EM=Early Morning 5AM-9AM
DT= Daytime 9AM-4PM
EF= Early Fringe 4PM-8PM
PT= Prime Time 8PM-10PM
LE=Late Evening 10PM-1AM
LN=Late Night 1AM-5AM
Perhaps the biggest mistake that producers make when creating TV PSA campaigns - it applies to other types of media as well - is not providing flexibility regarding spot length and sizes of print PSAs. PSAs occur when there is unsold airtime and that airtime is completely random.
The best way to insure that you at least have a chance of getting your PSAs aired is to provide a full range of spot lengths. Also looking at it from the cost standpoint, you pay for a full five-minutes of video tape and you should do everything you can to use all five minutes of that capacity. From one campaign to another where a sixty-second spot was included in the package, they will get from 40% to 70% of the usage and typically towards the higher level. Obviously the longer lengths are worth more in airtime value and they permit the producer extra time to register the call-to-action such as phone numbers and websites. In the case of MAWF TV PSAs, they were all tagged so this is an important point. As shown here, 85% of all PSAs aired were of the longer lengths (:30s/:60s) with slighly more than 40% in the sixty-second length.
Twice a year we distribute what we refer to as a “shared-reel” distribution package that includes a variety of different PSAs all dubbed onto a single reel and distributed to 500 major cable systems across the U.S. These systems include college and university stations, systems operated by municipalities, multiple systems operators, public access channels and others. With over 12,000 cable systems in America - the vast majority of which have a fairly small subscriber base - the CablePAK service is aimed at the largest cable systems with more than 15,000 household subscribers. The package as shown here is sent twice annually in the spring and fall and includes storyboards for each participating client, a four-color newsletter and a synopsis of the client's campaign.
To date, the Make-A-Wish PSAs generated just under $6 million in total exposure for the different CablePAK releases in which they participated and their average exposure is nearly 30% above the average for all participants. In 2001, MAWF attained the highest level of exposure among all participants included in the package and they were number 2 of 16 in 2002.
One of the attributes of radio is that it permits us to target very specific types of individuals due to the unique program formats for radio stations and the listening habits for each of these formats. MAW radio PSAs were distributed to 5,400 stations covering a variety of different formats, from Adult Contemporary to Urban.
The MAW radio package was highly unique, using what
is called a Radio DiskPac as shown here and comprised
of a four-color, sturdy mailing case, a four-color
script booklet with live announcer copy and a list
with phone numbers of all MAW local chapters, the
CD and an evaluation reply card.
The average number of cities in which MAWF radio PSAs were aired during 2001-2002 was 365; PSAs aired on an average of 605 stations and received 64,000 airplays. As shown here, the total value of MAWF radio exposure is just under $5 million.
There are a lot of reasons for the success of the Make-A-Wish PSA program, not the least of which is a great issue that resonates extremely well among gatekeepers and the general public. Those reasons are, in no particular order of significance:
- Outstanding creative/compelling issue
- The Children’s Television Act
- Aggressive promotion
- Local input/issue localization
- Creative packaging
The creative content of a public service advertising campaign is one of those subjective intangibles that is so hard to evaluate in terms of the impact that it makes on both media gatekeepers and the ultimate public. However, like many other creative ventures, most of us know great creative when we see it. If the PSAs are so compelling that they bring a tear to your eye…if they make you stop and ponder about how you can help a great cause…if they make you empathize with the cause to the point of writing out a check – immediately, then that is not only great creative; it is powerful advertising that worked as it was designed.
Marc Advertising of Pittsburgh, PA has been the pro-bono agency for the Make-A-Wish Foundation’s PSAs since they started using this communications technique four years ago. While all the creative is outstanding, the television PSAs take the viewer on an emotional roller-coaster because you feel so happy that the child featured in the spot is having a great day, but at the same time you feel badly because he is sick. In the words of the little boy featured in the spot, “This is the day we all got to forget I was sick.”
Children’s Television Act
Any TV PSAs that feature children automatically get favored treatment at most TV stations today due to the requirements of the Children’s Television Act, which requires stations to air a certain level of positive children’s programming and to report that activity to the FCC. In the case of the Make-A-Wish Foundation, they automatically qualify, since their basic mission is to serve the interests of children who are ill. We have a strong feeling, however, that these spots are so good and so powerful, a station wouldn’t need any mandates from the FCC to require their use.
Because the Make-A-Wish Foundation is comparatively new to the world of public service advertising, they didn’t know what their limitations were, or perhaps they didn’t know they had any limitations. They mounted an aggressive campaign on all fronts that included the Internet, out-of-home, print, TV, radio and various public relations initiatives. A sample of a MAWF banner PSA is shown below.
The result was synergistic and is reflected in the amount of airtime and print clips they generated, as well as increased donations, coming from both conventional direct mail appeals and their website. The MAWF had a young man on their communications staff who made outreach contacts day after day, not knowing that most of the people with whom he talked would turn him down. But his diligence paid off because one company after another stepped up to the plate and offered various kinds of assistance to a worthy cause. His tenacity showed that if you have the time and patience, you can make things happen even when you are asking companies and the media to give you something for free. It also shows that altruism is not dead in our country; it’s not buried; it’s not even taking a vacation. It’s alive and well and just waiting for someone to strike the right emotional chord in all of us.
Local input/issue localization
The Make-A-Wish Foundation is a locally-driven, community-based organization with 80 chapters around the country and an army of individuals dedicated to their cause. The spirit of these tireless workers is infectious, as any attendee at their annual conference will see.
From the PSA distribution perspective, these community activists play a very strong role in deciding which media outlets get PSA materials and in making follow-up contacts to provide the all- important local angle to the Make-A-Wish story. Our work on their behalf begins with developing “draft” distribution lists that are broken out by all chapters around the country and posted to a password protected section of our website called the PUBSANS (Public Service Advertising Analysis System)™ GATEWAY.
In addition to providing all the intelligence data that they need to make local media contacts, we have developed a procedure that permits local chapter outreach staffs to make on-line changes to their distribution lists and feed those changes electronically to us as their distributor.
For example, if the local chapters have media contacts that are not on our lists, they can add those they want in real time without having to prepare these lists, send them in hard copy to us and then have us post them. Similarly, if they want to delete certain media outlets, they can do that as well. They can also import the data into various software packages for use in developing custom media contact lists.
Another feature of our on-line reports for MAW is that we provide “actionable” evaluation data for each chapter. Rather than just posting distribution lists, we provide a historical record of which stations have and have not used MAW PSAs previously, the previous usage index (PUI) for the station (the number of times that station has used other client PSAs), and all the contact information the local chapter staff needs to make local media contacts. With this data, local chapter outreach staff can see very quickly which media are not using their PSAs as compared to the previous usage practices of any given media outlet.
If, for example a station has not used Make-A-Wish PSAs (indicated as a Y or N in the next to the last column) but has a high PUI (the number in the last column), they are a high priority for local contact.
These distribution reports are posted to a custom website which Goodwill Communications designed to provide various kinds of information for local community outreach staff, including how to access on-line lists, evaluation methodology, how to make contacts in the local community, links to various websites, an interactive media contact form and other tools.
The final – and very important – dimension of Make-A-Wish TV PSA localization is that tags are created for all 80 chapters, a huge undertaking, given the fact that you have four different video tape format possibilities for each of the chapters, meaning there are 320 chances for something to go wrong in terms of sending the correct format to stations with the correct tag.
Finally, we work closely with the national office in developing very creative and functional TV PSA packages that get noticed. These full-color packages stand out from all the other PSAs that are being distributed at any given time and we provide the type of materials the media can use in the correct format. We use a four-color exterior box label that is affixed to TV PSA packages; we produce a very unique radio package; and we send print media a variety of different ads in different sizes, screened appropriately for magazines and newspapers.
Obviously not everyone has an issue that is as compelling as the Make-A-Wish Foundation. However, by developing procedures to bridge the gap between national and local interests, by tagging spots locally and by creating intrusive packaging, we have helped the organization set new records in PSA attainment. Much more important, we have helped some very sick children realize their wishes and dreams.