Ad Space – A Very Important Message

You are now entering Ad Space, a realm of commercials, brought before us so we might examine how they work, and discuss why we both love and hate them so. So it is written …

The Product:
A Public Service Announcement

The Promotion:

The Pitch:
Joanna Cassidy is the carrot … Smokey is the stick.

This video couldn’t catch me entirely off guard. The YouTube title said upfront that it was a “very creepy commercial from the 70’s” – and few eras in pop culture could be creepy without even trying quite like the 70’s.

Even so, I could totally get why the reveal would be unsettling, even though, on paper, there’s nothing wrong with it. Start with model/actress Joanna Cassidy talking earnestly to the audience about preventing forest fires, then at the end switch to anti-forest fire mascot Smokey the Bear, for a cute meta-joke about how people will probably pay more attention to the hot famous lady than a made-up shill for the Big Not Incinerating The Environment industry.

But the way it’s pulled off …

I mean, this Smokey costume is already slightly creepy – it’s got that dead eyes thing going on. More than that, though, the way it suggests that all along this was Smokey in a Joanna Cassidy disguise, with a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it shot that looks very much like Cassidy’s skin is being pulled away to reveal the chuckling bear beneath …

Like, it reminds me of that old Stephen Colbert bit where they’d always list bears (“godless killing machines!”) as the #1 Threat facing America, with increasingly deranged rants about how bears are infiltrating our society and luring us into a false sense of security.

Outside of late night comedians from the 2000’s, bears hiding among us have never attracted as much paranoia as the lizard people, but after seeing this PSA … they’ve got potential.