PSAs: Play to the player's culture


17 seconds an hour may not be much to brag about, but broadcast executives were proud of their charitable work, and said so at last week’s look at the state of PSA’s hosted by the Kaiser Family Foundation. KFF’s Vicky Rideout noted that her very own organization has often had great success working with the PSA gatekeepers at various broadcast and cable outlets.

However, there is never far more demand than there is inventory to be doled out, a problem which will never be solved.

Of interest were comments by CBS exec Martin Franks. He noted that the KFF study counted spots, but didn’t mention reach, and said some very successful free spots have been tied to major broadcasts, such as the Super Bowl, and News Corp. exec Marueen O’Connell also noted success with PSAs on its Fox Broadcasting Network "American Idol" franchise.

Asked about adding public interest obligations along with the right to multicast carriage rights, Franks noted that nobody has as yet figured out how to make a penny of a second stream, much less five or six (Editor’s note: The exceptions would be in smaller markets where a side-channel is used to carry one of the up-and-coming networks.). He also said a network could use multiplexing to create "The PSA Channel." It would have ample inventory, but nobody would watch it. Both execs argued against any kind of mandated PSA burden. They also pointed out that there are numerous other ways the media forwards the public interest above and beyond making time available for PSAs.

Getting your PSA run requires creativity and flexibility. O’Connell said that News Corp. has its own charitable projects, and it helps if your mission blends in and you can co-partner with the network. Beyond that, avoid controversial advocacy, and avoid fund-raising pitches. Make your creative, well, simple but creative, and be ready to work with the network on it. Franks suggested being open to :10- and :15-second spots that drive traffic to a website for more info. Ivelisse Estrada of Univision counseled making sure that your message is culturally appropriate — don’t just take the same creative and add a translated voiceover for her Spanish-speaking audience. And Ad Council’s Kate Emanuel advocated using every media took available, not just one particular one.

NAB’s Dennis Wharton was in attendance at the session. He commented, "We’re pleased with Kaiser’s findings that there has been no decrease in public service advertising over the last five years. NAB’s own surveys reveal that local television and radio stations donate more than $7B in airtime for PSAs annually. Our survey, which does not include the value of network PSAs, further reveals the donated time is spread fairly evenly throughout all dayparts. Broadcasters’ commitment to PSAs, coupled with our life-saving AMBER Alerts, emergency weather warnings, and the hundreds of millions of dollars raised for charity through on-air fundraising appeals, demonstrates that we indeed are dedicated to serving the public interest."