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Tear Jerker / Public Service Announcement

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Indeed, Public Service Announcements can be just as poignant as they usually are nightmarish but some can shed your tears.


Examples

  • This PSA from the 70's, "Keep America Beautiful," featuring Iron Eyes Cody as the Crying Indian.
  • This video. Even without the Twist Ending. For those of you who need context, it shows a little girl playing with a stuffed animal. Everything seems fine at first, until her parents become increasingly annoyed with her. Her dad then throws her toy out of the car and abandons her in a field. The camera then zooms out to reveal that the girl is actually a dog. The video ends with “adopt wisely”, the message being that all living things need love, and that children and pets aren’t things you can throw away.
    • A similar PSA from Fundacion Purina simply cuts to the chase and just shows the dog getting abandoned.
  • Last Dance An anti-smoking PSA video to the song "Que Sera Sera". A wife is sharing a last dance with her husband, who is clearly dying of cancer. The fact that their young son is watching, (who the husband will not live to see grow up) makes the scene even more heartbreaking.
  • Advertisement:
  • This Australian anti-smoking ad. A mother and her child are walking along a crowd... and suddenly the mother vanishes without a trace. The child gets increasingly worried and then finally cries alone. All for a message that smoking's side effects may suddenly end your life.
  • Any animal shelter ad, especially the ASPCA ones with the sad music and pictures of abused animals. There is a local shelter ad that has more uplifting, eyes-get-misty-in-a-good-way ads showing before and after pictures of animals after being nursed back to health and looking all happy.
    • The Pedigree adoption drive ads.
    (As various clips of dogs are shown) "I know how to sit. I know how to roll over. I know how to fetch. I know how to stay. What I don't know is how I ended up in here. But I know that I am a good dog, and I just want to go home."
    Echo: "I don't know why I ended up in here - But I'll never forget the day I got out."
    • This Commercial. Natalie Merchant's My Skin is lethal to hearts. The captions don't help any. "What did I do wrong?... Why did they hurt me?... Why did they abandon me?... Will I die today?"
    • From an anti-dogfighting ad: "You're my best friend," that quote will echo in one's head for a while.
    • A similar cat adoption video has two cats in a cage, each cheerfully insisting that today is the day someone's going to adopt them. They go on like this the entire day until it's obvious that it's not going to happen. But the last thing they say before going to sleep?
    First Cat: "Tomorrow's the day someone's going to adopt us!"
    Second Cat: "For sure!"
      Advertisement:
    • The real Tearjerker? They never lose hope. Even as the day goes on and on, they remain as cheerful and hopeful as ever, and not in any sort of Stepford Smiler way—it's completely sincere.
  • The American Museum of Natural History has a video that plays on a loop in the Hall of Ocean Life that starts off showing the wonders of the ocean with very nice background music. Then the music changes, the video shows pollution and other environmental problems affecting the ocean, concluding with a sea turtle trapped in a net, struggling, then giving up and looking helplessly at the camera. At this point, if you've been watching the whole thing, you're ready to scream. Then, some scuba divers come by and free the turtle, and it cuts to oceanography and preservation, for a serious Heartwarming Moment.
  • This ad from the Philippines' Live for the Rivers Movement Coalition starts out cute enough, with a rendition of a local nursery rhyme about vegetables. But it takes a twist when the first chorus begins. The vegetables start to look like they've been filled with ink. Then near the end of the song, the river behind the farm is polluted, there are landfills, and the tree next to the farm is dead, and the vegetables are all sick. They then pass out, and are placed in a garbage bag. This also doubles as Nightmare Fuel.
  • Advertisement:
  • The National Religious Partnership for the Environment used to have a beautiful PSA with Biblical quotations about stewardship, showing various animal families in the wilderness, ending with a gorilla and her baby. It was a great feel-good tear-jerker, especially for people of faith.
  • This one anti-drinking commercial with the little girl who says that in seven years, she'll be an alcoholic.
  • There was one commercial where rain was falling in sheets on grimy city streets while anonymous feet stomped and hurried to and fro. From a crack in a sidewalk, a single flower was growing, the only bit of color in the whole city, but battered by the rain and always in danger of being crushed. The flower was a child with cancer...
  • One magazine advertisement series for chicken pox vaccinations in the early 2000s began by revealing that many children die each year from complications brought on by chicken pox, and it features several toys, a jack-in-the-box, a teddy bear, a ragdoll, a rubber ducky and more, all quietly weeping over their lost "children."
  • Those commercials for the children in foreign countries that have lost their families and need water or vaccinations.
  • A 15-rated cinema ad from the UK which tells us that nobody seems to care if kids in Africa starve or die and all they talk about is extra VAT on biscuits. The images of suffering children seal the whole deal.
  • These cot death awareness posters that have shown up in Scotland have combined Narm and tragedy.
  • The 2017 "food is precious" ad from My Save Food walks a fine line between Food Porn and tragedy. The ad depicts various food being prepared and served: laksa, grilled chicken, nasi kerabu, a slice of papaya, and a molten chocolate cake. The fact that the foods depicted in the video are either left to rot or get thrown in the trash instead is really painful to watch.
  • MTV used to air this ad where a donkey travels across the screen in a gritty urban-landscape and after it a text appears. "It takes 20 seconds for the donkey to reach the other side of the screen. By then, two children die because of starvation. Help now." It really hit the point home with the facts in a really, really sad way.
  • The Meth Project ads where the rehabilitated users are shown everything they gave up for meth. Having a child makes the one of the young father touching the face of the mannequin very painful.
  • In Germany, there were anti-speeding billboards along the Autobahn that showed sad-looking people holding pictures of loved ones who had died in car accidents. The one with the little girl and her mother with the picture of the dead father was particularly wrenching.
  • The UK got a particularly gutwrenching advert from Save The Children a few years back: videos of emaciated young children lying on the streets with this piano version of Annie's "Tomorrow" in the background.
  • Many 'Don't Drink and Drive' ads are heart-wrenching one way or another.
    • This Austrian ad.
    • Simple Plan made the music video for Untitled in collaboration with Mothers Against Drink Driving. Untitled remains one of the most memorable Simple Plan songs, due to it breaking away from their usual tone of songs, as well as the music video. (That and the song itself being a meme, but that's another story.)
    • The Thai are masters of emotional ad campaigns, and two ads from an anti-drink-driving campaign really hit home. It shows people pleading to a person with a grim look on his/her face not to kill them. The "murderers" won't budge despite the pleas, and eventually the scene cuts to the "murderers" driving into those people. The victims include old people and children.
  • Most Australian anti-smoking, anti-drug or road-safe PS As count.
    • The road-safe ads especially. The Australia Road-Safe advertisers don't just show you a car crash or a gravestone, they will show you graphic reconstructions of devastating accidents and the effect they have on both the family and the person at fault. They have ads which are just footage of family and friends of actual casualties speaking about how the incident has affected them.
    • The work-safe ones which feature a family waiting for their father at home or at some event he was supposed to meet them at. The music as he finally walks through the door...
  • These two old anti-AIDS Public Service Announcements. To say that these stories are depressing is an understatement.
  • The UK "Embrace Life" advert promoting seatbelt-use, showing that a PSA can be just as effective without going into Scare 'em Straight territory.
  • Concerned Children's Advertisers sponsored a PSA back in the mid-90's or thereabouts. It featured a young man visiting his estranged friend in drug rehab, intercut with flashbacks to their carefree childhoods, all while "He Ain't Heavy, He's my Brother" played in the background.
  • This Stop The Texts advert hits hard especially if you have a best buddy that you've known since childhood...
  • This commercial for the Partnership for a Drug-Free America. It features actor Carroll O'Connor (known for his roles in All in the Family and In the Heat of the Night) talking briefly about his son Hugh O'Connor and his 1995 suicide after struggling half his life with drug addiction. At the end, the pain in his voice is heartbreaking as he urges other parents: "Get between your kids and drugs any way you can." Carroll himself would die 6 years later in 2001.
  • The Happier Home Movie ads for the UK Kill Your Speed campaign in The '90s, showing young children smiling and having fun on home videos until the caption at the end tells you they all were all killed in childhood by speeding drivers.
    • One variation had the home videos juxtaposed with a voice over instructing police officers on how to break the news of a child's death to their family.
    • A similar campaign ran in the States around this same time, done by the Ad Council. They too showed home movies of adults and children, before a caption would state that they were killed by drunk drivers.
  • The 2006 anti-drug ad from Singapore. A middle-aged lady is seen crying as a judge declares her child guilty of taking ketamine. The camera zooms out to reveal her husband, along with a young man, and the lady's son on the stand.
  • One UK drugs PIF featured a man in a suit talking to the camera about how his daughter was a good girl with no problems, and that her boyfriend was a "nice young man". He then reveals that her boyfriend's previous girlfriend was a drug user. Then comes the Wham Line. It turns out he's dressed for her funeral, and his wife appears behind him, ready to go.
    "Well the way I see it is if that girl had been helped in time... my girl wouldn't have got AIDS."
  • "Kathy Can't Sleep", from the UK Drinking and Driving Wrecks Lives campaign. A little girl is awake in the middle of the night, while her mother is heard screaming hysterically at her father because while he was driving intoxicated he killed a little boy.
    • From the same campaign, One More, Dave. A woman liquidizing Christmas dinner is narrated over by people in a pub telling their friend to just have another pint. But while the friend is supposed to be the designated driver for them, he gives in and has a pint. The woman is revealed to be liquidizing for her son, a quadriplegic. She uses the same words as the narration, and it's implied that the quadriplegic Dave is the same Dave at the pub. It tragically shows how both the drunk driver and his family are affected by the incident.
  • Some of the "We Prevent" PSA's from the Ad Council and the National Crime Prevention Council in the 90's are especially heartbreaking.
    • For instance, this one shows a woman with her dead son on her lap. She sings "Hush, Little Baby" to him as a policewoman comes to comfort her. Her husband runs to the scene and cries over his body. The PSA ends with the said boy's funeral.
    • Another features Peter, Paul, and Mary's song, "Where Have all the Flowers Gone?" remade as "Where Have all the Children Gone." Just listening to the song is sure to work those tear ducts.
      • To redden your eyes further from crying, this PSA is a musical montage of various news coverages of crime scenes, memorial vigils, families reacting to their relatives' and friends deaths, funerals, etc.
    Male VO: Not one more lost life. Not one more grieving family. Not. One. More.
    • Speaking of the "Not One More" PSA's, here's another one. It's about a girl who talks about inviting her mother and her friends. She talks about having nice music and a pretty blue dress. But she isn't talking about her sweet sixteen or her quinceañera - she's talking about her funeral when she gets fatally shot. Before we cut to the NCPC phone number and the Ad Council logo, a white casket is displayed in front of an open window.
    • "Quiet Time" is also another Ad Council PSA that needs tissues. A group of kids in their Sunday best are standing quietly, only to have the viewer find out that they are attending the funeral of a classmate who has been murdered by a gun.
  • The Icelandic Road Traffic Directorate has a lot of weepies.
    • "The Risk Isn't Worth It" campaign broke viewers' hearts in 2005. The TV ads feature shots of cemeteries as family members speak of how their loved ones died in auto accidents. Here's an example.
  • This Ad Council PSA about AIDS awareness, "Apathy is Lethal", dares you to watch it without tearing up. It features a city with just small children, babies, and animals inhabiting it.
  • An Ireland PSA against drunk driving has a soccer player drive while drunk and crash into a backyard, running over a toddler. The driver gets out to see the boy's father (who a few minutes ago was playing with the boy) holding his dead son and wailing, while the narrator asks if you could live with the guilt.
    • If that's not bad enough, the boy's sister (who was playing with him and unharmed in the accident) was also present and has to live with the trauma of watching her brother die in front of her.
  • A Brazilian domestic violence awareness organization placed statues of the Virgin Mary all over one beach town. Passerbys took pictures and prayed in front of them as they bleed from not only their eyes, but from their noses. They did it intentionally to reflect the reality of women who are enduring domestic violence.
  • This Verizon commercial about a little girl who was discouraged from following her dreams.
  • Save the Children's Most Shocking Second a Day video is essentially a good minute and a half illustration of breaking the cutie. It opens with a little girl celebrating her birthday with all her family and friends and going about her life, only to find herself in a war zone as the year progresses. The video ends with her once again celebrating her birthday, only she's in a refugee camp, with only her mother nearby, and clearly physically ill.
    • It doesn't get any better with the sequel. The girl is forced to leave the country and cross the Channel (where multiple people drown around her) without her mother, fending for herself and a little boy she picks up. It once again ends with her birthday, with her all alone (as the refugee service found a family for the boy and took him away, as she stares vacantly at the camera.
  • Here's a PSA from True Move, Thailand's third-largest mobile operator and a testament to the power of a simple good deed.
  • This St John's Ambulance PIF. It shows a man being diagnosed with cancer, surviving his treatment and fully recovering only to die from choking on food because none of his friends or family knew how to do first aid.
  • This Budweiser ad about a loyal dog waiting for his master to return from a party features the poignant line "For some, the waiting never ended." This line, especially for anyone who has been affected by a drunk driving incident, just pulls on the heartstrings. Which is why it becomes a Heartwarming Moment when the owner finally returns in the morning, having stayed over at his friend's house instead of driving home.
  • This cinema ad for the NSPCC. It's very simple, being merely just a series of photos and text on a black background set to "Tell Me There's a Heaven" (itself a tear-jerking ballad) by Chris Rea. And yet, it is quite possibly one of the saddest—yet greatest—ads against child abuse you will ever see.
  • This trilogy of TAC Australia ads from Christmastime 1996. A man with a pregnant wife and two small children gets drunk at a party, crashes his car, ends up on life-support and later dies as his family grieves for him and the wife struggles to tell their children that their father is dead. Adding onto the sadness, while his wife is besides herself with grief and the mother cries out "No, don't take him away", the father says "See you later, son." knowing he'll be joining him soon.
  • This UK fire safety PIF features a couple weeping and constantly rewinding a video of a child opening a present, followed by the voiceover 'Check your smoke alarm.' This leads to a bit of Fridge Horror when you realize that they'll feel much worse when the constant rewinding breaks the video.
  • Yet another British cinema ad (rated 15) about foreign children. This time, they compare the children's fates to that of the Jews during The Holocaust, complete with black-and-white footage of dead Jews being carried and thrown into plies of bodies and suffering or dying children. The sad piano music playing in the back doesn't help matters.
  • This PSA for the New York Coat Drive is likely to bring a tear to any New Yorker's face.
  • One Canadian PSA about the plight of the homeless has a teenage girl dressed in rags and sitting on an old blanket at an abandoned bus stop (which is also her makeshift home) at night, as an instrumental of "Amazing Grace" played on an electric guitar is heard in the background. As people walk by ignoring her holding out her cup for spare change, she ages down with each passersby until she ends up a crying infant. The real kicker is the tagline that appears at this moment: "How Young Do They Have To Be Until You Notice Them?" It's truly heartbreaking.
  • This Samaritans PIF, shown around the time of the 2001 foot-and-mouth crisis, is sure to tug on the heartstrings. While Barber's Adagio for Strings plays, real news footage of obviously devastated farmers (many of them visibly and audibly sobbing) and dead or burning livestock is shown. The things the farmers say are heartbreaking in and of themselves (for example, one farmer tearfully explains how she "used to know them all by name", and audibly breaks down as she mentions that "they're just over there with their legs sticking in the air".) You can't help but feel sorry for them.
  • This Japanese ad (around 4:30 in this video) is an advert for suicide prevention. A high school girl is reading "Cinderella," "The Frog Prince," and "The Ugly Duckling", but stopping in the middle of them, believing there are no happy endings and attempts to jump of the roof of her school, with the titular characters of the fairy tales tearfully trying to convince her not to jump. She doesn't seem to listen, and you see her shoe fall on the ground. Fortunately, the advert ends with the girl returning the books to the library, her shoe simply fell off, but still hits home hard for many.
  • A PSA for States United to Prevent Gun Violence's tells viewers that every three hours, a child dies by gunshot. What makes it even more harrowing is that the message is conveyed from an ER doctor's point of view. As she puts on the coat, washes her hands, and heads to the ER waiting room, she explains offscreen how she prepares to notify the family that their son has died. The haunting, wordless vocals do little to help wonders.
    • The doctor's inner musings as she walks from her changing room to the ER waiting room are based on the NY Times Op-Ed "How to Tell a Mother Her Child is Dead", which was initially a writing class assignment ER doctor Naomi Rosenburg took.
  • The PSA "My Heroes," which aired Halloween 2017. A family gets ready for trick-or-treating, the children choosing to go as Wonder Woman and Batman. The kids are clearly excited and happy, but the parents, especially the father, seem anxious for some reason, especially when the kids go to the first house. At the end of the video, when the children are tucked into bed, we see why: the boy chose to go as Wonder Woman, while the girl chose to go as Batman. It's a happy tearjerker, since everything went fine, the kids had a good time, and the parents are supportive of their kids' decisions, but considering how some people react to gender nonconformity, it's easy to see why the parents were scared. No parent wants their kid to be teased or bullied for expressing themselves. Also, the creators of the PSA said they made it specifically for children who may want to wear clothes meant for the other gender, but don't have supportive parents like the ones in the ad.
  • This promotion video for the Wildlife Conservation Film Festival, which somehow manages to make "I Dreamed a Dream" even more heartbreaking.
  • From 1990, this man who always meant to talk to his son about drugs. He just didn't think he had to have the talk with a 13-year old.
  • This NHS advert from 2004. As if it isn't bad enough that the man in the advert is dying of both throat and lung cancer from smoking, he mentions that his daughter would be coming to visit him for Christmas and that he'd be alive for the holiday... only for the end caption to reveal that he died 10 days after filming the advert and never got to see his daughter.
  • The Japanese advert involves a puppet girl talking about her parents being good people, then she shyly covers injuries on her knees, asserting she is fine, as her parents (played by actual people) twisting her arms roughly, with the puppet girl begging them to stop hurting her.
  • There was a radio PSA in the early nineties warning against attempting to beat a train to a railroad crossing. The PSA features testimonials from engineers involved in fatal collisions. One particularly stands out:
    How can I be so mad at someone who's dead? Didn't she realize that a crossing gate means yield?
    • However, the last one can make you cry tears of relief:
      I prayed that he'd stop, that he'd see me somehow. Thank God he did!
  • In the 1970s, an actress whose twelve-minute bravura performance in a single film had terrified generations of children appeared in a Humane Society PSA surrounded by cats, speaking gently about the tragedy of abandoned kittens and puppies and pleading with us to spay and neuter our pets. Margaret Hamilton was a lifelong activist for animals' and children's rights and a member of Friends of Animals.
  • Meet Suzie.
  • Radiohead's "Fake Plastic Trees" is already a depressing song. In Brazil, a PSA on Down Syndrome used it in the background, and somehow it gets even worse.
  • One PSA shows a little girl celebrating her birthday with her mother. They discuss her father returning with the cake. They hear a car pull up and a door slam and run out to the driveway to greet him, only to meet with a police officer instead. The girl doesn't know what's happening while the mother immediately bursts into tears. The now grown-up little girl explains in voiceover that her father was killed by a Drunk Driver and she now spends her birthdays visiting his grave.
  • This Excuses Kill PSA has shots of memorials with people's excuses for not buying or fixing smoke alarms while "Down To The Valley To Pray" plays in the background. The final memorial is that of a grave of a child, the only grave that doesn't have an excuse. Before the commercial ends, we see a "before and after" shot of a house that is reduced to a burned shell with wreaths and flowers on the front porch.
  • RSA Ireland has the "Crashed Lives" series, which features family members, law enforcement and medical professionals speaking about victims of horrific and often fatal car accidents due to a variety of reasons from drunk driving to falling asleep behind the wheel. Everyone discusses the impact of their lives now and in a couple of instances even include those who survived their crashes, albeit with permanent injuries. Arguably, the saddest ones include a woman who survived as a paraplegic while her young son died and one where a woman named Betty is discussing her daughter, Errin, who was killed in a crash and the sudden reveal at the end that Betty herself passed away sometime after the commercial had initially aired.
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