Frequently Asked Questions
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A. Simply put, we’re the largest producer of public service advertising. We represent a unique collaboration between the advertising, media, and business communities. The leading advertising agencies from throughout the country lend us their best and brightest talent to develop our campaigns pro bono and the media industry generously donates the advertising time and space to deliver our messages to the American public.
Our mission is to identify a select number of significant public issues and stimulate action on those issues through communications programs that make a measurable difference in our society. To that end, the Ad Council marshals volunteer talent from the advertising and communications industries, the facilities of the media, and the resources of the business and non-profit communities to create awareness, foster understanding and motivate action.
A. Ad Council campaigns are produced pro bono by the country’s leading advertising agencies, who donate their services on a volunteer basis. The people of these agencies donate their ideas, expertise, and time to help create each one of our ads. Each Ad Council campaign is sponsored by a non-profit organization or federal government agency, which provides the production and distribution costs and serves as the "issue expert." The Ad Council works closely with the advertising agency and sponsoring organization throughout the (approximate) 9-month process to develop a campaign which involves 6 major stages: 1) research and planning; 2) strategic development; 3) creative development; 4) production; 5) distribution/media outreach; and 6) monitoring and evaluation.
A. After each campaign is produced, the Ad Council distributes the PSAs to the media who donate free time and space to our campaigns which ensures our messages reach the American public. Specifically, we distribute our PSAs via a nationwide network of over 33,000 media outlets that includes TV and radio stations, print outlets (i.e. magazines, newspapers), outdoor (i.e. billboards, bus stops) and the internet (i.e. web banners). In addition, we utilize current technologies including texting, video email, satellite radio and interactive television.
We also have specialists in the top media markets (including Atlanta, Chicago, New York, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Miami and Detroit) who conduct outreach to the media locally. Likewise, maintaining longstanding and strategic relationships with most of the country’s media companies enables the Ad Council to leverage top-level partnerships on behalf of its campaigns, thereby ensuring millions in donated media annually.
On average, each Ad Council general market campaign garners between $25-30 million in donated media per year. In addition, the media donates about $1.8 billion annually to Ad Council campaigns. Click here for a list of our media supporters.
Each of our campaigns are sponsored by a non-profit organization or federal government agency who pay for the production and distribution costs.
A. Absolutely. The Ad Council has a long and proud history of stepping in when the country is facing a crisis. Just as the Ad Council created ads shortly after the attacks on Pearl Harbor to help with the WWII effort, we also created our “I am an American” campaign within days of the 9/11 attacks, providing inspiration, hope and healing to all Americans. Additionally, we quickly created PSAs to address the flu vaccine shortage (encouraging Americans who weren’t at risk to give others “a shot”). We also joined with former Presidents Bush and Clinton to urge Americans to support the tsunami relief efforts and later, Hurricane Katrina. Most recently, after the devastating floods in Pakistan, the Ad Council created PSAs with Secretary of State Hillary Clinton encouraging Americans to donate to the Pakistan Relief Fund,which helped those who were in need. Additionally, we joined First Lady Michelle Obama and the American Red Cross on PSAs to support the victims of the Haiti earthquake.
A. Advertising executives of the day were asked to rally both funds and moral support necessary for America to win WWII. Working in tandem with the Office of War Information, the Ad Council created campaigns such as Buy War Bonds, Plant Victory Gardens and "Loose Lips Sink Ships." After the war, the Ad Council’s leadership, decided to carry on their mission and help the country tackle peace-time issues. More than sixty-five years - and thousands of campaigns - later, the Ad Council remains America's leading producer of public service communications.
The Ad Council’s tradition of responding immediately in times of great need continues today. And as society has changed, so too has the Ad Council. Whether it was forest fires or polio in the ‘50s, the Peace Corps or racial discrimination in the ‘60s, pollution in the ‘70s, AIDS in the 80s, recycling in the ‘90s, the Ad Council continues to address the most pressing social issues of the day. Today, the Ad Council’s docket includes campaigns addressing childhood obesity, energy efficiency, internet safety, financial literacy, youth reckless driving, cyber bullying and autism awareness, to name just a few.
A. To find information about our classic Ad Council campaigns, you can visit the Classic Campaigns section of our website. Can’t find what you’re looking for? Please email the Ad Council's archives at email@example.com.
Click here for a list of our campaign sponsors.
A. The Ad Council’s current campaign docket is broken down into four themes: education, family & community, health and safety. For a complete list of our current campaigns, please click here.
A. We receive many inquiries from the general public, including individuals, non-profits, corporations or others about potential campaigns. We also identify possible campaigns through our Advisory Committee on Public Issues. Established in 1947, this “think tank”, comprised of prestigious leaders from the non-profit, business, research, academic, philanthropic, medical and public policy professions, advises the Ad Council on the nation’s most pressing social issues (on a pro bono basis).
In order for a campaign to be accepted to the Ad Council docket it must meet the following criteria:
- The issue should be of sufficient seriousness and public importance to warrant donations of space and time by the media
- The issue must offer a solution through an individual action
- The effort must be national in scope, so that the message has relevance to media audiences in communities throughout the nation
- The effort should be such that advertising can help achieve its objectives and those objectives can be measured
- The issue must be non-commercial, non-denominational, non-partisan, and not be designated to influence legislation.
A. Public service advertising is commonly defined as "advertising that serves the public interest." The objective of these ads is education and awareness of significant social issues in an effort to change the public's attitudes and behaviors and stimulate positive social change.
A. The objective of a PSA is to raise awareness or change behaviors and attitudes on a social issue. Public service advertising relies on donated media. In other words, we do not purchase paid airtime or space. We essentially “ask” that a media outlet - whether it’s a TV or radio station, magazine, newspaper, internet provider, or billboard company - run our PSAs for free.
PSAs are always sponsored by a nonprofit or government agency whereas a commercial is paid for by a private company who then purchase airtime and space to run their ad.
Specifically, we conduct extensive research and surveys to measure the impact of a campaign. Success of a campaign is measured by tracking donated media (via quarterly reports), tracking visits to the campaign’s website or calls to a toll-free number, and conducting pre- and post-campaign launch tracking studies that measure attitudinal, behavioral and awareness shifts among the campaign's target audience.
Through extensive research, the Ad Council is able to track the response and impact to each campaign. A campaign generally undergoes:
- Strategic research and evaluation: Extensive research and review during the campaign’s formative stage informs the most effective communications strategy.
- Communications checks: The creative concepts are tested with consumers in order to gauge their response to the advertising.
- Peer Review: For all Ad Council campaigns, feedback and approvals are solicited from its Campaign Review Committee (a panel of the nation’s top advertising executives who meet monthly to review and approve three critical stages of a campaign: the strategy, creative concepts, and final advertising materials).
- Media measurement: Donated media support is monitored to estimate the number of ad placements, media impressions generated, and the monetary value of these placements.
- Tracking survey: The tracking study gauges trends over time among the target audience. It measures awareness of the issue, recognition of the advertising, and changes in relevant attitudes and behaviors.
- Consumer response: All forms of consumer response are monitored including website traffic, brochure requests/downloads (if appropriate), email sign-ups, etc.
Want more in-depth information about how we evaluate our campaigns? Click here.
Materials and Resources Answers
A. You can visit our PSA CentralTM which allows you to browse, preview and download any of our current PSAs upon registration. Go here to get started: http://psacentral.org/. Please email firstname.lastname@example.org with any questions or problems accessing PSA Central.
A. Please email the Ad Council's archives at email@example.com. (NOTE: Due to usage restrictions, we may not be able to fulfill all requests.)
A. Unfortunately,you cannot download our PSAs from this website. However, you can visit our PSA CentralTM which allows you to browse, preview and download any of our current PSAs, including broadcast quality TV PSAs, upon registration. Please email firstname.lastname@example.org with any questions or problems accessing PSA Central.
A. Yes. You will need to get permission from the sponsoring organization of the particular campaign. For example, if you’d like to get permission to feature our Smokey Bear campaign in a text book, you would need to contact the U.S. Forest Service. For a list of sponsors and their websites, click here. If you need help, or are interested in featuring a classic Ad Council campaign or one that is no longer on our docket, please email email@example.com, or for an older campaign, pleas email the Ad Council's archives at firstname.lastname@example.org.
A. Sometimes. It depends on our resources and whether you’re located near one of our offices. We’re happy to help if we can. Please email email@example.com to place a request. Please indicate the name of your school, location, date, number of students and the topic.
A. Sometimes. It depends on the size of your group and our resources. We’re happy to accommodate you if we can. Please email firstname.lastname@example.org to place a request. Please indicate the name of your school, date(s) you’d like to visit, number of students and your topic of interest.
A. We love these kinds of requests! Please email email@example.com with the specifics of your request.
A. We have lots of PSAs that tie in to seasonal events, themes or social issues. Visit our Public Service Events Calendar which pairs campaigns with appropriate and timely events such as Energy Awareness Month, Hispanic Heritage Month and Voter Registration Month.