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PSAs that Hit the Bulls-Eye

By August, Lang & Husak

In public service advertising, there is a sweet spot you hope to hit every time out. Let’s call it, um, the Bulls-Eye.

This is the highest note a PSA can achieve. To hit the Bulls-Eye, a few goals need to all happen together.

1) Your PSA message needs to be important

2) The PSA needs to be clear, provocative, smart, conceptual, engaging, compelling and visually striking

3) The piece needs to generate a buzz

All three goals are challenging. The third is the trickiest. Because – although there have been many PSAs in the past that have generated a “buzz” – not always has that buzz been beneficial.

In the name of getting noticed, it’s all too easy to generate a PSA that is simply controversial. But there is (duh) a responsibility any agency has to the underwriting organization. And these groups rarely look forward to cleaning up a PR mess. So the “buzz challenge” demands that the PSA be provocative without reflecting negatively on the nonprofit who paid for it.

We all know that the marketing press is most keen on reporting scandals. So a toxic, public backlash over a tone-deaf PSA is low-hanging fruit for editorial publicity.

“Ha. What were they thinking?” We all read and wonder.

So the Bulls-Eye PSA needs to generate talk, interest, a conversation, even opposing viewpoints – easy to do if your work is offensive, but harder to do if it isn’t. Ideally, your PSA offers a platform for the underwriter to claim a position with a constructive POV on the issue.

The press asks, the nonprofit gets to quote. Your nonprofit is in the news in a good way, and everyone wins.

Bulls-Eye.