Posted by Mary Fletcher Jones
Today, I received a comment on my March 17 Ad Council post that was basically unrelated to my point, but gave me the opportunity to make an important point about my personal beliefs, as well as my company’s business practices.
The issue today was a public service announcement sponsored by GLSEN (Gay, Lesbian, Straight Education Network). You may have seen these. They are part of the “Think Before You Speak” campaign created by the Ad Council for the nonprofit organization, and they discourage the use of the word “gay” as a negative adjective. The commenter thought the PSAs were funded by the federal government and that they were possibly infringing on his right to free speech. The campaign is not funded by the government; it’s funded by the nonprofit organization. Also, no PSA, federally funded or not, can take away a person’s right to anything, because all a PSA can do is influence someone to change their behavior. It can’t compel, intimidate, or penalize a person for not responding to the call to action.
He also called the advertisements “gay.” Although that usage tempted me to delete his comment, as I will delete comments I find abusive, I let it stand so I could inform him of his mistake, and also my point of view.
The public service announcements are particularly targeted at students, and the campaign is designed to raise awareness about bullying and harassment in schools. I find it notable as an advertising vehicle because it gives teens the words to use so that they can confront their peers who engage in hurtful speech. So I think it’s an admirable use of call to action.
For the record, Fletcher Prince supports safe and affirming schools and workplaces for all people, regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity/expression. And we never use, nor do we support the use of, the word “gay” to mean something negative or derogatory, in our personal or business practices.
Nationwide, schools will be observing a day of silence on April 20, 2012 to recognize the importance of respect for all students, regardless of sexual orientation, including the 90% of LGBT students who have been harassed at school for being who they are. Please take a moment today to watch and share the public service announcements.
- Create the next ThinkB4YouSpeak PSA for GLSEN and the AdCouncil! (uchicagolgbtq.wordpress.com)
- Bet you didn’t know: the Ad Council and public service campaigns (fletcher-prince.com)
- Video | GLSEN, Ad Council announce ‘Think Before You Speak’ TV ads to air at Super Bowl XLVI (miamiherald.typepad.com)
Posted by Mary Fletcher Jones
Do you sometimes see or hear a public service announcement that is produced by the Ad Council for a nonprofit organization or a government agency?
Did you assume that the nonprofit organization or agency received that public service announcement for free?
I did. Until this week. But I was wrong about that.
The Ad Council takes credit for these campaigns, and the public perception is that the Ad Council is responsible for them. For example, NPR just recognized them for 70 years of “Ad Council campaigns.”
But the truth is, the campaigns are initiated by other nonprofit organizations or the federal government; advertising agencies (such as BBDO and Arnold) contribute the creative at no cost; and the advertising space is donated by publishers that can’t sell the space (the leftovers) and broadcasters, who are mandated as a condition of their license to allot a certain percentage of their broadcast time to airing public service announcements.
You won’t see these nonprofits, government agencies, and advertising agencies getting much credit from the Ad Council on the Ad Council Facebook Page, however (at least, not until I mentioned it yesterday!) The Ad Council claims the campaigns as their own — and they also take credit for the impact. And I don’t think that’s right.
So if the Ad Council doesn’t come up with the idea, execute it creatively, or pay for advertising space, what is the Ad Council’s contribution? And is it fair for them to claim these campaigns as their own, as well as their impact to the community?
Well, the Ad Council does make a contribution, for a price. It actually charges some pretty hefty fees to federal agencies and nonprofit organizations for “managing” the production and distribution of PSAs. In most cases, this “sponsorship” amounts to many thousands of dollars. The agencies and nonprofits are expected to assume all costs of production (which the Ad Council expenses to the IRS – seems odd to me!). The nonprofits and agencies also pay project management fees paid to the Ad Council. For example, Autism Speaks paid the Ad Council $844,000 in fees in a recent year (as reported to the IRS).
Maybe that’s a great price for what Autism Speaks received that year, I don’t know. But I’d be curious to know what exactly they were paying for, if the creative and space were already donated. Stock photography? Or maybe it helped pay for the Ad Council president’s $862,000 annual compensation package.
Did I mention that the Ad Council was a nonprofit organization? How do you feel about a nonprofit organization paying its CEO $862,000? Still consider them benevolent?
In their most recent tax report, the Ad Council claims that it received nearly $32 million in program revenue from nonprofits and federal agencies, as well as nearly $9 million in donations and grants.
What is your opinion now of the Ad Council? And do you think they should take credit for these public service campaigns?
- The Ad Council: 70 Years Of Good Advice (npr.org)
- Ad Council Celebrates Seventy Years of Impacting American Lives Through Public Service Advertising (multivu.com)