Pro-Social Advertising

PSA – ads which make you think April 18, 2010

Filed under: Essay — akvablog @ 4:45

Do you know how much advertising are you exposed to? According to Cognitive Psychology of Mass Communication, everyone is exposed to at least 500ads daily. (Harris) That is quite a big number, isn’t it? But, honestly, how many of them do you recall the day after? Three, one, none? If none, then money and effort spent on these ads were useless. But, what if some advertising has so called ‘stopping power’ which makes you stop, think and then take the idea and bear it in mind? This one you would certainly remember. And such stopping power has PSA in majority, if not in all, cases.

Common purpose of advertising is to persuade audience. It should persuade audience in many ways with different effects. Main effects of advertising are behavioral (buy the product), attitudinal (like the product) and/or cognitive (recognize and/or learn about the product). (Harris) Each advertisement should create at least one of these effects otherwise it can be considered ineffective. In case of Public Service Announcement, the advertisements work primarily with the cognitive effect which let people think about the problem, recognize it and learn from it. Public Service Announcement, or in other words pro-social advertising, according to Hastings and Prince Edward District School Board, is ‘a 30 to 60 second video and its goal is to persuade an audience to take a specific action or adopt a particular viewpoint on a cause or social issue’. (‘Characteristics…’) Therefore it focuses mainly on daily issues which are considered as a threat to the society and which society does not take as seriously as it should. (Many examples of PSA campaigns you may see in my additional articles and recommended blogs where you alone can also judge the way of persuasion and overall effectiveness of this kind of advertising.) What else have to be mentioned is that majority of PSAs are made by non-profit, non-governmental organizations and are done to serve a purpose – to raise awareness, not to raise sales. In my personal view, the advertisement focusing on daily issues which are considered as a threat to the society are by itself powerful. And the execution in majority of cases is even more powerful and effective if gets to the viewers. Both those factors of success of this campaigns are also supported by very straight forward and original way of execution and therefore also very powerful considering sent the message. For instance, look at this quite new example of PSA focusing on protection against AIDS.

This video called Zizzi Grafitti was made by Association Française de Lutte Contre le VIH/sida et les Hépatites Virales (French association for AIDS and hépatites virus protection). (‘Zizi Graffiti’) Its execution is apparently talking to young generation and their style of life and it is bearing crystal clear message thru, on one hand, very funny and sad way, but also on the second hand, it provides acknowledgement about the issue.(If you are interested more in this area of PSA and you are advanced in French, you may visit AIDES web site to read and see their other campaigns = ) Such formats of advertisement are usually used for PSA campaigns and as you can see, they are very powerful, effective and you really will not forget them the day after. And other, let’s say, add value to PSA is that its ads are very quickly spread via various media – like Facebook, e-mail, or blogs – and therefore it targest many people for which such advertisement was done. And if it works this way, we may say that PSA has a ‘stopping power’.

Unfortunately, PSA was historically not often visible in media, because as Harris in his A Cognitive Psychology of Mass Communication sais, the time freed for these ads was always late night, or soon morning when other advertising agencies do not want advertise, because nobody is watching/hearing it. (Harris) But, fortunately, these times are over and we may watch/listen to at least some PSA. One of them is also Nemyslíš, zaplatíš! pro-safe driving campaign. (For more information and videos, check my additional posts.) This campaign is reminding people about the usual issues which lead to tragic consequences and is broadcasted not only in TV and radio, but also on Youtube, Facebook and various blogs focusing on this field. And by using various media, the message is easily spread among the target audience. So, even though PSA campaigns are not often visible in mainstream media, their power and effectiveness is even bigger. Do you now, after reading this post, remember the PSA AIDS campaign video I’ve talked about? Do you know what to do to protect yourself against AIDS?  If you do, then you will agree with me that PSAs have stopping power and work very effectively. And you are the real verification of it.

“Zizi Graffiti.” AIDES. Web. 02 May 2010. <;.

 ‘Characteristics of effective public advertisement’. Hastings and Prince Edwards District School Board. May 02, 2010.

Harris, R. J. (2004). A Cognitive Psychology of Mass Communication. Available from

Reklama Prezerwatyw. Uzywaj Prezerwatyw. Stop Aids. YouTube. Web. 02 May 2010.


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