The Impact of Public Service Advertising

The Ad Council conducts extensive qualitative research before each campaign is produced and launched to ensure the campaign’s advertising is effective. Post-launch, the impact of Ad Council campaigns is assessed using multiple metrics, including:

  • Donated media support
  • National pre- and post-launch tracking studies of the target audience, measuring trends in awareness, attitudes and behaviors
  • Fulfillment results (e.g., website sessions, calls to 800-number)
  • Empirical data collected by external sources (e.g., annual drunk driving fatality rates)

Social change is not an overnight phenomenon. Along with patience, effective PSA campaigns require robust donated media support, a single-minded strategy and break-through creative. The Ad Council conducts customized evaluations for each of its public service campaigns. Below are some examples of results from several successful Ad Council campaigns:

College Access

Young Americans, regardless of income level, want to go to college and recognize it as essential to their future. Despite their high aspirations, many low-income and first-generation students don’t believe college is meant for them. They face obstacles such as affordability, and lack of college-going knowledge, preparation, guidance and encouragement. This campaign shows students they already possess the skills and determination needed to prepare for college.

Campaign Results:

A national tracking survey of the target audience conducted between 2007 and 2011 found:

  • Expectations of getting a college degree have grown: A higher proportion of respondents say they are “very likely” to get a four-year college degree, from 51% in 2007 to 63% in 2011.
  • More students are “very confident” that they are doing the things they need to do to get to college, from 42% in 2007 to 54% in 2011. 
  • There has been a significant increase of students who said they are “very” or “somewhat” familiar with the courses they need to take in order to get into college, from 70% in 2007 to 82% in 2011.
  • More students report that they are “regularly” taking steps to prepare for college, from 26% in 2007 to 34% in 2011.

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Emergency Preparedness

Launched in February 2003, the Ready Campaign asks individuals to do three key things to prepare for the unexpected: 1) get an emergency supply kit, 2) make a family emergency plan, and 3) be informed about the different types of emergencies that could occur and their appropriate responses.

Campaign Results:

  • In a 2005 tracking study, more than half of respondents (55%) said that they had not taken any steps at all to prepare for an emergency. In 2010, that number had decreased significantly to 44%.
  • The overall percentage of respondents who said their household has an emergency preparedness kit (defined) increased from a 44% benchmark in 2004 to 53% in 2010. 
  • The overall percentage of respondents who said they had created a family emergency plan (defined) increased from a 32% benchmark in 2004 to 38% in 2010. 

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Gay and Lesbian Bullying Prevention

Almost 90% of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) students report being verbally harassed at school because of their sexual orientation. This campaign raises awareness of the prevalence and consequences of anti-LGBT bias and behavior in America’s schools.

Campaign Results:
An Ad Council tracking survey of the target audience found: 

  • General awareness of messages about stopping to think before saying “That’s so gay” has significantly increased since the campaign launch. (16% in 2008 → 23% in 2009 → 29% in 2011) 
  • Recognition of the Think before You Speak campaign is high with 49% of teens reporting that they have seen/heard at least one PSA.
  • Since the campaign launched, significantly more teens seem to understand that it is not okay to say ‘that’s so gay.’  38% of teens in 2011 agreed that “people should not say ‘that’s so gay’ at all” versus 28% in 2008.
  • Since the campaign launched, there was a significant increase in the percentage of teens who said that they have:
    • Discussed what it means to say ‘that’s so gay’ (23% in 2008 → 26% in 2009 → 29% in 2011)
    • Visited a website to find out what it means to say ‘that’s so gay’ 8% in 2008 → 10% in 2009 → 13% in 2011)

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GED® Achievement

This campaign encourages taking the first steps toward getting a GED, and directs viewers to a toll-free number and website where they can find free referrals to local GED programs and information on the GED Diploma process.

Campaign Results:

  • In the first year of the campaign, the toll-free number received 21,623 calls; nearly 75% of callers reported learning about the number from PSA campaign materials.
  • During the same time persion, zip code search to find a GED test prep center was used 152,000 on the campaign website.

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Hands-Only™ CPR

Each year in the U.S., EMS treats nearly 300,000 people who suffer cardiac arrest at home, at work or in public locations. In the absence of immediate, effective CPR, the chance of survival decreases 7 to 10 percent per minute.Bystanders are urged to act immediately, using the new Hands-Only CPR - a two-step technique that involves calling 9-1-1 and pushing hard and fast in the center of the chest until help arrives - when an adult collapses.

Campaign Results:

Tracking research conducted in 2010, a year after campaign launch shows significant gains in key attitudinal metrics.

  • Overall awareness of Hands-Only CPR increased from 56% in 2009 to 63% in 2010.
  • More adults:
    • Agree that Hands-Only CPR could be just as effective as traditional CPR: 53% → 63%
    • Agree that anyone can do Hands-Only CPR: 52% → 58%
    • Say they were very or extremely likely to perform Hands-Only CPR in an emergency: 39% → 44%

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Hispanic College Preparation

Hispanics who have gone to college rank their parents as being most influential in their decision to continue their schooling. However, recent studies have shown that more than 65% of Hispanic parents do not have the knowledge to guide their children as they seek to apply and enroll in college. The "Your Words Today" campaign is an effort to raise awareness among Hispanic parents about the critically important role they play in encouraging their children to go to college.

Campaign Results:

In the first year of this campaign, a national tracking survey of Hispanic parents of teens found:

  • Awareness of the Hispanic Scholarship Fund increased significantly from 2010 to 2011, from 41% to 47%.
  • At least 3 in 10 had seen or heard a campaign PSA.
  • There was an increase in the number of parents who believe that they have “a lot” of influence on getting their child to take steps to get prepared for college, from 66% in 2010 to 71% in 2011.
  • Although still in the minority, there was growth in the number of parents who called themselves “very knowledgeable” about the steps their child needs to take to prepare for and apply to college, from 30% to 38%.

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Shelter Pet Adoption

Of the eight million pets that enter animal shelters and rescue groups every year, approximately three million of these healthy and treatable pets are euthanized due to a lack of adoption.The Shelter Pet Project is designed to encourage pet lovers throughout the country to make shelters and rescue groups the first place they turn to when acquiring companion animals.

Campaign Results:

  • Since the September 2009 Facebook page launch, the Shelter Pet Project has attracted more than 40,000 fans/likes.
  • On November 30, 2010, the Shelter Pet Project hosted Shelter Pet Appreciation Day on its Facebook page and received over 1,480 posts to its wall.

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