Who says all Public Service Announcements (PSAs) have to be sad and serious? While the Sarah-McLachlan-puppies -style videos showcasing shocking images may still be powerful and effective for many audiences, there has been a growing trend in recent years to move towards more lighthearted marketing (when appropriate) for a cause. Humorous videos make these campaigns more shareable via social networks, allowing them to break-through the overly-saturated media market of PSAs and create a memorable and “sticky” social good movement.
The Ad Council – an industry leader in producing, distributing and promoting public service campaigns – has become an old pro at this style of cause marketing. For 70 years, they have been working on behalf of non-profit organizations and government agencies in issue areas such preventive health, children, education and strengthening families (most notably known for Smokey Bear’s “Only You Can Prevent Forest Fires,” the iconic “Friends Don’t Let Friends Drive Drunk” and of course, “A Mind is a Terrible Thing To Waste”).
Below we have rounded up our top 7 Ad Council videos that take a funny (and effective) approach to some serious public issues. What do you think? What makes them stand out? Do you find this style of marketing effective?
1. The Awkward Interview [Operation Graduation]
Approximately 7,000 high school students drop out every school day, which translates to one in three students. Once students make the decision to drop out, they lack the tools to compete in today’s society and diminish their chances for greater success in the future. This PSA campaigns shows how your opportunities may be limited when you don’t have a high school diploma.
2. Dad vs The Ice Cream Truck [Teen Adoption]
This heartwarming PSA illustrate that parents do not need to be “perfect” to become a parent to a teen from foster care. The PSAs take a look at some of the ordinary situations that parents experience everyday with their children, thus reinforcing the notion that it is these moments that really count. The public service ads end with the tagline, “You don’t have to be perfect to be a perfect parent. There are thousands of teens in foster care who would love to put up with you.”
3. Date Night Follies [Unplanned Pregnancy Prevention]
In the United States, 7 in 10 pregnancies among unmarried women age 18-29 are described by women themselves as unplanned (one of the highest levels in the developed world). This campaign aims to reduce high rates of unplanned pregnancies among young women, by encouraging them to find the best method of birth control for them, and use it more carefully and consistently. The PSA lets women know there is a birth control method out there for them, and directs them to Bedsider.org, a new comprehensive online and mobile program designed to make birth control easier.
4. Polyp Man [Colon Cancer Prevention]
The Ad Council launched the Colon Cancer Prevention PSA campaign with the American Cancer Society in 2002 to raise awareness that Colon Cancer is the third most common cancer and one of the most curable, if caught early. A character named “Polyp Man” was created to personify colon cancer and communicate the actions needed to prevent it.
5. Animals Talk Back [Pet Adoption]
“The Shelter Pet Project: campaign aims to encourage millions of pet lovers to make shelters the first choice and desired way for acquiring companion animals. This PSA campaign focuses on the bond that exists between a person and their shelter pet and encourages potential adopters to adopt from shelters by explaining that, “A person is the best thing to happen to a shelter pet. Be that person. Adopt.”
6. Know it Alls [Child Passenger Safety]
Motor vehicle crashes are the leading cause of death for children age 1 through 12 years-old. Based on 2010 NHTSA crash data, each day an average of almost 2 children (age 12 and younger in a passenger vehicle) were killed and 325 injured. This fatality rate could be reduced by about half if the correct child safety seat were always used.
7. Water Fountain Fail [Texting and Driving]
A texting driver is 23 times more likely to get into a crash than a non-texting driver. This campaign targets young adult drivers with a focus on texting and driving prevention. Young adults live in a connected world where multitasking is the norm. This manifests in the car where they recognize texting and driving is dangerous, but do it anyway. The average text takes a driver’s eyes off the road for nearly five seconds. When traveling at 55mph, that’s enough time to cover the length of a football field. The message being conveyed is that texting while driving isn’t multitasking, it’s essentially driving blind.
[Sources: videos and descriptions courtesy of the Ad Council]