Former U.S. House Speaker Tip O'Neill noted that all politics is local.
So is all advertising.
There is a lot going on in advertising beyond Madison Avenue that doesn't
make the headlines, but does make a difference.
Whether advertising is produced nationally or not, the intended target
and impact is in one or more local communities. The same principle applies
to public service advertising. A campaign created by the Advertising Council
has the same Main Street targets as one created by a local ad club. In fact,
the most effective Ad Council campaigns are those that directly tie into
local organizations. Adaptation of national public service campaigns to
individual community needs is another way to improve the impact. A superb
example is the establishment in the fall of 1990 of a Florida state alliance
program of the advertising industry's Partnership for a Drug Free America.
The project is patterned after the coalition of advertising and media
interests brought together for the national program by the American Association
of Advertising Agencies, including Florida media associations, Four A's
Florida Council and the 4th District American Advertising Federation (Florida
and the Caribbean)
A separate, non-profit corporation was formed, and AAF's 4th District
requested and received a federal grant to cover operating expenses. The
national partnership supplies all its campaign materials to the Florida
group free of charge. The ad clubs market the program throughout
the state, and all media in Florida have been asked to commit to a minimum
amount of anti-drug PSAs for one full year.
The result in 1991 was $32 million of media support, making Florida
the state with the highest level of anti-drug abuse messages in the country.
Tom Hall, chairman of Palmer Brown in Tampa and chairman of the Florida
partnership, sums up the program: "We have demonstrated how to approach
public service advertising in a different way. The result is a more expanded
effort and a more effective one."
I suspect there is another benefit as well. State and local governments
share the public's concern over drug abuse and the terrible financial burden
it creates. These are the same governments that are often ignorant and
critical of advertising. A positive industry response to a critical public
concern could help create the more favorable climate and attitude for advertising
that it deserves but rarely achieves.
In Florida, where the threat of an ad tax has resurfaced, the governor
recently held a special reception to personally thank everyone involved
in the Florida partnership.
Six other states are developing public service programs patterned after
the Florida partnership. The national partnership is delighted and hopes
the program will spread to all 50 states.
It's a Main Street idea worth pursuing.
Mr. Bell, former president of the American Advertising Federation, is
a member of the law firm Wiley, Rein & Fielding in Washington, D.C.