ByStephen Adamson, writer at
I love the game. I love the hustle. MP Staff Writer and Retired Rapper. Twitter: @_StephenAdamson
Stephen Adamson

Public Service Announcements (PSAs) are always fighting an uphill battle. They're essentially selling moral advice, and sometimes that advice is meant well but delivered... let's just say, strangely. Some of these classic PSAs from the '80s almost look like old horror movies. Others seem to miss the point completely.

So, let's kick it off with the most memorable one, at least in my book:

1. "This is your brain on drugs"

Drugs are obviously, for the most part, very bad. They can make you do things that you otherwise might not do. They can become addicting and ruin your life. There are a plethora of reasons to avoid using drugs. This now infamous ad does very little to get that across.

This is unbearably ill-conceived. I truly can't believe that the makers of this ad thought this would hit home. It's all so sinister, and the metaphor is just not very clear. Your brain is an uncooked egg, and your brain on drugs is a delicious fried egg? Sounds... tasty?

2. "Only you can prevent forest fires"

Bambi and Thumper are under siege! Careless campers are creating forest fires in our cute Disney friends' homes! Wow, this is disturbing. Also, the zoom-out from the fire coming out of Smokey The Bear's eye is regrettably creepy. What is happening? And how can I stop it? There are no specific instructions!

3. R2-D2 and C-3PO don't want you to smoke!

Anti-cigarette campaigns sometimes need to enlist a little help to stay relevant. In this case, why not two popular characters from a hot movie franchise at the time (Star Wars of course) who'll be totally relatable? Nobody wants to let down C-3PO or R2-D2... nobody! To be honest, this one didn't bother me all that much. I thought it was pretty cute, but it's still a bit much.

4. Pee-Wee Herman, crack will kill you

This is legitimately frightening. If you try crack after watching this, you most definitely have a death wish. Pee-Wee Herman gets straight to the point here - the music is extremely scary. Yikes! In this case, I ACTUALLY think this is effective. I'm almost positive there were at least a couple people a few decades back who almost did crack and then thought back to this commercial and put down the pipe.

5. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles say drugs are for dorks

At least this one isn't nearly as depressing as the others. I think outside of the overacting and the turtles being a little goofy given the subject-matter, this is a pretty successful PSA. I just need to be told by somebody whether this "I'm not a chicken. You're a turkey," diss made sense back in the day. 'Cause it sure as hell doesn't make sense to me in 2014.

6. McGruff, the poorly animated crime dog

OK, I get it. Animation standards have gotten a lot better since the '80s. BUT, that doesn't excuse how ridiculously weird McGruff looks in that creepy trench coat (I spent a good portion of this video hoping he wouldn't flash the camera). I'm not sure why he's pink... or why he's a dog... or why he sounds like a mobster from the 1920s. But I guess, yeah it's a good idea to lock your door. I guess that message was easily worth the money it took to make this ad - which apparently wasn't very much based on the quality.

7. "Straight Up" Drug Rap

I have to admit this song is catchy. The dance moves are hot. The entire message is on point. If you get caught up with drugs, dealing or using, you will get into trouble. This is a message that I can get behind. And a beat and rhythm that I can't deny. I was getting on a lot of these other PSAs, but I'm going to go ahead and co-sign this one. Well done!


Which of these old PSAs (if any) is most effective?

(via Distractify,


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