs get punctured and his heart suffers physical trauma, as the organs go through this on later afternoon TV before 6! Enjoy.
A similar ad exists in Denmark, except it doesn't actually show the person crashing, there's just a middle aged man telling you in detail exactly what happens if you drive a little too fast and loses control over your car. He ends the whole thing with, "Have fun."
There is a workplace safety video called Will You Be Here Tomorrow? that skips the "what is workplace safety?" and goes straight into a montage of people being maimed, dismembered, and killed in excruciating and extremely graphic ways, including a man being hurt by a nail after it jumps into the air as forces itself into his eye just because he hit it wrong.
An ad for the prevention of identity theft depicts a man having his pocket picked while walking down the street, another man being mugged, and a woman just not paying attention in a restaurant as another woman watches, and in all three scenarios, the victim's smartphone is stolen. What makes the commercial nightmare worth is that the people committing the crimes have no faces, their noses, mouth and eyes are obscured...and then when the woman at the end takes the other woman's phone and walks away with it, her features morph into those of the woman whose phone she just stole.
There was a PSA about firearm responsibility. It begins with a cartoonish version of two siblings playing cowboy, complete with the hats and bandanas. The little boy goes "Bang, bang", shooting his sister, who collapses on the ground covered in blood. The boy says "Jenny, wake up, it's only a game." The ad pauses as the boy stares down at his sister. Then he says "But she didn't wake up." Then they showed a message telling families to lock up their guns.
There were two others in the series, both with the same crude, childish drawings and child's narration. One has a boy describing how he shot a friend who came over to play - "There was a hole in him." The other is a girl talking about how her little sister loved pink dresses and Barbie dolls, until the narrator found mommy and daddy's gun and shot her. At the end she sadly says "I made Kelly go away. I hate me," making this a real Tear Jerker as well.
A British PSA features the effects of texting while driving. Heads get smashed through windows, necks are snapped, blood is all over the place and a dead baby is shown staring ahead, unmoving. It's extremely realistic and horrifying.
The UK advertising campaign 'THINK!', which deals with road safety, has always had a few Scare Them Straight moments. However one of their adverts about drug driving features a car full of youths with their eyes digitally enlarged. The girl's huge, blank eyes as she stares out of the window are particularly creepy.
In Ireland, there is a series of car-related PSA's that are absolutely horrifying. One of them starts with a loving couple cuddling on a bench, with the words "Today (boy's name) will hit his girlfriend so hard, she'll end up with permanent brain damage." They get in a car with two other people, and everyone wears a seatbelt except the boyfriend. They get in an accident, and the camera graphically shows him bouncing around the cab, striking other people with his head, before cutting to the crippled girlfriend at the funeral for the other three passengers. The second, WAY more horrifying drunk driving PSA involves a man happily playing with his toddler in his own back yard, when an SUV suddenly crashes through the fence. The bloodied driver exits his car to view the man clutching his son's dead body and silently wailing while the narrator asks if you could live with the guilt.
This anti-drinking PSAnote (No link yet, if you find a link, just incorporate it into the example. DO NOT MAKE ANOTHER BULLET POINT TO PUT THE LINK.). It showed a home video of an adorable 1-year-old, repeating his mother's words for numbers in Spanish. Then writing appears on the screen, telling the viewer the baby died in an actual crash, which was the result of the mother trusting a friend to pick the baby up. The friend had been drunk. Why would they show this on a kid's station? This commercial was one in a series of similar PSAs. All of them showed home movies of adults and children in happy moments and then the writing on the screen would have the names of the people in the video, their date of death, and stated that they were killed by a drunk driver.
Those were done by Wells Rich Greene BDDP for the Ad Council, beginning in 1994 or '95.
There was a similar UK PIF, featuring home video of variously-aged, similarly-deceased children who had been killed by drivers exceeding the speed limit. One of the films ran to the narration of a man reading out the police protocol for officers delivering the news of a road death; others featured readings of poems about death and sorrow, including "Funeral Blues" by WH Auden (famous for its appearance in Four Weddings and a Funeral.)
Currently, England is running a "Speed Kills" PSA which some have taken to calling 'Dead Ginger'. Watch and be horrified.
In the UK, Transport for London and the Metropolitan Police run an annual campaign called "Know What You're Getting Into", about the dangers of unlicensed minicabs. All its TV spots are terrifying. Notable among them include a man in a car talking about his conviction for rape and then leaning out of the window to offer a passing woman a lift; a woman getting into a minicab and talking on her mobile phone then breaking off as she realises the driver isn't taking her where she asked to go, screaming "What's happening? Where am I?"; and one with blurry, distorted visuals of a group of girls forcing their drunken friend into an unlicensed car.
A Hemophilia Foundation PSA from the '70s: eerie, distorted visuals of a hand-held camera travelling around a house, with sudden extreme close-ups on ordinary objects that would be very dangerous to a hemophiliac like knives, the corners of a table or a cat scratching at the camera. All the time there is the sound of a Creepy Child laughing in the background.
There was a London-only PSA showing a cheery, smiling mother making breakfast for her vast family of children and then pulling out a gun and shooting one of them in the head, with blood all over the table and splattering over the other kids. Then a voiceover says that keeping quiet about gun crime is as bad as shooting the victim yourself. To stop it from being banned completely, the PSA could only be shown in cinemas for 18-certificate films. Watch it here.
There was a fire safety PIF in the UK a few years ago. The ad starts with a close-up on a man's face, emotionless and apparently dead. He then suddenly breaks down in tears as the camera zooms out to reveal him standing in a house that's been completely destroyed by fire, to the accompaniment of disembodied voiceover (his presumably dead daughter saying "Alright daddy?") and as his sobs echo, a voiceover says "A fire doesn't have to kill you to take your life". See it here.
An even scarier film urged the public to plan how they would escape the house if a fire started, and anticipate potential dangers. It showed children trapped in a burning house screaming for their parents (because no one had taught them what to do in an emergency); an old woman screaming for help and banging on her door because she can't find her keys, with a shot of the empty street outside that makes it clear no one will save her in time; and a man who fails to escape from a fire when he trips over a bicycle lying in the hall. It was eventually removed from the air after complaints that it terrified children. view it here
Fire safety PI Fs are generally among the most upsetting. This 2012 example features a coroner narrating the (out-of-frame) autopsy of a child who died in a fire, intercut with home videos of the dead child. As if the dispassionate description of the effects of smoke inhalation weren't grim enough, the final line is "Parents survived everything."
This PIF about chip pan safety. A woman's voice over provides information on what to do and what not to do in the events of a chip pan fire. The ad ends with a bit of a shock factor. For those who would rather not watch after the audience is informed that they must not throw water over the fire the camera pans to the right revealing the woman watching the video on a screen. She tells the camera that the effects can be devastating and a close up shows that she did not follow these instructions and she ended up being badly injured because of that
Carbon monoxide kills a PIF about the dangers of carbon monoxide leaking into your home. Will almost certainly press your paranoia buttons and incidentally was made after two students were killed from carbon monoxide poisoning for an extra bit of nightmare fuel.
this UK ad from the seventies called searching showing someone looking around in their fire destroyed house while disembodied voice over of the family screaming for each other can be heard. There is no mercy with this one.
This New Zealand one advocating fire alarms. It's tame in content compared to many others on this site, but the narrator's voice alone is more than unsettling.
There is also a very creepy anti-speaking-on-the-phone-when-driving ad, in which a man is calmly talking to his wife through a mobile phone, they talk for about 30 seconds before you hear a thump, the man jerks forward and just lays there (presumably dead) with a bleeding nose as his distraught wife repeatedly calls his name while crying. Watch it here.
A series of bus ads on the DC Metrobus system make mention of crossing the street only during the 'Walk' portion of the pedestrian signals. Some are relatively low-key, but there's one in particular where a car is barreling straight into a woman. Said woman is flying, rag-doll through the air, scattering brown paper bag with groceries, purse, and shoes. To make it all the more nightmarish, a baby in a stroller is sitting in front of the woman.
There was a British radio PSA in the mid-1990s with a cheerful, motherly-sounding woman (if not Judi Dench, then a remarkable simulation) relating the tale of little Alice and Bob, whose favourite fairytale was Peter Pan. They wanted to be like him, and got their wish - when the car crashed on their way to school. They weren't wearing seatbelts, so Bob got to fly (through the windscreen, blinding him in at least one eye during the process) and Alice never grew up (Because she hit her father's head, causing both of their skulls to crack and sending brain matter everywhere)! Just like Peter Pan! Made all the more horrific by the way the narrator lovingly describes the children's injuries in intensely graphic detail. Enjoy the horror here .
This PSA ran at the same time as a companion piece aimed at teenagers, where a doctor describes in excruciating detail the reconstructive surgery that a young person may have to go through if they sustain facial injuries from smashing into a windscreen.
A TV ad against texting while driving. It showed a first-person view of someone reading messages on an iPhone, the messages saying stuff like "If you have to pick up Chris at 11, and the party ends at 3, and you have 50 miles of gas worth in your tank..." and then it ends with the final text message being "What are your chances of surviving this crash?" and then you can feel the guy's Oh Crap reaction as he jerks his head up and sees a car roaring towards him...then the screen goes black. Congratulations. You just died in a car accident. In first person.
Another corporate campaign from the UK's Network Rail, reflecting on why using a mobile phone at work can be a very bad idea (specifically, while working near the rails). This one's called Hit or Miss.
There was a PSA in the early/mid-nineties about keeping your guns away from children. It showed a young boy and his two friends, playing some sort of cops-and-robbers game with squirtguns. the boy runs through the kitchen and hides upstairs as his mom tells him and his friends to play quieter... he hides under a bed in his mother's room, and his friends go into his mother's bathroom to find him. Then the kid pulls out a real gun that was hidden under the bed, aims at his friends, and we cut to his mother and baby sister in the kitchen, startled (and in Mom's case, horrified) by a sudden gunshot. And then as the narrator speaks, we realize it's a little too quiet in the house now.
"You think your kids can't get to your guns? Think again."
This brand-new (as of 2014) firearm-safety PSA, aimed at parents, does a really good job, literally subverting Chekhov's Gun by showing it at the end when we never even suspected it was there, then having the kid play with the gun for a little while before the horrible inevitable happens while his oblivious father keeps mowing the front lawn outside.
A British PSA shown in cinemas which advises against buying drugs from the internet shows a man taking a pill from an envelope and swallowing it. He looks confused for a moment and pulls from his mouth a whole dead rat, then vomits into his sink. A close-up of the rat on the floor is then shown while the narrator talks about rat poison being used as ingredients in non-prescription drugs. View here.
this UK ad about the dangers of keeping your medicines in reach of young children shows a group of little girls upstairs eating medicine that wasn't kept locked away unable to tell the difference between the medicine and sweets while their mother's are talking downstairs. One comments how it is quiet up there and the ending shot has the medicines still on the table but the children are nowhere to be seen.
The Winnipeg Police Service is committed to safer streets. You don't want to hit an unsuspecting little girl with a car, do you?
This UK ad, a combination of anti-littering and general safety, is no more comfortable to watch as an adult.
Ever wondered how you, if you own an electric substation, could use a way of keeping children away from them without necessarily shouting "Stay out of here! This is not a playground!"? Here's a good way!
A similar ad was aired on Dutch TV in the early nineties; there was a PSA advising kids not to try and climb the fences surrounding the giant electrical transformers that power the countries. How did they do this? By showing a distressingly realistic and graphic portrayal of a young teenager electrocuting himself followed by his distraught brother kneeling down next to him and putting a hand on the transformer as the screen goes to black with a hideous zapping noise and the warning 'don't risk your life, don't climb the fences'.
There was an anti-firearms commercial that took place in Alice in Wonderland where Alice went into a room with a gun and shot herself.
From the Finnish, there's "Varokaa heikkoa jäätä", which loosely translates to "Beware of weak ice". It features weird animation, spooky music and a scary grumbling bear in the end - traumatizing Finnish children for a few decades now.
This harrowing Canadian advertisement for Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD Canada) depicts a black-and-white scene of a baby named Emily lying in a crib crying with nobody coming to take care of her. After slowly zooming out, the picture finally goes to black, with the sound of the baby crying still audible, and explains that drunk driving kills 4 Canadians every day, including the baby's mother.
A Houston PSA created RUN. HIDE. FIGHT. The fact that the situation is all unpredictable from the very beginning like it was just a normal work day alone is Fridge Horror.
There was a UK ad from the THINK! road safety campaign that played in the 00s, in which two men in a pub asked each other if they'd like another drink (beer). The two men sat at a table with a pint each, and spotted a woman standing at the bar. She winked at them, then suddenly looked shocked as a loud, screeching car was heard as the woman suddenly flew towards the table, violently crashing into it. The men then peered over the table to see the woman lying, bloody on the floor, surrounded by broken glass. The tagline being something like "'Just one more' might be one drink too much."
This (surprise, surprise) 1979 UK ad warns of the dangers of... tying bags to the handles of prams. Sound a tad ridiculous of a subject for a PSA? Try laughing after you've seen a baby topple several feet facefirst onto the sidewalk, and heard her mother's horrific scream...
The infamous 'Apaches' PIF from the 1970s, made to show the dangers of playing on farms, showed young boys dying in various horrible ways while playing on a farm. One boy drowns slowly in a slurry pit, another is run over by a tractor, yet another gets crushed by a gate...
the finishing line a twenty minute public information film about a child daydreaming about their school's sports day being held on a railway track. It's pretty graphic.
The "Kids and Cars" commercials are just bone chilling. They include a mother trying to wake her apparently dead son up, shoving a baby into a oven, and a mother telling about how she accidentally backed her own son. The worst thing is that they showed them on Boomerang and Discovery Kids before it was defunct.
"See Track, Think Train" by UK's Network Rail. shows a family biking in the country, when a boy starts an innocent sounding game of "I spy", challenging the others to guess the word he's thinking of that starts with the letter "T". Tractor, tree, train, tire, and teddy are incorrectly guessed, and then a Mood Whiplash comes as a girl guesses "Wait, is it... track?" as she walks with her bike onto a train track, and then a Smash to Black as a train is heard whooshing by.
Northern Ireland Fire and Rescue Service ran a campaign with several ads filmed from the perspective of a firefighter in a burnt-out house, complete with the sound of heavy breathing from inside their mask. Each one would end with a chilling message scrawled on the wall in soot: "YOU FORGOT THE BATTERY, DADDY" or "YOU SAID YOU WOULD ONLY BE GONE FOR A MINUTE." The worst of the bunch depicted a child's handprints in soot where they had tried to reach the door; ending in a jumble of prints and the words "I COULDN'T FIND THE WAY OUT."
An even scarier version of the commercials was based around dangers in the summer (crop fires, barbecues, etc) and would show the scene of an accident with a message left nearby. In one, a child's football is sinking in a bog while his mother frantically screams for him out of shot, and the words "MOMMY THOUGHT I WAS SAFE HERE" appear in the mire.
Of a more recent note is the "Stay In School" advertising campaign in Australia. One in particular shows four teenagers ditching school for some fun in the sun. They're having the time of their lives, surfing, drinking, making out... until one of them blows up in a shower of blood. One by one, they are literally blown to Ludicrous Gibs and Chunky Salsa, until a girl is left covered in blood and guts, surrounded by what's left of her friend's bodies. She begins screaming. And it's shown that the group have picked the one beach in the area that is being used for explosives testing.
Death Zones was a 1970's bus safety video about kids getting run over by buses for not paying attention to what they're doing and the way they show it was pretty graphic and gave kids nightmares. One kid loses her card for her mother she goes back to get it but gets hit by a bus! Another kid drops his books and goes under the bus to get them but his head gets runs over instead! But the ending really takes a cake the girl tries to get her book back from the boys who are teasing her but slips under the bus and the bus runs over her stomach while we see get the close up of her face moaniing in pain! Later on, she is taken to the hospital her mouth is all bloody and she's going to die by the time she gets to the hospital! This video has Adult Fear written all over it!
A recent Canadian anti-drunk driving PSA shows a group of teens being pulled over by a police officer. You think the teens are going to be arrested for underage drinking and driving under the influence but instead, as the police officer waits for the teens to roll down their window, he's struck from behind by another car. The ad ends with a horrible thump as he's hit and then silence as the camera focuses on the two cars and an empty road with one of the officer's shoes. Worst part of the ad, it's based on a true story.
A recent US PSA against texting and driving shows an inside-the-car view of a teenage girl and her friends driving along. The girl gets a text and runs a stop sign while checking it. What follows is a slow-motion view of a semi truck hitting the car and the teenagers being whipped around in slow motion like crash test dummies. The scene then cuts to a view of the crash site with a police officer picking up the shattered phone and saying "If I had pulled her over for texting and driving and given her a ticket, it might have saved her life."
"Watch Your Own Heart Attack" was a short TV film run by the British Heart Foundation, a charity that funds research into heart disease and promotes prevention. Rather graphically showed you in first person the symptoms of a heart attack and what to do if someone is having one.
An Australian charity ran a PSA that started as a cartoon showing Alice in Wonderland riding through a field of flowers on the White Rabbit's back. Unfortunately, the rabbit's fur causes her to have an asthma attack, and the scene changes to show a real child struggling for breath (implied to be fatal by the caption on screen) and unable to reach her beloved toy rabbit which is only a few inches away from her. The whole thing ends with a caption: "ASTHMA CAN KILL. END OF STORY."
Two particularly nightmarish ads concerning Motor Neuron Disease, both from the same association:
The first one is simply the face of a man with MND fading away into a white screen, with the aural accompaniment of said man talking about how there is no cure for his disease, and no hope for him. To quote the video's poster, "...there's absolutely no way a kid wouldn't be shaken up by this." It simply shows that minimalism can sometimes be scarier than anything else.
The second one, however, is equally scary, and far more dramatic. It concerns a woman (supposedly named Sarah) being assaulted, contorted, and abused by some invisible force, ending with Sarah confined to a wheelchair. What have we learned today, kids? MOTOR NEURON DISEASE WILL FUCK. YOU. UP.
Motor Neuron Disease is an Eldritch Abomination that simply manifests itself as a nervous disease. Pure and simple.
This is Michael Clarke Duncan in a very dark room with a very angry voice giving a very scary... public service announcement. It feels more like a death threat than a PSA.
"I don't care if you're rich or poor, young or old. I will come after you. I will hit you so hard, you won't know what day it is. You'll want to scream for help but you won't be able to. I'll cripple an arm or a leg, or maybe, just maybe, I will kill you. I am a stroke."
There's a radio ad in the US about childhood pertussis that frequently cuts between the celebrity spokesman, and the very sudden (and very loud) sounds of what is clearly an infant coughing its lungs out and struggling to breathe, all while ominous music plays in the background. Here's the video version of the ad in question.
This AIDS awareness ad from Medecines sans Frontieres (Doctors Without Borders) features a rolling ball of dead bodies sweeping through the countryside, eventually making it to the city, where we see it crush a mother as she sings to her child. Sadly, however, it becomes Nightmare Retardant if you remember one thing: NAAA! NA NA NA NA NA! NA! NA NA KATAMARI DAMASHII!
This UK ad from the NHS about the importance of using the right medical advice service is one of the most horrifying things ever. We are shown different people looking guilty as voice-overs talk about how they should have dialed 111 to find the right service instead of going to A&E (a medical service intended for life threatening accidents and emergencies only). One is a mother with a mildly sick infant. Another is a young man who admits to calling an ambulance because he had a sprained wrist. At the end, we hear a flatline as a little girl is shown lying on a bed motionless, wondering why the others thought they were more important than her as a doctor covers her with a sheet. The implication being that since all these people misused emergency medical services, they inadvertently caused the death of someone who urgently needed care.
this UK ad from 2001 about blood donation shows a man talking about how blood donation is not just used for emergencies there are many who need it whether they are giving birth, cancer patients etc. but there are not enough people giving it. The horror kicks in as The man is slowly being drained of blood while he is talking ending with him staring straight at the camera with deathly pale skin and lifeless eyes with black circles underneath them
this Scottish ad for organ donation is chilling to say the least. A young girl named Jill stares at the camera smiling. A woman's voiceover asks the audience if they would like to use their organs to save someone's life and that they have thirty seconds to decide. The girls stare gradually becomes more unnerving while the voiceover asks if Jill should die then waits for five seconds before deciding for the audience.
Those paint ads that are only a few seconds long and feature nothing but a creepily grinning person painted from head to toe and asking you if you've found what you're looking for. They can be quite startling if you don't know what's going on.
And then there's the ending, where the one guy who doesn't have a square head is tased and put in the box, and his terrified screams are muffled by the website, which is even creepier.
There was a series of Volkswagen commercials that, at first, seemed rather simple and aimless, featuring friends talking about whatever silly little subject comes to mind, when suddenly, BAM! Car accident. No one is hurt, but the commercial then cuts to one of the friends looking at the wreckage, saying "Holy-", the commercial cutting off to the pricing and safety features of the car.
An ad for the game Turok: Evolution showed two people swinging on a swing-set when suddenly, at random, the boy's hand becomes slashed and bleeds. Roars are heard and it cuts to numerous dinosaurs running about. It then cuts back to the boy and girl, both screaming. Cut to more dinosaurs before the final cut of the swingset, which has red mulch and a broken, red swingset seat.
There was a set of commercials for The Legend of Zelda: Majora's Mask. During which, people around the world watched on as the moon slowly descended upon them. A radio show took calls and kept a countdown going. In one ad, it showed a boy, playing alone in a white room, sweat rolling down his forehead while he continuously glances upwards... at the end, everybody is running for their lives... here's the link.
The commercials for the Goldwater Law Firm (the one that defends people who die or suffered from the side effects of medical products) play some incredibly unsettling, horror movie-type music in the background. It also doesn't help that they're talking about the horrible side effects of certain medical products. Here's a link.
Orkin had a series of commercials in which a creepy person repeatedly tries to get into suburban homes using a variety of flimsy stories, such as delivering a pizza, his car broke down and he wants to call his brother, etc. The creepy part is that the person is a six-foot tall termite/ant/cockroach. Not guy in a cute costume, but a giant, talking insect that sounds like a serial killer. One can hope that someone thought it would be funny, perhaps they wanted it to be just a little creepy. What they managed was "Giant alien insects are going to try and con their way into your homes to rape you and dangle your intestines from the ceiling". That would suffice better for an ad for a new shotgun.There's another one where a giant mosquito tries to get into a pool with a couple that where having a romantic moment. He drops his swimsuit and asks "are we...dipping skinny" before the Orkin guy shows up.
This one has a vacationing family return to find two rats playing guitar in their living room. One of the rats says "You were not supposed to be back until Sunday." and then adds "we could use the boy on drums" in this menacing tone that sounds like he's going to rape and murder them all then and there. Makes the Orkin guy practically look like a Big Damn Hero.
There was an ad for Wrigley's in the UK that showed a man retching and spitting up a dog (literal "dog breath") after a night's heavy drinking. It was banned after more than 700 complaints that it had terrified both child and adult viewers alike. Obligatory YouTube link.
German ads for K-fee energy drink. These ads were Screamer Pranks, starting off with a calm environment... then a goblin or zombie (depending on the ad) would come out and scream its freaking head off and then say that "You've never been so awake". What's funny though is that they parodied three of them for their decaf version.
Another variation is often referred to as the "Ghost Car Ad" due to the prank associated with the ad- telling people that a ghost appears when the car goes around the bend. It doesn't, it's another zombie screaming its head off. Checkit out!
Maynard's wine gums ads. Not so much scary as just creepily hallucinatory. Even the bus stop poster ads◊ were disturbing!
This ad for Danish Bacon, modeled after the Exorcist. The full version of the ad, which showed the girl snarling and a creaking noise playing as her head spins round, was removed from TV after around 200 concerned parents complained to the Independent Television Commission about the scariness of it. They did permit this version to stay on the air but it could be shown only after the 9pm "watershed."
The 2010 Halloween commercial for Snickers features two kids dressed as an adult woman (one on top of the other's shoulders) convincing a neighbor to stock up on the candy kids want. That sounds funny and charming, right? Wrong. The kids are horribly outdated in their dress, the proportions of the body are like something designed by Dr. Frankenstein, and behind the pallid, molded face, are two piercing, unblinking eyes. And then the creepy caress, the voice ("I'm only trying to help you" as the woman tries to wrestle her cart away and can't),...
These ads for an unidentified drug to treat rheumatoid arthritis really know how to get their point across. Seriously, they talk about how preventing an illness can salvage your hobbies. And then, we see the very items each respective ad is named for decaying in a frightfully realistic fashion. It's a real double-whammy of disturbing.
The Burger King commercials that feature their incredibly eerie mascot of the same name. Especially their breakfast-themed commercials that feature him in other people's bedrooms, waiting for said people to wake up so he offer them breakfast sandwiches.
This Nokia N900 commercial. It starts with a guy in a business suit talking with 3 other guys about the Nokia N900. When one of them is reminded that there are people watching the room behind one-way glass, he flips out, transforms intosomething, and starts the wrecking the place. He yells, "I am the medium! I am the message! I am the one." and transforms into a phone. Um, what?
This particular Virgin Mobile advert is pretty funny when you first see it. But when you're up at night, alone, and that psycho music is playing... Especially at the very end, when you think the thing is over, but in actuality there's a quick flash of her EERIE GRINNING FACE before it closes. Sweet dreams, folks!
Local Haunted House has a radio ad that starts with a guy calling On Star, "This is On Star, how can we help you?", The guy mumbles, then screams "They're trying to get into the car!", "Oh, you need to get into your car, let me just unlock those doors.", "NO! They're trying to... ", sound of unlocking doors, screams and growls and groaning. "Is there anything else we can help you with today?", Demonic voice, "No, he'ssss... goooood."
YOU FOOL, WARREN IS DEAD!!!
A Jello ad that is just made of this trope: it's late at night and the parents are facing their children in front of an open refrigerator. The mom tells a story about a little girl who fell down a deep dark well filled with monsters and boogeymen, with no cartoons, and she was trapped there for a hundred years with no hope of escape. While she tells this, the children look as if they're crapping in their jammies in pure terror. She ends it with "And that's why we don't take Mommy's nightly [insert jello name] snack" right before Dad tells the kids to go to bed. Even worse is the one where the mother tells her daughter she will ship her off to work in a coal mine if she takes her mommy's snack. It is all too close to a representation of child exploitation for comfort, and one wonders how it hasn't been banned. Here's the link.
There's these advertisements for a cleaning product known as SKOE 10X. Both of their commercials are essentially animal women going to the bathroom on the floor, and none of it's censored. Add in the fact that it's usually shown at late night, and you're bound to confuse it for horrifying scat porn that made it on TV somehow.
This Coca Cola commercial urges viewers to watch and unlock secrets about the formula. It's extremely disturbing, complete with blink-and-you'll-miss-it weird, flashing images and creepy smiling ladies from the sixties.
This commercial A woman walking to her car in a parking garage late at night is stalked by a creepy little ghost girl who suddenly appears and disappears. Turns into Nightmare Retardant when she starts telling the woman about all the money she could be saving on an iPhone.
This commercial for Austrailia's Bluetongue Brewery Beer features a Japanese businessman getting the "Full Whale Experience" at a sushi bar. It was made using money donated by the Sea Shephards, a group of eco-pirates who disrupt Japanese whaling activities... that, or Bluetongue really hates the Japanese.
This Tango advert, where a man is attacked by a clawed, bright orange disembodied foot. It doesn't get better when the foot's owner shows up to claim it.
Speaking of Tango adverts, this little gem from the same era is confusing, scary and just plain freaky. The two figures seen by the man drinking the Tango are remind one of various horror movie archetypes, and that's before his head comes off.
Back in 2009, there was a Planter's Peanuts commercial on the radio where an interviewer was speaking with an older man who ran the facility where they gave Planter's Peanuts their characteristic crunch. When the interviewer asked why Planter's Peanuts were so crunchy, the older man, who had a vaguely Germanic accent, exclaimed that they used "the rendered fat from boiled children" and laughed maniacally. Oh, and to put the cherry on top, the ad ended with a child's scream followed by a crunch. Creepy. As. Fuck.
This Eggo commercial with a boy trying to steal Eggos from his little sister, who's innocently talking to her doll while eating Eggos. But as he reaches for her plate, she suddenly turns into a Medusa-like monster and shouts "Get away from my Eggo!" in a monstrous voice ala the Clown with the Tear-Away Face from The Nightmare Before Christmas. Her brother is so scared, he sits there petrified with his mouth hung open and his sister continues talking to her doll as if nothing happened.
This demented Playstation2 advert directed by David Lynch. It starts off pretty normal, with a dude walking down a slightly spooky corridor full of smoke. Thirty seconds in, his head flies off and swims in front of him for a moment, then re-attaches itself before a disembodied arm with a clenched fist at the end appears to punch him in the face and then flies out of his mouth, distorting his face for a moment. It gets worse: he then looks down at his hands and sees they have disappeared, with only smoke pouring out of his sleeves. Then the smoke clears and he sees three figures sitting on a couch - a clone of himself, a disturbingly still mummy with bloodstains at the mouth and one eye, and an anthro duck who croaks at him, "WELCOME. TO. THE. THIRD. PLACE." Despite it's horrible content and the fact that it was directed by the man who gave us Eraserhead, it would be shown on TV in the middle of the day.
Itsudemo soko ni... McdonaldTranslation Always there for you... Mcdonalds These are a series of Japanese McDonalds commercials in which Ronald McDonald opens a locked door from the outside, calls a girl from a dark alley, hides under a girl's bed, and escapes from an unseen thing. The ads end with a creepy distorted voice saying the above slogan.
This was actually part of a seriesof ads, one of which features a police officer looking into the window of a pulled over car in shock, one of which features two men in a barren snowy wooded area before one suddenly gets a blank look on his face and the other looks over his shoulder in shock. None of these ads make any attempt at explaining what they're advertising in any way.
The Honeycomb cereal's Crazy Craving mascot that was used from the mid 1990s until a decade later. It is a computer-generated mammalian Mascot with Attitude-like character who used to spawn along live-action humans in search for the cereal until the very turn of the millennium when further commercials made it a human transformation. This commercial and another one views examples of the unsettling transforming from human to Craving.
There's an orange juice commercial that shows a pair of hands in leather work gloves holding a cluster of leaves. The leaves grow, bloom, and slowly develop into an orange. The problem here is Fridge Logic: where are the roots of this plant? Gives a whole new meaning to the concept of blood oranges...
The mosquito ad for the old Xbox. It begins with mosquitoes buzzing in the form of music, and all the other jungle animals dancing to the beat, while the narrator (who is a mosquito) tells us about how his species used to make music. Seems innocent so far, right? But then the narrator says "One day, a voice told us, 'Get a job!'" Cut to close-up shots of a mosquito on a pulsating heart, mosquitoes sucking blood from arms and people in the hospital, and a close-up shot of a mosquito's abdomen filling up with blood. It's very unsettling, to say the least.
This Honey Nut Cheerios commercial starts with a woman at the table picking up her mug. The Honey Nut Cheerios bee flies out and tells her about how good Honey Nut Cheerios is. He gives her a bowl of Cheerios and asks: "Delicious, right? It's the honey, it tastes so..." the camera shows frames of dead insects while an unexpected Scare Chord plays in the background. The bee tries to get away, but the woman pulls the box back and asks "What's the rush?" The commercial ends with the bee hiding and saying his Catch Phrase "Bee happy, bee healthy!" while ominous music plays in the background.
In early-1995, Chuck E. Cheese's ran a pretty spooky commercial where three kids were at a German, Chinese and Mexican restaurant looking at their food in disgust (with some pretty creepy culture-appropriate music playing in the background - such as an off-key yodeler for the German restaurant). The kids all whined "I should've said Chuck E. Cheese please" and were abruptly teleported to a Chuck E. Cheese restaurant.
Could've also served as a very effective birth control/condom commercial; one viewing of that commercial and every childless woman and man will be so haunted at the thought of bringing such brats into the world that they will NEVER forget to take their pills or use condoms regularly.
The commercial for Fruit Roll-Ups which began with a woman calling to her son. The camera pans left to show A GIANT COCOON OF FRUIT ROLL-UPS. A boy (presumably the woman's son) all but slithers out of the cocoon, dropping to the floor. He looks at the camera, puts a finger to his lips and says "Shh" in the creepiest possible way. Jeez.
The American ad for Yoshi's Island (SNES version) depicted a man eating more and more food at a restaurant, and getting fatter and fatter, while the narrator talks about how much data and features are crammed into the game's cartridge. Pretty soon, the man eats one little piece of spaghetti, and—in the style of a famous Monty Python skit—explodes, with his stomach contents splattering everyone in the restaurant. The piece of spaghetti then splatters the game box, and then we cut to a shot of more of the stomach contents splattered on a wall, spelling out the SNES motto (Play it Loud). Due to the sheer number of complaints of how sickening this commercial was, it was only aired a few times before it was replaced with a bowdlerized version, in which the splattering and exploding is heard off-screen as a woman at a table turns and looks to the left, the spaghetti doesn't fall on the box, and the stomach contents spelling "PLAY IT LOUD" are now a bright, rich, thin, non-gross green slime that resembles Nickelodeon slime.
In another horrifying ad, a woman asks why you would switch to the Co-Operative Bank, visuals intercut with images of animals dying in polluted landfills and covered in spilled oil, etc. She basically admits that the Co-Operative Bank has the same features as every other bank but hey, they'll never knowingly contribute to pollution!
The "This is the money you could be saving with Geico" ads. They feature a stack of bills with unblinking googly eyes, just staring into the camera. The song playing in the background, "Somebody's Watching Me", turns the ad fron Uncanney Valley into Paranoia Fuel, although it is mild compared to some of the items on this list.
The commercials for the Game Boy Color often had the C on "Color" morph into a pair of lips and suddenly shout "Get into it!" at the end, functioning as a jump scare.
Sega had something similar with a loud voice yelling "SEGA!" at the end of their commercials. Not so bad in the Genesis and Game Gear commercials, but it was really freaky in the Saturn commercials, in which a disturbing blue head straight out of the Uncanny Valley would come flying at the camera really fast, yelling something like "YAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA, SEGA!" or just "SEGA!" then morph into the Saturn logo. In a few ads, the head would have a different shape and color, like in the Ni GHTS Into DreamsNiGHTS Into Dreams ad, in which the head was purple and shaped like NiGHTS' head.
In the early 2000s, Nestea ran an ad campaign that involved a snowman whose snow acted as skin. When melting, he'd become a skeleton, and had to find a bottle of Nestea in order to regain his snowy skin. These commercials sometimes aired on children's TV channels, and while these commercials were funny to older viewers, children were scared shitless by them.
This OUYA commercial, which shows a man raging over paying $60 for a a game, then proceeding to vomit so much he floods his own room, then pull out his jaw and his spine and beat himself up with it, mutilating himself, before finally lying in the pool of his own vomit and weakly proclaiming "OUYA!"
There was a commercial for a carb bar, and it took place in a baby shower. One of the women in said shower offered the pregnant woman some cake, to which the pregnant woman declined, instead sticking to eating said carb bar. Then, without warning, the face of the woman who offered the cake went all demonic and scary. Also a case of What Were They Selling Again?, as absolutely no one knows the name of the carb bar being advertised.
An advert for the $5 pizza special at Little Caesar's features two gamers who try to get out of their beanbag chairs when their associate tells them he's going for pizzas. They sink further and further into the chairs (as expected), one even commenting that they're sinking faster the more they struggle. The scene is fairly disturbing. Then it becomes Nightmare Retardant when one, so determined to get said pizza, begins moving the beanbag chair towards the door.
There used to be a biscuit snack called Munchsters back in the day and there was a rather freaky advert for it with a rather odd sock puppet man also freaky with the creepy child's voice at the end.
Children See, Children Do: The commercial starts off cute enough, with a kid mimicking her parent in their daily commute...up until you see she's smoking a cigarette just like her mum. Then it starts getting weird: some of it is unintentionally fun, such as a kid mimicking her mom while she's screaming at another driver and giving the bird, or the aforementioned payphone users start getting frustrated at the payphones, but most of it is pretty jarring, especially near the end when a kid is ready to punch his mom out alongside his abusive father...
This PSA about racial acceptance, which features claymation animated shoes from the darkest areas of the Uncanny Valley.
A Kraft Macaroni and Cheese ad from 1993 had the boy turns his face into a scary-but-funny face and makes screechy noise at random with his BIG LIPS!? Imagine the kids hiding in their beds, vomiting, terrified that the " evil monster" was going to get them!
Speaking of that food-related commercial, here's a Reese's Pieces commercial of the 90's! Look at mark 00:05, the man grunting combining with his growl will make sure that you ran away with fear! Sleep tight, folks!
Any and all of these infamous Public Information Films detailing what to do in the event of a nuclear war. Picture being a child in the 1980s in the UK. Sitting happily, watching He Man on TV, then the commercial break. One of these plays. Your parents, who have been acting oddly already today, break down completely. Your mother starts to cry. Your father's face is white, and he's shaking. Every single member of your family, everyone you could possibly talk to, is terrified. And none of them dares tell you why. That's what those films would have done if they ever aired for real.
The 1943 Wartime Cartoon "Education for Death". "He sees nothing but what the party wants him to see, says nothing but what the party wants him to say, and he does no more than the party wants him to do." The final shot shows rows of marching Nazi soldiers turn into rows of gravestones with the narration "For now, his education is complete. His education... for death." You know what makes this truly scary? The fact that this actually happened. Demons, monsters and witches are make-believe. Nazis and the Holocaust are very real. Disney effectively exposed children to a real-life tragedy.
This advertisement. So...toxic resins are blobby gang-rapists? Is that the message they mean to convey?
There was a PSA about early detection of pancreatic cancer. A man is in a car behind a similar looking man and goes, "That's Jim and I'm Jim's pancreatic cancer." He goes on to talk about the onset of the man's pancreatic cancer. It's creepy to imagine your health problems, personified and discussing their onset.
This PSA is meant to raise awareness of the problem of landmines. It's mostly just disturbing.
A 1984 anti-abortion propaganda video The Silent Scream. Until 2004 it was a regular part of Religion classes in Croatia. According to the media, lots of students have been heavily traumatized by it.
An Autumn 2011 Discovery UK ad for Deadliest Catch is this: a deep man's voice singing a slow version of "Row Row Row Your Boat" while clips from the show play in the background, with no context for any of them.
The American Stroke Association's "Time Lost Is Brain Lost" campaign. Special mention goes to this one, featuring Michael Clarke Duncan threatening to cripple you in the most menacing, downright disturbing way possible.
"What are your kids learning?" It's a PSA from The Learning Channel, where a boy watches a video online. It's never shown what's in the video, but there's a panting man and a bleating goat, and it's pretty obvious he's watching something... off-color. The kid runs off...and then comes back into the room with his pet poodle before shutting the door. The best part is the end, where the image cuts out...but you can hear the poodle whimpering.
This ad for The Central Institute of Technology in Australia. Just wait until you get to the end. For the curious, but afraid to click: A video that's half typical college advertising, half meta-humor, half horror. A guy shows his friend around the campus by snapping his fingers and "teleporting" him around. It's super hilarious, until the guy realizes he teleported himself through a rack of clothing. His friend tells him to teleport away and a scream comes from down the hall. Most horrifying is his friend's fear and horror upon realizing that he's dead. Why is he dead? Well, he teleported himself through an employee ladder! Then again...
These anti-car crime ads from the UK shouldn't be as effective as they are, but the tone of the narrator and the horrible yelps of the hyenas - combined with the Adult Fear and violation of having one's car broken into work to make it very, very unsettling.
There was an ad in the '90s for The 700 Club. The ad began with a shot of Earth from space, and the narrator ominously asked, "Could this be the end?" And immediately after, the Earth explodes. The narrator then says to buy a book about "the signs of the times". Okay, for any child who happened to be in the same room when this ad came on, it's scary.
Unfortunately, TV Tropes has its own scary ad. It's for "California's Summer of Fun". It first shows a boy or a girl with a normal smiling face. But then, the face fades into a very creepy stretched face.
Back when GSN was still Game Show Network, they had an ad featuring two clips from The Price Is Right: the first showed Bob Barker remarking that both Showcase Showdown contestants had made the same bid, and it had never happened before. The second clip was from an earlier episode showing it had happened before. Nothing scary yet...until the screen fades to black with the message, "Be careful what you say...Game Show Network is watching."
The very first negative political TV ad in the United States, one which portrays an innocent-looking young girl picking the petals off a flower and counting them before looking up? That part is sweet and charming. What immediately follows, OTOH, is still extremely chilling.
The above commercial is Lyndon B.Johnson's iconic 1964 campaign ad "Daisy". A little girl innocently counts the petals on a flower in a meadow, before looking up suddenly, at which point the frame freezes and we are treated to an extreme close-up of her eye. While this occurs, a male announcer has begun counting down to one. At the count of one, shots of nuclear explosions and firestorms play until the ad concludes with Lyndon Johnson's voice: "These are the stakes: to make a world in which all of God's children can live, or to go into the dark. We must either love each other, or we must die." Then the voiceover, by sportscaster Chris Schenkel: "Vote for President Johnson on Nov 3. The stakes are too high for you to stay home." The ad, obviously referencing Cold War nuclear paranoia was broadcast only once and has since gone down in history as one of the most successful ads ever: Johnson won a landslide victory.
The new ads for Shark Week on the Discovery Channel featuring a cute little seal being released into the ocean on a gurney. You only get three guesses as to what happens next.
This 1969 ad for IHOP tries to be whimsical with its Moog synthesizer music, Chipmunk singing and footage of a family running in slow motion, but the execution is just disturbingly surreal.
This Learn For Life "Stay In School" PSA. which features some adolescents sneaking out of school for a day of surfing and relaxation at the beach, all set to a relaxing tune. It's all fun and games - until one of the boys just so happens to run on and subsequently get blown up by a land mine. And the rest of the teens get blown up one by one in a bloody, graphic manner that rivals Saving Private Ryan. And it's revealed that beach they snuck into was actually an explosive testing site.