by Bill Goodwill
Public service announcements (PSAs) or public service ads, are messages in the public interest, disseminated by the media without charge, with the objective of raising awareness, changing public attitudes and behavior towards a social issue. Only IRS 501(c) (3) non-profit organizations and government agencies qualify for free PSA time and space.
What Can I Expect from a PSA Campaign?
There are so many different factors that affect PSA campaign usage, making this a difficult question to answer. However, making some assumptions, which are that the PSA is well produced; it addresses an important social issue; it is produced in different lengths and sizes; is well promoted and distributed, here is what you can expect:
Assuming it costs $200,000 to produce and distribute a multi-media PSA campaign, that would result in a benefit-to-cost return of 55 to 1.
Direct sponsor benefits, such as using the sponsor’s logo or website URL in the PSAs, are somewhat limited in the broadcast media (TV and radio) because the rules governing usage limit overt commercialization of a PSA.
This includes using scenes of the corporate sponsor, their logos, website URLs, spokespersons etc. We have distributed a couple of TV PSA campaigns where the sponsor insisted on putting their sponsor’s logo on the end tag, and the campaign performed reasonably well.
However, there is no data on how it might have performed if the corporate sponsor’s logo was not included.
We recommend that the corporate sponsor use other means to tie-in with the PSAs, such as to create Point of Purchase materials available in retail outlets reinforcing the campaign; perhaps co-branding their paid advertising with the non-profit’s logo; and use out-of-home posters, which have almost no restrictions on what you can show or say in your creative approach.
When corporate sponsors insist on aggressively using a PSA campaign to get their message out to the public, this approach is no longer a PSA campaign. It becomes a different form of mass communications called cause related marketing (CRM). For additional background on CRM, go to: www.psaresearch.com/bib9827.html.
Rationale for Using PSAs:
There is no mandate for using PSAs – none whatsoever – even for broadcast stations, which are regulated by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC). That begs the question then, why do the media use them? There are several reasons.
First, the broadcast media (broadcast TV and radio, but not cable TV), have to prove to the FCC that they are serving the public interest in order to get their broadcast license renewed. One of the ways they meet this mandate is to show the number of PSAs they have used, along with other public interest initiatives that they undertake.
For all media – including those not regulated by the FCC – PSAs help them brand their media properties and demonstrate that they truly care about trying to solve important social problems in local communities.
This graph, demonstrates why all media use PSAs. They help them build a stronger brand image in the marketplace, and they use that to increase revenue and ratings (audience) which are the lifeblood of any media property.
From a more pragmatic standpoint, the reason why many non-profits use PSAs is simple: they work. On the home page of our corporate website, we have a series of case histories that show:
For more information on various aspects of PSA campaigns, go to www.psaresearch.com/faq.html.
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Using Advocacy Advertising to Help Organizations Achieve Their Critical Mission.