PSAs can evoke many feelings—sadness, empathy, compassion, happiness, and yes, fear. One of my earliest memories was watching the Ad Council’s Asthma Attack ads, which, admittedly, terrified me. The feelings of fear and sadness that I got from watching that PSA have made it a memory and message I’ll never forget.
Fear has a way of shaping and effecting people in unexpected ways. It’s a tactic that should be used sparingly and thoughtfully. But when it is used, it can make for an incredibly powerful PSA. Here are five examples of haunting PSAs that have stayed with me after I watched them.
Most Shocking Second a Day & Still The Most Shocking Second A Day
These PSAs feature a second a day in the life of a child refugee. We see her as she navigates a new life under attack – a life many child refugees are living today. This PSA isn’t just sad—it’s terrifying, as the final moments of both PSAs show the child breaking the fourth wall and looking into the camera as if to say, “please help me.”
Tips from Former Smokers
This entire campaign is probably the reason I don’t smoke. The image of the drastic and horrible effects smoking can have on people absolutely changed the way I viewed smoking, and made a lasting impact on my habits.
No More & Domestic Violence
This ad, aired during the 2015 Superbowl, is based around a real phone call a woman made to 911. The audio takes us through silent images of a destroyed house, and we’re left to wonder what happened moments before the phone call took place. It’s a powerful ad that helped spark a national conversation about domestic violence.
This PSA shocked millions of people around the world when it was released last year. It’s completely unexpected, and you are blindsided by the way it all ends. I don’t want to spoil it, because I think so much of the power of this PSA comes from how abrupt and surprising it is. It’s an incredible ad that stayed with me for weeks after I watched it.
The Unseen–It Can Wait
This spot from AT&T and their anti-distracted driving campaign “It Can Wait” will have your heart pounding the whole time. Viewers see a driver resist distraction after distraction, but the moment he decides to take his eyes off the road, tragedy occurs. If you want to learn more about the dangers of distracted driving, check out the Ad Council’s Texting and Driving Prevention campaign.