For some reason, Canadian kids watching TV in the 90s were exposed to a multitude of bizarre, yet highly-memorable, public service announcements (PSAs). Most of these PSA’s were produced by non-profits, such as Companies Committed to Kids (CCK, formally Concerned Children’s Advertisers), and were intended to teach kids all sorts of heavy life-lessons related to drug abuse, self-esteem, bullying, conformity, and similar topics…
If your interested in getting some insight into the kind of thought process that went into these iconic PSAs, check out this VICE interview with the director of the CCK at the time.
The House Hippo (1999)
This clever PSA is shot in the style of a nature documentary. According to the PSA, “The North American House Hippo is found throughout Canada and the eastern United States.”, so I wonder why our neighbours to the south claim to have never seen one? The bit about its favourite food being crumbs from peanut butter on toast is pretty adorable, and I remember the peanut butter footprints vividly from my childhood. This PSA was intended to teach children about critical thinking and learning to be skeptical about what one sees on TV Perhaps this is even more relevant today, with concerns over how easy it is to fake images, news stories, etc.
Don’t You Put It in Your Mouth (1992)
Despite the slightly terrifying emptiness of their expressions, these fluffy blue monster puppets had our best intentions at heart. For Canadian children in the 90s, there might not be a more iconic jingle to be seared into our young brains. The message of the song is obviously about the dangers of putting strange objects into one’s mouth. Despite the well-intentioned message, even today it is still a bit more terrifying than the creators probably anticipated!
The Trap (1993)
Perhaps this is not as iconic as the first two, but this is one PSA that I personally remember every detail of. Two rat puppets come across a mouse trap loaded with cheese. The more eager of the two claims it for himself. Thankfully, the older and wiser of the two convinces the younger to not to mess with it (because it might have been too traumatizing, as a child, to see him get caught in the trap). The message to us young Canucks, is that you should ask for help when you encounter something unfamiliar, someone you trust like mom or “Uncle Fred”.
What’s your thing? (1999)
This PSA shows a number of children and their unique hobbies and skills. This one is pretty wholesome and really hope we took its advice in the subsequent decades. The message “Nobody’s good at everything; but everybody’s good at something.” is intended to boost self-esteem.
Stay Alert and Stay Safe? (1994)
Although this one is not produced by CCK, the PSA was created in response to the tragic and high profile death of a 11-year old girl in 1985. The PSA has Gert and Bert hoverboarding, in typical Back to the Future style, into view, to discuss ways to keep both safe and alert. I hope it paid off!
Body Break (1992)
Body Break was a series of 90-second episodes, produced by the non-profit ParticipACTION. Hosted by Hal Johnson and Joanne McLeod, two accomplished Canadian Athletes, the PSA would inform people of how best to “keep fit and have fun.”. Most Canadian children in the 90s have fond memories of the athletic wisdom imparted to us in these ads!
To be honest, with the PSAs mentioned in this article, we are just scratching the surface of iconic Canadian PSAs from the 90s. There are tons more for you to check out.