Friday, June 29, 2012

Aggressive public services

I don't watch TV via cable. I watch through Hulu or Netflix, so my commercial intake is limited.

Lately Hulu has been running a NY PSA regarding quitting smoking. Click HERE for a link but I sure am anything not going to embed it cause I REALLY REALLY REALLY cannot say it strongly enough HATE this PSA. Consider that your warning.

When it first came out something like three years ago, there was tremendous push back on how the video was made. It shows a little boy, probably around my son's age- maybe younger, who loses sight of his mother.  People found out the little boy actually did get put in a situation where he could not see his mother. Everyone was assured she was nearby when the uproar first occurred. I don't care.

It breaks. my. heart.

Then a deep voice comes on and says something along the lines of, if your child feels this way after losing you for only a minute, think how they would feel if they lost you forever.

NY has some really aggressive anti-smoking PSAs- images and video of surgeries to remove clots, a video of a man struggling to breathe through an O2 mask with a "Dying from smoking is never painless" overvoice.  They're horrible things to see and that's their point, I get it. Smoking is bad.

I wonder if they have statistics on if these specific, horrify everyone for the sake of the smokers PSAs, has actually worked. I mean, these smokers are likely already aware that their choices are harmful but do it anyway.  Clearly they aren't targeting the new smokers stupid enough to pick up the habit- it all seems aimed at people who are old enough to understand mortality and consequences. People who have probably been aware of the hazards for some time, but for one reason or another have not quit. It is an addiction. I have never smoked, so I sometimes have difficulty understanding how hard it is to quit- but many people I love and care for have gone through different phases of quitting, from success to relapse to forget it I'm just going to smoke, to complete success. It's not easy. Is it really working, to terrorize them with reminders like this?

But NY doesn't just target smokers in its aggressive PSAs.

There is one poster on a nearby bus stop that has a child's face on it- half of it a skull and half a normal child. The signs says on the skull side, hit at 45mph and on the normal side, hit at 30. And it has some statistics blah blah blah drive the speed limit. I have to see this thing every time I cross the street to get anything.

Why does NY want to traumatize parents? That poster is located on the corner of a very busy intersection off a very busy boulevard. Why chose this corner to put up your speed limit PSA? The drivers aren't going to see it as they pass. And the speeds at this intersection aren't the problem. It's just volume of cars and volume of pedestrians and the size of the road and so many signs that if you aren't a regular driver it'd be easy to NOT see that this lane is turn only or this lane is straight only, etc.  They have taken to putting traffic police on the intersection (though they sometimes make things worse by insisting you walk when the sign says do not walk). Point being the poster is meant to shock you and is aimed not at the cars but the people coming out of the subway and getting on/off the bus stop. In other words, people who aren't likely to be regular drivers.

Look- I could go on and on and ON about car safety and how people drive as though they aren't behind the wheels of potentially deadly machinery.  I was the safety officer responsible for more than 2K people and believe me I KNOW. I just wonder if PSA campaigns like this one really work.

Because if they aren't really working, it's just serving to add another layer of fear to parents' lives. We're the ones holding our kids' hands as they learn to maneuver in this urban environment. We're the ones who see that sign and want to never let our children out of the stroller or near a curb again. We let them walk anyway because they need to have the experiences (yes, I have pushed my son down on the sidewalk for veering too close to the curb. My own comfort zone is about one foot...any closer without stopping or heading back my way will get you pushed away from the curb and possibly down to the sidewalk. AND for not listening, back in the stroller or in a vise like grip if the stroller isn't around).

As for the video I mentioned at the start of this post- I really hope it gets out of circulation soon. Since I watch on my iPad I usually just walk away or tune into my phone while the commercial is on (I'm the one checking Twitter/Reddit/Facebook while also watching stuff on the iPad....but usually only because of commercials like these).


  1. Great Article. I am, sadly, a smoker. I have tried to quit so many times, and have been successful. Then I find myself smoking again. Like Pacino in Godfather 3, "Every time I think I'm out, they drag me back in". Every smoker knows it isn't good for them, but quitting isn't easy. The PSAs don't work, IMNSHO. Plus, I am so cynical about anything the government puts forth, I think these things devalue the message. It's a long read, but essentially Anti-Drug ads lead to more people taking drugs

    1. I think I've seen something like this article before- though I can't open your link so I'm not sure (you can email it to me).
      I have strong feelings about using fear to motivate people. Whole other post though...maybe another day.


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