Public Service Announcement: Don’t Do Crack

This public service announcement is an anti-drug commercial that talks about how bad crack is. The ad, which stars Pee Wee Herman, is targeted towards younger viewers who may recognize Mr. Herman as a positive influence and will listen to him. In retrospect he has become sort of a joke, but at the time in the 1980s he was probably a good choice to be in this PSA.

The ad begins with a silhouetted man seated in a dimly lit room. T he camera then focuses onto his face, which suddenly becomes illuminated by eerie lights. Pee Wee is holding a small vial of white powder, which the viewer assumes is crack. He then talks about how dangerous crack is and why nobody should ever even try it. At the end of the commercial, the camera zooms to a close up of the vial of crack on a table. Two simple but effective phrases then appear on the screen in succession: “Don’t even try it.” And “The thrill can kill.” These short and easy to remember slogans sum up the ad and provide a lasting impression for the viewer.

The creepy heart beating noise that starts about halfway through the video is very effective, along with the dim lighting, at setting the overall tone. The point is to scare young people into never taking drugs, specifically crack-cocaine. The commercial itself is very simple, but Pee Wee’s delivery is straightforward and convincing – despite his usually happy and upbeat demeanor. A conventional commercial would have used a more serious persona to convey such a serious message. However, in this case a comedian who is rarely serious is speaking in a solemn manner without even a hint of joking. This lends some legitimacy to the message, as if Pee Wee saw this as such an important issue that he would break character just to convey it.

Although a television commercial alone did not solve the crack epidemic of the 80s and 90s, educating young people about the perils of drugs is a very important element of such an effort. This advertisement does a very good job of getting the point across, but must be part of a larger endeavor. Such an anti-drug campaign must also posters and pamphlets, as well as parents and teachers taking responsibility to educate children about drugs.

by Logan Ruppel



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