Public information film

Public information film

Public Information Films (known as PIFs) are a series of government commissioned short films, shown during television advertising breaks in the UK. The US equivalent is the Public Service Announcement (PSAs).


The films advised the public on what to do in a multitude of situations ranging from crossing the road to surviving a nuclear attack. They are sometimes thought to concern only topics related to safety, but there are PIFs on many other subjects, including animal cruelty, protecting the environment, crime prevention and how to vote in an election or fill in a census form.

Many of these films were aimed at children and were shown during breaks in children's programs during holidays and at weekends. The general low-budget quality and the infamous static "crackle" before them gave them a Hammer Horror style aura. Some of them were quite terrifying and remained ingrained in the child's psyche well into adulthood, others were quite humourous and used comedy to show the dangers or ridicule the folly of those who ignore them (Jo and Petunia are a good example of a comic PIF). Many of them involved or were narrated by celebrities of the day.


The earliest PIFs were made during the Second World War years and shown in cinemas; many were made by and starred Richard Massingham, an amateur actor who set up Public Relationship Films Ltd when he discovered there was no specialist film company in the area. They were commissioned by the Ministry of Information. After the war PIFs were produced for the Central Office of Information, and again by private contractors which were usually small film companies, such as Richard Taylor Cartoons.

They are still being produced although they are rarely shown in the same frequency as their peak in the 1970s. Some believe modern PIFs are not as hard-hitting as they should be and have suffered due to political correctness. If the messages are not hard-hitting enough then the message can be lost considering older PIFs aimed at children (and adults) relied quite strongly on "scaring them straight" and the message remained with a child right through into adulthood, although recent drink-driving and anti -smoking PIFs have bucked this trend.

Some advertisements and charity appeals have gained the status of honorary PIF among fans, including "Cartoon Boy", a 2002 campaign about child abuse produced by the NSPCC, and a 1980s British Gas advertisement about what to do in the event of a gas leak.

PIF's have a nostalgic cult following and a DVD was released in 2001 called "Charley Says: The Greatest Public Information Films in the World", comprising the contents of two earlier VHS releases. A sequel was released in 2005.

Famous public information films

Some famous classic PIFs include:

* The "Charley Says" range, an animated series of PIFs with a ginger cat called Charley (whose warning growls were voiced by Kenny Everett) who advised children against stranger danger and other everyday perils.

* The "Spirit of Dark and Lonely Water", a terrifying PIF, where the Grim Reaper, (voiced by Donald Pleasence) warns children against the dangers of playing in and around water. At the end, the figure of death says, "I'll be back... ack... ack... ack..." (which some people jokily say Arnold Schwarzenegger stole for The Terminator).

* "The Green Cross Code Man", played by David Prowse who advised children about crossing the road safely. An earlier road safety campaign targeted at children featured the animated squirrel "Tufty", and a Tufty Club for young children was later founded.

* "Splink", a road safety commercial from 1976 starring Jon Pertwee about safety when crossing the road.

* "Think Bike!", Edward Judd explaining to look carefully for motorcyclists when turning at junctions (not too disimiar to the recent Think! advert "How Close?") ("Think Bike!" was spoofed in The Young Ones episode "Cash", the slogan replaced with Think Once, Think Twice, Think Don't Drive Your Car On The Pavement.)

* A series of hedgehogs telling the audience how to cross roads by singing to the tunes of famous pop songs such as King of the Road and Stayin' Alive.

* "Supersafe With SuperTed", a road safety commercial where SuperTed tells his friend Spotty how to cross the road on Earth safely. A flashback during the short reveals an incident when Spotty very nearly got killed, running across the road on the planet Spot (his home), to talk to his sister, Blotch. At the end, SuperTed warns the viewer that "can't always be there to save you, especially on planet Earth" before winking.

* "Apaches", a graphic public information film shown in primary schools about the dangers of playing on farms. This PIF is notorious for how horrific it was, and how violent it was for the standards then.

* "Robbie", a film based around a child losing his legs after being struck by a train. A modern equivalent, "Killing Time" was shown in secondary schools during the 1990s but was later replaced for, apparently, being too graphic. "Robbie" replaced the notorious and extremely graphic "The Finishing Line". However, "Robbie" and "The Finishing Line" are arguably not "strictly" PIFs, being produced by British Transport Films.

* "Don't Die of Ignorance", a hard-hitting campaign produced by Saatchi and Saatchi on AIDS awareness in 1983, two years after the virus was identified. Voiced by John Hurt.

* "Protect and Survive," a series of films (never shown) advising the British public on what to do in the event of a nuclear attack. They would have been shown constantly on all television channels in the build up to a war. Voiced by Patrick Allen.

* "Joe and Petunia", a series of animated PIFs about a couple whose amazing stupidity caused dangerous problems for everyone around them. They appeared in only four PIFs ("Coastguard", "Water Safety - Flags", "Country Code" and "Worn Tyres"), but their popularity grew so quickly that it was decided to kill them off in the last one. However, they were "resurrected" when "Coastguard" was remade in 2007 with updated references: Petunia is reading "Hello" and listening to an iPod; Joe wears a Burberry cap and phones the desktop PC-using coastguard on his mobile phone.

* "Drinking And Driving Wrecks Lives", a series of 1980s - 1990s PIFs targeting drink-driving offenders. An equally well known and successful road safety campaign was "Clunk Click Every Trip", fronted by Jimmy Savile.

* "Play Safe", a 10-minute-long film made in the 1970s warning children about the dangers from pylons, electric substations, overhead power lines and other sources of electricity when playing outdoors, which was divided into short films for placement within commercial breaks.

* A PIF about fire doors featuring the late Patsy Rowlands as a tea lady in an office building, who wedges open a fire door for her own convenience. A fire starts and spreads rapidly because of the open door, and we see employees escaping from the building, with a soot - blackened Rowlands being offered a cup of tea by a firefighter.

* "George and Lil", a film about burlary prevention. A heavy-set married couple go out at night (dressed as stereotypical burgars, with striped sweaters, black Burberry caps and domino masks) on a tandem bicycle and burgle houses without any lights on. A voiceover in a Cockney accent instructs people to turn on a downstairs light if they are out for the evening. They return to their house (George carrying a large burlap sack labeled "SWAG") only to find they were burgled in their absence. Lil exclaims that they should have left a light on. George remarks, "There are some funny people about." They are shown leaving their house again (a plate on the garden gate reads "THE FELONS") when they encounter a similarly dressed couple carrying the contents of George and Lil's living room in a handcart. George calls out, "Stop! Thief!" The voiceover continues, "Don't forget, leave a light on in a downstairs room. There's some funny people about." The caption LEAVE A LIGHT ON! appears at the bottom of the screen.

* "Amber Gambler", about the dangers of racing through amber lights before they turn to red.

* "Drug Smuggling - Soft Toy", From around 1992-3. A man tries to smuggle drugs into a foreign country by hiding them in a soft toy but ends up being found out at airport customs and sent to prison.

* "One Minute", with a timer appearing at the bottom of the screen to "count down" the last minute of a little girl's life as she runs out into the road and is hit by a car, because her mother, who calls "I'll be with you in a minute..." was not watching the child properly and didn't see her go outside.

* "Fireworks Safety - Parents", a PIF which pointed out how easy it is for children and teenagers to get hold of dangerous fireworks in the run up to Guy Fawkes Night, asking "Parents - where's your child tonight?" Because of its close up scenes of a child who has been severely injured by fireworks, it was judged to be so graphic that the full length film had a very limited showing and was quickly replaced by a shorter version with no accident scene.

* "Reginald Molehusband", a man who demonstrated the correct way to park safely. His reverse parking was "a public danger", bets were laid on his performance and people came from all round to watch, until the day he got it right - "Well done! Reginald Molehusband, the safest parker in town." This film is now classified as missing and is not in the archives of either the COI or the private company which now owns most of its archive footage, although an audio recording still exists.

* "The Artful Dodger", showing Fagin and the Dodger from "Oliver Twist" materializing on a modern street and stealing a car.

* "Keep Warm Keep Well", a campaign encouraging the elderly to take extra care of themselves in winter and advising people to keep an eye out for family and friends.

* "Children Watch Us Cross", telling parents to set a good example to children with regard to behaviour on the roads. It features a little boy talking about his family and criticising his parents' road sense, including an incident where his father was nearly run over after deciding to run across a busy main road rather than take the pedestrian subway.

* "Smoker Of The Future",A disturbing 1985 PIF in which an eerie futuristic world is presented along with the first "Natural Born Smoker". He has a large nose "to filter out impurities", extra eyelids to protect his eyes from harmful smoke, small ears (because he doesn't listen), highly evolved index and middle fingers, self-cleaning lungs and is immune to Heart Disease and Thrombosis. A cinema-only follow up showed what can happen to babies whose mothers smoke during pregnancy, peer-pressure at school, and inhalation of smoke.

* "Prams And Pushchairs", A 1979 animated PIF showing the dangers of loading shopping onto the handles of a pram or pushchair, leading to the baby in the pram overbalancing and being thrown onto the pavement. This PIF is particularly memorable for its sketchy, Edvard Munch-style graphics, and a truly terrifying opening and closing echoed scream.

* "Crime Prevention – Hyenas", A 1989 campaign about car crime showing hyenas breaking into cars comparing them to car thieves. The advert ends with the slogan, "Car crime. Together We’ll Crack It".

* "Crime. Together We’ll Crack It", a series of commercials starting around 1988 and continuing through the nineties set in different environments showing thefts taking place. Each commercial ends with the above slogan, the first word cracking after it’s said.

* "When you see an Ice-Cream Van", the film starts with a man looking out of his living room window and the phone rings and his wife answers. She is telling a friend that her husband still can't face driving the car, then through a short flash-back we see that he knocked over a young girl after she ran into the road after buying an ice cream. The film ends with the man bursting into tears and the voice over telling us to always take care when there is an ice cream van on the street as "children are more interested in ice cream than in traffic."

* "Keep Matches Away From Children", A 1980 PIF. Quite a disturbing film where the camera pans through a house which has burnt down, you hear the echoing voices of the parents and the screams of children.

Well known animated characters in PIFs have included Augustus Windsock, "the oldest living cyclist in the world", who appeared in two PIFs teaching children about safe cycling; Fanta the elephant, who appeared in a 1960s road safety campaign; and Dusty Kangaroo, a mascot of the Keep Britain Tidy campaign.

Recent public information films

More recent PIFs, many of which are currently still being shown on British TV, include:

* A smoke alarm awareness campaign starring Mary Jo Randle, in which a home video is repeatedly played of a little girl opening her Christmas present, a toy giraffe, and saying "Thank you, Mummy". It then becomes apparent that the video is being watched by the grieving mother who didn't own a smoke alarm.

*"Tell Someone", A 2003 PIF about bullying, in which different children who are being bullied but are too frightened to tell an adult directly find unique ways to get the message across, such as leaving a note inside an exercise book for the teacher to find, or writing "I'M BEING BULLIED" in the blank space of a crossword puzzle.

* A gang of drunken girls on what appears to be a hen night are walking down a street at night by a construction site, whereupon one of them accidentally lets go of her bunch of balloons. Then a dramatic voice says 'Stand back!' and a figure reminiscent of the Marvel Comics character Daredevil comes out of nowhere from among some crowds of observers. He starts swinging and climbing acrobatically on to the scaffolding to retrieve the balloons, but loses his grip and falls. As he hits the ground, the dramatic music stops abruptly and it is revealed that he is an ordinary man under the influence of alcohol. The message of the PIF tells viewers that "Too much alcohol makes you feel you're invincible, when you're most vulnerable."

* "Know What You're Getting Into", A 2002 campaign run in conjunction with the Metropolitan Police, about the dangers of unlicensed minicabs. It shows a group of women putting their drunken friend into an unlicensed minicab, thinking this is the safest way for her to get home, but we then see a close up of her crying and screaming as she is presumably being sexually assaulted by the minicab driver. The ads were directed by the master of kitchen-sink drama, Mike Leigh.

* A PIF about postal scams with an old woman celebrating the arrival of a golden envelope telling her she has won a large cash prize and must send off a small amount of money in order to be able to claim it (Classic advance fee fraud), but as she goes to post the cheque, a crowd of people with identical envelopes all follow her down the road with the advert climaxing in an ironic musical-style dance routine.

* "Carbon Monoxide - Heaters", created in 1995 after the issue of carbon monoxide poisoning came to national attention when a university student died from it. The PIF shows a young woman who switches on a gas heater without realizing it's faulty before going to bed, by morning she seems to be asleep but a close up reveals she is dead.

* A parody of the film "Chitty Chitty Bang Bang", showing "lookalikes" of Dick Van Dyke, Sally Ann Howes and the children taking Chitty for a drive in the countryside (using the real car that appeared in the film), only to be caught by the police and wheel clamped in midair because they didn't pay the road tax. There were initially some complaints about this PIF on the grounds that in the UK, cars registered before 1971 do not have to pay road tax, but it was not withdrawn because the PIF specifically asked drivers to "get" their road tax rather than "pay", and even cars exempt from road tax must obtain a special licence for historic vehicles. A similar parody appeared of the puppet series "Thunderbirds" where Lady Penelope cuts Parker's strings for accidentally letting FAB1 get clamped.

* "Wasted", a PIF in the style of an advert for a fictional dance album called "Wasted", warning people about dangers present on islands such as Ibiza, a popular destination for young people. Songs included "Hard Cell", accompanied by visuals of a man being locked in a prison cell; "Love Trap", in which a woman is forced into a car, and presumably is assaulted and "Freefall", in which a man falls from a balcony of a hotel while drunk. The ending tag line reads "Don't get "Wasted" on holiday".

* "Big Baby", showing a toddler who nearly drowns when his mother goes to answer the phone and leaves him alone in the bath.

* "Easy Access", A long-running crime prevention PIF in which two men who are locked out of their house find different ways to break in, then run into each other in the hall and realize that a burglar could have got in the same way.

* "Choose Life - Stay Off the Tracks", showing two boy messing on a railway line resulting in one of them being hit down by a train. The add ends with the above slogan (parodying Trainspotting).

* "Food Safety - Turkey", usually shown every Christmas where a man fights with a turkey (a bloke in a costume) while the voiceover explains how to properly cook a turkey. Then the man's wife walks in and joins in the fight.

* A fire safety advert was created in 2002 to alert people to the dangers of house fires, showing a different vareity of people trapped in house fires such as two children cowering in their smoke-filled room calling for their dad and a distressed elderly woman banging on her locked front door when her house is on fire. The tagline at the end is, "Make your plan. Get out alive". Created by the French Euro R.S.C.G. agency, it was withdrawn after complaints that the ad was extremely distressing.

* "Doll House", A 1991 fire safety PIF urging the public to fit smoke alarms and reminding viewers that young children will rely on you to help them escape in the event of a house fire, accompanied by powerful images of a child's doll house going up in flames as she sleeps.

* "When Will I See You Again", an advertisement from the Food Standards Agency showing that you may not realise your food is undercooked. It shows sausages on a barbecue and as a sausage is being lifted, it breaks into two, showing the inside which is all raw. The advertisement is played to the 1970's song by The Three Degrees, "When Will I See You Again" and the end caption says "Sooner than you think if you don't cook it properly". Two other films in the same campaign used the songs the Chairmen of the Board's "Give Me Just a Little More Time (accompanied by images of a man handing out chicken legs that are clearly raw and dripping blood) and Dan Hartman's "Relight My Fire" (with visuals of undercooked steak.)

* "Condom Essesntial Wear," a series of public information films from the NHS that encourage safer sex. The films depict clothes with the names of sexually transmitted infections written on them.

* "Want Respect? - Use A Condom," a series of PIFs encouraging younger people to use condoms. Usually shown in pairs at the start and end of commercial breaks, the first usually showed a happy and confident post-sex scenario when the condom had been used (with the user's friends congratulating him), and the second an unhappy and uncertain one where it had not been used, with the user's friends treating him with scorn and his partner looking worried and unhappy.

* "Pull Your Finger Out", a 2008 smoke alarm campaign from Fire Kills featuring Julie Walters in a partially burnt-out kitchen. The film highlights the devastating and potentially fatal consequences of not testing smoke alarms often enough.

* "Binge Drinking - Night Out", two adverts which show the consequences of drinking too much on a night out. The female version shows a young woman getting ready to go out and prepares herself by ripping her clothes, vomiting in her hair and smearing her make-up. The male version shows a young man also preparing for a night out. This time, the man rips his clothes, urinates on his shoes and beats himself up. Each advert ends with the tagline "You wouldn't start a night like this, so why end it this way?" Another advert which is equally hard-hitting shows a catwalk. The first model walks up but suddenly stops. She then proceeds to lift her skirt up and urinate on the catwalk floor as the crowd gasp. She then poses and walks back. The next model also walks up, stops, and then vomits on the floor. She wipes her mouth and walks back off. The final two male models bump into each other and begin to fight. The advert turns black as the same tagline is used.

* A series of adverts from 1997-1999 about paying your TV licence showed someone explain that they tried to save up towards something by not paying their TV licence only to be caught and fined and as a result, their original plan went awry i.e. a couple who tried to save up to go on holiday to Spain ended up camping in a field next to a power station!


From 1997 to 2002, Britain's road-safety campaign was run by the Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions, better known simply as the DETR. This took over from the Central Office of Information's Drinking And Driving Wrecks Lives and Clunk Click Every Trip campaigns. The majority of the PIFs broadcast during this period focused on speeding - and were mostly famed for the 'Kill Your Speed' slogan, including an animated ident of a hand pushing forward - but would also focus on other topics such as seatbelt use and drink driving. Some of the DETR publicity films included:

* "Julie", about the importance of rear seat belts, which ran for 5 years between 1998 and 2003 with a return in 2007, and was so successful it was repeated in France. It was updated with the Think! logo in 2001.

* The 1996 "Procedures", with home video footage of young children accompanied by a voiceover which talks the viewer through the steps taken by police officers when they are informing the family of a road fatality victim. It is then revealed that each of these children were killed by speeding cars, and the 'Kill Your Speed' tagline is shown. "Funeral Blues", a similar PIF from the same year and the same campaign, used the same technique but with audio of John Hannah's reading of a W. H. Auden poem from the film Four Weddings and a Funeral.

* 1995's "Don't Look Now", in which a young girl is seen in various situations, such as walking in a crowd or playing in a school playground, but keeps turning to the camera while her voiceover repeats "You're going to kill me", sometimes expanded with a line such as "Without even thinking about it". The girl is then shown crossing a road, as she says "You're going to kill me one day". She then turns as she is about to be hit by a speeding car, and her narration continues "... unless you kill your speed."

* The 1998 "Mistletoe and Wine", a montage of accidents and fatalities with Cliff Richard's Christmas song Mistletoe and Wine playing on the soundtrack. The juxtaposition is intended to shock motorists into changing their habits by scaring them straight, and is compounded by the irony of having "wine" in song as a reference to drinking alcohol under the influence. This was accompanied by " Silent Night", another Christmas campaign ad with similar accident footage.

* "Vectorscope", A 1998 cinema-only seatbelt PIF which showed sound measurement during a high-impact crash. The crash was played out, then repeated in slow-motion as the voice-over (performed by Ewan McGregor) graphically described what each of the sounds were (breaking bones, etc). The final sound was that of a seatbelt being clicked into place. A radio version, with slowed-down sound effects, featured voiceover by Tom Baker.

* "Alan and Kate", perhaps DETR's most famous campaign, which was another anti-speeding initiative. There were four PIFs, each involving similar routine between two unconnected characters - a young woman who walks to her new job (Kate) and businessman who drives along her route (Alan). Alan repeatedly drives 35-40mph in a 30 zone. On the first day, the second day, and the third day, Kate crosses the same road unscathed, and the tagline reads "Today, he got away with it". These circulated for around two or three months, until finally on the fourth day she crosses as he is approaching, his vision impaired by a lorry which turns off, and he kills her when he cannot react in time.


"Think!" is the current road safety promotional campaign, from the UK's Department for Transport. Their adverts so far have included:

* "Videophone". 2005. Filmed on a mobile phone camera, it shows a group of teenagers who are joking and showing off in front of the camera as an unseen friend films. One of them turns to cross the road, but only looks one way and is run over by a car coming from the opposite direction. The Think! website claimed that to make the effect as realistic as possible, the creative team asked a real group of teenage schoolfriends to film themselves with a camera phone, then "added in" the crash with a stuntperson.

* "Crash", the 2005/2006 drink-driving commercial, where some men are drinking in a bar. They offer one of the group "one more", even though he's driving. They see an attractive woman who walks over, only for the room to suddenly shake and lurch, with sound effects of a car crashing. The drinking driver's face smashes into the table, like hitting the dashboard of a car, and the woman is thrown across the table and lands on the other side of the room, as if she had gone through the windscreen in a car crash. The screen then focuses on the suggested driver's face as the narrator states "It takes less than you might think to become a drink driver".

* "Moment of Doubt", the 2007 and current drink-driving campaign, in which a man goes to order a drink at a bar. The barman has the lights dimmed around him as he impersonates many different voices, such as two police officers talking about revoking his license, the man's employer and a woman at the end crying that her husband has no longer got a job. The light returns to normal, as does the barman, and asks "So, what's it going to be?"

* "Bicycle", a drunk driver tries to avoid hitting a young girl cycling on a road that he fails to notice a car heading towards him which crashes into him head-on.

* "John", A 1999-2000 PIF about driver fatigue, filmed in night vision. The advert shows a sleeping man, and the voiceover informs us that "Tonight, John will die in his sleep. He's comfortable, warm, and has his family by his side." It then zooms out to show us that he is driving along a motorway, with his family as passengers. The car crashes into a side barrier and overturns, as the caption reads "THINK: Don't drive tired".

* "Slow Down", shot entirely in black and white and in slow-motion, presented as mock CCTV footage of a speeding car failing to stop for a small boy crossing the street and hitting him. To add to the effect, the voiceover states "Had he been travelling at 30 miles an hour, it would have stopped here", shortly before the boy is hit. This PIF was parodied by BBC series Monkey Dust [cite web |url= |title=Youtube - Monkey Dust - Driving Campaign |accessdate=2008-06-18 |work=Clip from Monkey Dust, series 3 |date= ]

* "My Home", A 2002 cinema-only PIF aimed at teenagers stressing the importance of paying attention whilst crossing. A young boy, Tom, introduces us to his family and friends, who all seem very downtrodden and depressed. He then spots his girlfriend across the road with another man, and runs across to find out what's going on. A car approaches as he is in the middle of the road, and drives straight through him. He looks at the camera and says "That's the second time that's happened to me this week. It hurt a lot more the first time". His grieving girlfriend is then shown placing flowers by the side of the road.

* "Second Chance", a seatbelt safety campaign which begins with the wreckage of a car crash that has claimed four lives, then rewinds itself back until the point in which the men got into the car. It then plays in real time, but this time the men put their seatbelts on and survive completely uninjured.

* "How Close?" A motorcycle awareness campaign, intended to alert car drivers to pay attention and keep a vigil for incoming bikers. A man is seen driving his car, then checks in both directions at a junction. He drives forward and immediately, a motorbike crashes into him. It is shown again from different perspectives, then again from the original camera view, to show that the biker is clearly visible coming towards him. This time, he sees him and the accident is avoided.

* "Split Screen", a PIF accompanying new UK legislation making it illegal to use a mobile phone while driving. It is played out in split screen, with a man on the left receiving a phone call from his wife on the right. During the conversation, he suddenly crashes his car and is left unconscious and bleeding, as his wife shouts frantically down the phone to him. Jack Davenport says in voiceover "You don't have to be in a car to cause a crash. Think - the moment you know they're driving, kill the conversation".

There are a number of ongoing cinema campaigns produced by Transport for London in conjunction with Think! One of them, aimed at teenagers, uses the slogan "Don't die before you've lived" by attempting to show how an entire life can go to waste for lack of attention on the roads. The latest PIF, "Shattered Dreams", depicts a young girl who walks out of her house and across the street without looking when she is run over. She shatters on impact and then we see projected scenes from what would have been her future, showing her becoming an Olympic athlete. But because she died, none of these events will happen and they shatter too. Others in the series featured a boy appearing in a mock trailer for a hit film and a young pop star showing viewers round her house in the style of "MTV Cribs", but it is then revealed that both were killed in road accidents as children and did not live to become famous. There is also a cinema only advertisement featuring the view of a driver in his car who is driving too fast. Along the way of his journey we see people singing the song in the background until he knocks over a motorcyclist and the music halts. There have been some made by teenagers, for teenagers in collaboration with MTVFact|date=March 2008. One depicts a boy, seconds from being hit, seeing ghosts on the road. Shocked by the ghosts, he steps back and uses a crossing. Another shows a bike mysteriously riding itself, showing off and doing tricks. It is revealed the rider is a boy wearing dark clothing. He is not seen by a car in time and is hit, but seems to be still alive, just paralysed. The tagline tells you to wear bright clothing or be invisible.


Anti-smoking campaigns have become a staple of British advertising as new and more significant risks are discovered on a regular basis. Most of these adverts come from the NHS, but others are made by the British Heart Foundation. Some of the best known examples of these campaigns are:

* "Cigarettes and Arteries", an advert depicting fatty deposits eminating from the ends of lit cigarettes and falling onto the smokers' clothes, then showing footage of a dummy artery being squeezed to reveal a huge build-up of similar deposit inside.

* "The Silent Killer", a campaign about the dangers of second hand smoke, played out at a wedding reception. It focuses on the fact that most lethal cigarette smoke is invisible, and does this by making it visible in stark black, as many guests (including children) inhale it without realising.

* "Impotence", highlighting that smoking can damage your penis. It shows an index finger and a middle finger posing as a man's legs, with a nearly burnt-out cigarette in between.

* "Hooked", one of the more controversial campaigns, which showed computer-generated hooks being pulled out of the mouths of smokers, the message being that they should 'get unhooked' from the necessity to smoke.

* "Anthony Hicks", showing a dying man lying in bed, hooked up to machines, talking about how his daughter is going to visit him to say goodbye. This was one of several non-acting sufferers to take part in these adverts, though few others are easily traceable online. The end message states that Hicks died shortly after the advert was filmed, and before his daughter had a chance to visit.

* "Smoking is Poison", a threefold campaign featuring real people at work describing the safety procedures they use when encountering certain lethal chemicals, before the narrator catches them off-guard by announcing that these are some of the many chemicals inhaled in tobacco smoke. The three films in this series focused on "Benzene", "Formaldehyde", and a "Cocktail" of various poisons.

* "Smoking Children", featuring a group of young children who exhale cigarette smoke from their noses to make the point that passive smoking is as dangerous to children as if they were smokers themselves.

* "Skin", showing smokers who have minor blood clots running through their veins without them realising, to the sound of Frank Sinatra's I've Got You Under My Skin.

Cultural references

A number of musical artists have been heavily influenced by the analogue, overdriven sound of British PIFs, including Boards of Canada and most artists on the Ghost Box Records label, especially The Advisory Circle, whose most recent album, Other Channels directly references or samples many PIFs, including "Keep Warm, Keep Well". Additionally, their debut album features a few reprises with the suffix "PIF".


* "Hey! You two must be out of your tiny minds!" -- Alvin Stardust in a well known PIF about child road safety, as he rescues some young children from rushing out in front of speeding traffic

* "Remember, there's no cure for hearing damaged by industrial noise - and no sympathy either." -- From a Public Information Film about wearing ear protection at work

* "I won't be there when you cross the road, so always use the Green Cross Code." -- The catchphrase of the Green Cross Code Man. The "I won't be there when you cross the road" was added when, after the campaign was first run, it emerged that some children literally thought the Green Cross Code Man would come to help them if they were in danger on the road.

* "Polish a floor, put a rug on it, and you might as well set a man trap" -- From "The Fatal Floor", a film showing a man being injured from slipping on a carpet that has been placed on a polished floor

* "Coughs and sneezes spread diseases." -- From a 1940s PIF campaign featuring Richard Massingham, advising people to help prevent the spread of cold and flu germs (mockingly referenced in the "Hancock's Half Hour" TV episode "The Blood Donor")

* "Get a routine, show your intention, fire prevention, fire prevention. Check and make sure you close every door, we mean your life could depend on your bedtime routine!" -- The chorus to the song in the "Bedtime Routine" film, in which a couple sing about taking fire precautions last thing at night.

* "He may as well have come in his underpants!" -- from a 1970s film about wearing the correct protective equipment in an industrial environment. Delivered in a deadly serious manner by the narrator, without the slightest hint of irony or humour.


External links

* [ Protect and Survive website]
* [ 625's Introduction to PIF's]

* Information about DVD compilations: [ "Charley Says" Volume 1"] and [ "Charley Says" Volume 2"]
* [ National Archives exhibit of public information films]
* [ "COI TV Fillers" - details of the most recent PIFs being produced by the COI]
* [ Public Information Films (blog)]
* [ Index to British Public Information Films]
* [ The Message Clicks - First of a series of BBC articles about public information films]
* [ A youtube user] with a large collection of PIFs

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