A Second Life PSA

One of our readers, Joel Dahlquist, asked for my thoughts about a new obesity-prevention PSA from the Ad Council. Hopefully this will be the start of a new trend, since reader requests mean I don’t have to think up what to write about and can spend my time more productively by playing Portal.

Anyway, here’s the PSA in question.

There’s a whole series of these PSAs where people come across lost body parts that are mostly fat, and now that I just typed that, I realized that there’s undoubtedly a CSI episode with this premise.

This Second Life-themed PSA does several things right. Its gentle tone goes well with the subject matter. Strident PSAs don’t work as well, though they can be fun in an over-the-top way. It doesn’t take the really cheap shot and say that you might lose weight if you spent less time sitting and dinking about in Second Life. The conceit of people finding lost body parts is a good one, and this PSA goes one step further by having an actual joke to go with the conceit, unlike the other PSAs in the campaign.

It’s a shame the joke’s not very good. The core joke, that people choose wacky online avatars, isn’t making a new observation. Anyone who’s spent time on LiveJournal or a forum like SomethingAwful’s should know that people use weird names and avatars. Worse, it’s the obvious joke to make, since one of the few things non-players might know about Second Life is that people make strange avatars.

Who’s the audience for the PSA? It’s not pitched to kids who actually play Second Life. The joke’s an outsider’s observation. It’s like making a joke about how slow the action is in a baseball game and expecting baseball fans to find it funny. Kids who don’t like Second Life aren’t likely to be that entertained because the whole PSA feels like a parent trying too hard to relate to those kids today with their Xboxes and their Hannah Montanas. Adults who aren’t interested in computers or the internet aren’t going to get much out of the joke. That leaves, well, people like me. And I’m just not that impressed.

What good do PSAs do, anyway? When I was a kid, I thought they were stupid. Now that I’m an adult, I think they’re useless. Has anyone here ever seen a PSA and been moved by it to change their behavior?