Quite Thought Full: College of Creative Studies spoofs ’80s PSA

By Katie Walsh | Opinions Editor

Before there were memes and other creative means of informing audiences, there were Public Service Announcements. In an age long ago, when media sought to serve the community over its investors, PSAs were used to provide health and safety warnings over the broadcast waves.

Today, a spin on a popular ‘80s drug awareness PSA is being used to offer encouragement rather than a warning.

The famous PSA illustrated the damaging effects of drugs on the brain by showing an egg becoming a sizzling fried egg despite attempts at merely being sunny side up. The bottom line was that parents should talk to their kids about drugs before they’re toast.

A 2011 campaign for the College for Creative Studies, a private four-year art school in Detroit, created by the advertising firm Team Detroit used a series of PSA-like web advertisements that play off of the fried brain anti-drug PSA and warn parents of another important issue to discuss with their children.

“Talk to your kids about art school,” the ads all read.

In the leading advertisement that mirrors the ‘80s PSA, the screen reads in bright yellow, “This is your brain on art.” In the pan lies the white of the egg, but the yoke resembles Edvard Munch’s iconic “The Scream.” Instead of your brain being fried, your brain turns an everyday thing into a work of art and that is what art is able to do; turn the ordinary into extraordinary. Only if you’re so artistically inclined, of course.

Although the campaign has been going on since last year, the school announced on its Social Dashboard on Jan. 29 that it was renewing the campaign. On Feb. 3 on My Modern Met, a blog for artists and art enthusiasts,  posted that the campaign has gone viral. The blog discussed that people talking about the humor of the advertisements themselves, but also about the need to eliminate the negative stimuli against the study of art in the world today. It is something that this advertising campaign is effectively doing.

“Just to be perfectly clear here, paintbrushes and canvases are nothing to be ashamed of compared to hiding bong pipes and cannabis.”

In taking a campaign against drugs and turning it into a campaign for art, Team Detroit and the College for Creative Studies took quite a risk, but the message is clear all the same. While drugs are never good, what is the harm in being interested in art? Parents should not be so against it while, as one of the ads suggest, “One in five teenagers will experiment with art.”

These advertisements spoof the stereotypical confrontation between a concerned parent and a scared child during the conversation about getting caught doing or being in possession of drugs. As one frightened father explains to his son, “Doodling is a gateway to illustration,” in lieu of what health teachers always called gateway drugs. Another shows a mother accusingly holding a set of paintbrushes while her daughter claims, “Mom, I was just holding those for afriend.”

Just to be perfectly clear here, paintbrushes and canvases are nothing to be ashamed of compared to hiding bong pipes and cannabis.

The campaign shows that parents and kids alike should have no shame in discussing a possible career in the arts. When the parents in these advertisements find themselves confronting their artist kids about their interests, they caution them against paths that will lead them to graphic design, illustration, product design and more. These paths are hugely important in the tech savvy world we live in. Artistically inclined professionals are in high demand. Sure, some of us can manage our way around Photoshop so that we create our own humorous images, but can any of us actually design something that catches others’ eyes in the marketplace?

Didn’t think so.

The College for Creative Studies struck gold with this campaign in working to get rid of the negative reputations of studying art, widely considered to be just the step below studying English and philosophy. All are extremely worthy and useful educational pursuits.