As we approach Election Day, I question why there are so many political ads despite people’s constant complaints about them. But, it’s really quite elementary:
- Political ads are a cash cow for TV and Radio Stations. Stations are in business to make money and they are making hay while the sun shines: an estimated $1 billion will be spent on political ads this mid-term election cycle, according to Wesleyan Media Project; and
- Political ads actually work! Studies have shown that the candidate who spends more on their ad campaign wins. According to a 2012 study conducted by the nonprofit United Republic, the candidate with more money won the race 91% of the time.
As political ads start to flood our airways, we can’t turn on the TV or radio without seeing or hearing one. In fact, during the 2012 campaign, TV viewers had to endure more than 3 million political ads (source: politico.com).
This ensuing ad traffic jam will last until Election Day, which begs the question: is there any room left for the airing of TV and Radio PSAs? Yes, there is! While there is no denying that political ads will have some impact on the number of PSA airings, we have found that there is still a good amount of ad space left for the airings of PSAs. Political ad buying has become more targeted with less blanket media buys. This shift in ad buying opens up blocks of ad time for PSA airings.
In addition, demand will always exist for PSAs from PSA Directors. Yes, even during an election cycle. And, once a PSA gets into a station’s rotation, it tends to stay in rotation and the number of PSA airings will simply just ebb and flow around an Election Day. The rules regarding a PSA’s demand/airings, even in an election year, remain basic.
And, I actually see a real benefit to PSAs airing during an election cycle. Juxtaposed against a negative, sensationalized and unappealing political ad, a PSA only becomes more appealing and trustworthy. Viewers/listeners could be more inclined to head to a non-profit’s website to learn more about an organization and maybe even make a donation!
Non-profit organizations can take advantage of people’s dislike of political ads and seize this opportunity – they too can make hay while the sun shines.
What’s music to my ears? A PSA Director telling me, “We are running that one as of today.” Those are words I want to hear from every television PSA Director.
Television generally is the most sought-after PSA medium; therefore, it’s the most competitive. And TV PSA Directors are looking to weed out (read: throw out) PSAs because they tell us they are inundated with requests for airtime! I sit on pins and needles waiting to find out if a PSA Director will air one of our PSAs. I want to and strive to make every PSA campaign a home-run.
So what factors can stop a TV PSA from reaching its full potential? Here are a few most common reasons:
- The timing of the PSA could be off
- The PSA message might not resonate with the PSA Director and the station’s viewers
- The station just received and has started running a similar PSA
- The PSA Director is understandably overwhelmed with all the PSAs he/she is receiving and does not have time to review/air them all
As you can see some reasons for rejection aren’t always in our control – while others are easily fixable issues:
- Good production quality
- Preferred format
- Proper presentation of the PSA
We pride ourselves on finding out ahead of time what a station’s requirements are – never sending a PSA without knowing the rules and guidelines of the station first. In other words, you want to know what the local rules are before you take to the field.
There is one issue/rule that is like Kyrptonite to some PSA Directors. A corporate logo. “Dun…dun…dun” (put in for drama effect only).
Some TV stations have very specific requirements for TV PSAs. If there is a corporate logo in a PSA, it will get rejected out-right and for that reason and that reason alone. Many stations say right on their website: “It is the policy of our station to limit logos of a Public Service Announcement to the retaining foundation or non-profit organization only. No commercial or for-profit company logos will be accepted on a Public Service Announcement.“ Some stations/networks fervently believe that a PSA message is not a forum for corporate sponsors to advertise or sell their brands or services. PSAs with corporate logos are seen as commercials by some PSA Directors.
In fact, don’t even send a TV PSA with a corporate logo to these stations and waste their time – they won’t be pleased! This is regardless of what the PSA is about, what celebrity is in it, or how well produced it is.
But, I am here to tell you that a corporate logo on a TV PSA is not a death knell. We understand that sometimes it is not feasible to remove the corporate logo and work with our clients to create successful campaigns even with a restrictive logo.
While we all know that television stations will broadcast PSAs for free that doesn’t mean that PSA campaigns are free. And non-profits typically don’t have deep pockets so they look to corporate sponsors for help – we get it. And, corporate sponsors enable non-profit organizations to provide important care and community services throughout our country and take us one step closer to finding cure for diseases, increased awareness of safety/health issues, etc. “It’s the classic “win–win’ situation. The corporation gets credit for being a good citizen, while [nonprofits] receive support to accomplish good things in the community.” Society for Nonprofit Organizations, 2011
As a result, some non-profits are understandably beholden to corporate sponsors and are required to put the corporate sponsor’s logo on a TV PSA that they funded. This does typically affect the amount of stations and resulting airings for a TV PSA; however, if it’s a well-done PSA on a relevant topic, it will have stations across the USA air it.
There are many TV stations that do not have a “no-corporate logo” policy. Different stations have different policies for approval of PSAs. There are many stations that will air a TV PSA with a corporate logo simply because it’s a relevant, timely topic in a well-produced PSA. We have even had TV PSAs with logos air on stations that claim their policy is not to air PSAs with logos. Shhh!!!
So, if a corporate logo must be on the PSA and sometimes it MUST be (and we can’t say that we won’t counsel the client to remove it and/or have the non-profit and corporation create a non-profit entity to distribute the message to get greatest ROI), we work to make it the most successful campaign it can be and we have had many successful PSA campaigns with a corporate logo on the TV PSA. We have great relationships with TV PSA Directors and know the stations and networks that are willing to review a TV PSA with a corporate logo.
As the saying goes, “It’s better to try and fail than never to have tried at all.”