What is Public Service Advertising? Benefit, Disadvantage

Public service advertising (PSA) is a form of advertising that has the welfare of society in mind. It is an illustration of effective advertising because its purpose is not only to promote but also to benefit society. It is a type of advertising in which the advertiser assumes full responsibility for the advertised product or service. 

What is Public Service Advertising?

The purpose of public service advertising is to educate the public about issues that are deemed to be in the best interests of the community as a whole. Typically, it expresses a political stance, an intellectual concept, a religious belief, or a humanitarian idea.

What is Public Service Advertising?

Typically, it is also known as a public service announcement (PSA) or a community service announcement (CSA). Generally, advertisements are broadcast on radio or television, but they may also appear in newspapers and periodicals. They are ubiquitous in developed countries worldwide.

Typically, public service announcements aim to influence public opinion by raising awareness about particular issues. In numerous public service announcements, health, conservation, and safety are prominent themes.

Public service advertising campaigns are typically funded by trade associations, civic organizations, non-profit organizations, and religious organizations. As part of its recruitment efforts, the U.S. military frequently produces PSAs in addition to paid advertisements.

Examples of Public Service Advertising

1. Disability Support Services

Various non-profit organizations use public service announcements to inform the general public of their mission to aid handicapped individuals. Canine Companions for Independences, a California-based organization, employs trained service dogs to assist disadvantaged individuals.

CCI uses public service announcements to inform the public about their services and promote the benefits of assistance dogs.

2. Emergency Preparedness

The Federal Emergency Management Agency, the Ad Council, and advertising firms work together to create Public Service Announcements emphasizing the importance of emergency preparedness for the general public in the event of natural disasters such as floods, fires, tornadoes, etc.

These public service announcement campaigns were promoted through radio, print, internet, and outdoor advertising.

3. Anti Smoking Ads

At National Non-Smoking Week and the British Columbia Lung Association, a car that was crushed by a 7-foot cigarette was used to draw attention to the dangers of smoking and educate the public.

In this public service announcement, a car was placed in the Vancouver Art Gallery to inform the public that each year, thousands of British Columbians die from smoking, while only a small number die in car accidents.

4. Conservation Services Enforcement

Since his debut in 1944, Smokey the Bear has appeared in numerous public service announcements. Initially, Smokey’s public service announcements (PSAs) were broadcast on radio, but as television became more prevalent, they were shifted to television.

In his newspaper public service announcements, Smokey has used everything from full-color graphic images to austere neutral backgrounds with a single, powerful message. In 2011, Smokey the Bear appeared on printed e-cards and website banners.

5. Social Impact Messaging

Rarely have public service advertisements had such a profound social and emotional impact that they are still remembered decades later. Many of these outstanding advertising campaigns were created by the Ad Council. “Friends Don’t Let Friends Drive Drunk,” “A Mind Is a Terrible Thing to Waste,” and “Love Has No Boundaries” are examples of persuasive advertisements.

During national emergencies such as Hurricane Katrina, the Ad Council produces influential public service announcements (PSAs). On the website of the Ad Council, you can find a history of classic campaigns.

Purpose of Public Service Advertisement

In the interest of the collective welfare of the community, the government broadcasts free public service announcements to promote state programs or other social goals.

These advertisements can be distributed via any medium, including print, electronic (television or the mail), and billboards. To stimulate the public’s imagination, these advertisements may be broadcast in any medium.

Impact of Public Service Advertising Campaigns ran by CPI

According to research conducted by Robert Jackall and Janice Hirota on the historical context of PSA campaigns, the ad content and calls to action of the Committee on Public Information were instrumental in shaping public opinion.

However, it is important to note that PSAs were not the only means of convincing the public to unite and support the war efforts. However, they helped determine the best positions for American civilians during the war.

The emergence of Public Service Advertising and Origins of Ad Council

Public service announcements were widely disseminated during World War II to discourage support for the war. The Advertising Council (or Ad Council), the current provider of Public Service Advertising, was established in large part due to these efforts.

Its emblem appears in advertisements against, among other things, drunk driving, drug addiction, child abuse, and racial prejudice.

In 1941, the American Association of Advertising Agencies (AAAA) and the Association of National Advertisers (ANA) met in Hot Springs, Virginia, to discuss the prevalent anti-business and anti-advertising sentiment during the Roosevelt administration.

During this time, James Webb Young of the J. Walter Thompson office in New York, who was assisting the group, suggested that they try to improve the public’s perception of advertising by improving advertising techniques and implementing free social programs.

He drew attention to the fact that John D. Rockefeller’s (previously characterized as a robber baron) elevated public standing by becoming a generous donor.

During the vigorous implementation of this strategy, Japan attacked Pearl Harbor, and the United States entered World War II.

Then, the Conflict Advertising Council was established, which collaborated continuously with government departments to distribute advertisements aimed at educating the general public about their responsibilities during a war.

What is Public Service Advertising?

Four tactics were employed extensively in wartime advertising:

  • Marketers devoted a significant portion of their advertisements to promoting a war-related subject, such as encouraging women to join the Women’s Army Corps (WAC) or assisting former soldiers in adjusting to life after the war.
  • A Double-Barreled Advertising Campaign that uses combat themes to market products, such as by sending images to troops.
  • A Sneak Punch Ad campaign in which a sponsor snuck a war message into an ordinary commercial advertisement, such as by showing workers on wartime assembly lines sipping Coca-Cola.
  • PSA, or Public Service Advertising Campaign, promotes state, federal, and government-sponsored programs. These print and digital advertisements are also utilized by various nonprofit and charitable organizations to promote their community-based activities. As another example of a state government’s response to a catastrophic event, public service announcements were utilized to address a variety of societal issues.

Famous Public Service Advertising Campaigns ran by Committee on Public Information

  • The Combat Savings Stamps campaign urged the populace to “save the thoughtless dollars” they were inadvertently spending on guilty pleasures while soldiers perished in war zones.
  • Through the “World’s Best Mother” advertisements, the Red Cross Public Service Advertising Campaign encouraged individuals to join the Red Cross.
  • The Spies and Lies campaign encouraged individuals to distrust and repress baseless chatter, gossip, and rumors.

Why Public Service Advertising is Important

Public service advertising benefits both the businesses that create it and those who receive it. They serve the purpose of educating the community on topics such as environmental preservation, education, physical and mental health, substance abuse, crime, and driving safety.

In addition, the purpose of these advertisements is to raise public awareness of the issues in the hope that the intended audience will take steps to reduce risks, improve safety, or otherwise resolve the issue at hand. Therefore, they serve as a means of influencing public opinion.

Public service advertising offers businesses free publicity and an image boost. People who view the public broadcast notice become more familiar with the business, are more likely to contribute to any fundraisers or campaigns, and may become supporters themselves, despite the fact that the company may not explicitly solicit sales.

This is less expensive than traditional advertising, as the company will only need to pay for the advertisement’s creation. When a company becomes well-known for donating to charitable organizations in the community, its reputation improves, which can lead to an increase in customers, more funds to cover expenses, and greater community trust.

What is Public Service Advertising?

Benefits of Public Service Advertising

One of the primary advantages of a public broadcast announcement is that the organization can reach a potentially large audience for a low cost. Whether the public service advertising is broadcast on television, radio, or in print, the station or magazine will typically provide the airtime or ad space at no cost to the small business.

In contrast, public service advertising is not entirely free, as the organization must cover all production costs unless it solicits volunteers and receives donations. Public service announcements (PSAs) on radio and in print may have lower production costs than their video counterparts.

A further advantage of using public service advertising commercials is that they tend to be advantageous for both raising awareness of the issue and promoting the brand sponsoring the advertisement. The

University of Kansas believes that including the business’s contact information and a clear call to action may increase the likelihood that the community responds to your advertisement and becomes more engaged with the work your organization performs.

Disadvantages of Public Service Advertising

The competition for limited airtime is one of the drawbacks of using PSAs. According to the University of Kansas, the majority of advertising time is used for commercial purposes, so you can expect only one-third of it to be used for public service advertising.

This not only forces businesses to compete with stations and other groups for limited airtime, but it may also necessitate that a company’s public service announcement air during less desirable times, such as the middle of the night. If the station does not track this information, the company may not know when the ad will air.

In addition, public service advertising is inappropriate for sensitive topics such as politics and religion. Although a company might be able to find a station or magazine willing to display such an advertisement, it would require a substantial amount of work, so an alternative advertising strategy may be preferable.

In addition, if your organization’s goal is to influence policy on a large scale, public service advertising may not be the best approach. This style of advertising, on the other hand, is most effective when promoting a distinct action.

Planning an Effective Public Service Advertising

Before deciding on the content and structure of your public service advertising, your company must establish a clear objective for those who view, hear, or read your announcement and ensure that the subject clearly relates to your organization.

This may require research into community issues and potential solutions. If you manage a local breast cancer charity, your goal may be to educate the public about the disease’s risk factors and encourage the community to participate in your walkathon or get medical exams.

You must also identify the target group(s) for your public service announcement and understand how to elicit the optimal response from them.

For instance, you could target women over the age of 40 with a breast cancer detection advertisement, and senior individuals of both sexes with a fall prevention advertisement. If you understand your target audience or audiences, it will be easier to select the optimal presentation style when structuring the advertisement.

After determining your audience and purpose, you will need to create a few memorable points for your advertisement. You may have highlighted several crucial breast cancer risk and early detection statistics in the previous example. You may also include a memorable tagline that will be remembered by those who view your advertisement.

What is Public Service Advertising?

Structuring Your Public Service Advertising

The majority of radio and television public service announcements are one minute or less, according to the University of Kansas; 15- and 30-second PSAs are also common. Even printed PSAs should be able to be read in less than one minute.

This implies that creating an effective PSA requires capturing the audience’s attention immediately, expressing your views clearly, incorporating dramatic elements where appropriate, and emphasizing the call to action. In addition, the advertisement must have a distinct introduction, message, and conclusion for proper flow.

In the introduction, you should quickly introduce the topic and grab the audience’s attention with an intriguing question, the start of a personal narrative, or a description. For a breast cancer charity, the introduction may include a survivor and a statistic about the disease’s prevalence among women. An audio or video advertisement may also utilize a dramatic soundtrack to set the scene.

In the message section of the PSA, provide additional details about the individual’s story, statistics, or background information, and demonstrate how the issue affects the target audience and/or their families.

In this section, you should also introduce your organization and relate it to the issue at hand. In the preceding example, the charity may have mentioned that it hosts cancer-fighting fund-raising events and promotes free breast cancer screenings.

The conclusion of the public service announcement should include an appeal to the audience’s emotions, ethics, or logic in order to motivate them to take the desired action. In addition, it includes information about the company, including its website address and phone number.

The charity in the previous example could encourage the audience to schedule a breast cancer screening and direct them to its website for more information on breast cancer detection.

Pitching Your Public Service Advertising

You can begin pitching your PSA before you’ve finished writing it, or you can wait until it’s finished. In any case, you must identify potential media outlets and publications that may broadcast or publish your content.

Again, you must consider your intended audience in order for your message to reach them. A radio station with predominantly male listeners would not be an appropriate venue for a women’s health public service announcement.

Having media contacts with whom your group has previously collaborated is advantageous. If you do not, you may contact or visit local media outlets and request to speak with the person in charge of ad programming or station management.

You should inquire about PSA requirements to determine when the PSA must be submitted, the preferred format and length, and the type of organization-specific information required. A radio station, for instance, may require proof that your organization is non-profit and does not intend to air product-selling advertisements.

If you are pitching a radio or television station, the pitching process is also an excellent opportunity to determine whether and how the station will authorize and track your campaign.

Mediatracks Communications warns that some stations do not even confirm their decision to play a PSA, so be prepared to call back to determine if the advertising campaign is still active.

What is Public Service Advertising?

You should also inquire about the frequency with which the station intends to air the campaign so that you can incorporate it into your overall media strategy.

Considering Alternatives to Public Service Advertising

If your company is not a non-profit, civic, or governmental organization and you wish to promote a commercial cause, a standard PSA is unsuitable. But that doesn’t mean you can’t find other inexpensive ways to promote and exchange information about your company’s products.

Online marketing efforts in the form of videos, search engine and social media advertisements, email, and blogging can help you spread your message for little or no cost.

If you are currently paying for a corporate website, you can use it to post announcements and media and collaborate with other organizations to have them promote you on their websites.

Consider participating in local events that permit businesses to volunteer their time or give speeches, and distribute fliers throughout the city.


If you manage a non-profit organization, public service advertising can be a free or low-cost way to reach a specific audience via radio, television, print, or the Internet. Concurrently, you can increase the public’s awareness of your organization and encourage them to take a particular action, such as making a donation or following safe driving guidelines.

When utilizing public service advertising for your business, it is important to evaluate the benefits and drawbacks of this type of advertising and to learn how to properly prepare and organize your ad.


The purpose of these ads is to generate awareness or create a shift in public opinion about something important such as drug usage, drunk driving, cancer check-ups, or preventing forest fires. Public service announcements are put together and released by the Ad Council, a nonprofit education-based organization
Characteristics of Quality Public Service Announcements
  • The Message. The most important characteristic of a quality PSA is the message. …
  • Voice. PSAs should be written in a warm, conversational voice. …
  • Call to Action. Every quality PSA includes a call to action. …
  • Radio. …
  • Television.
Print and television ads, online website banners and live-announcer scripts function as PSAs.
Public Service Advertising is using the techniques of commercial advertising for non-commercial purposes. It is mainly used as a tool to promote social welfare.
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Pat Moriarty
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