Public Service Advertising (also Non-commercial Advertising)
"Advertising justifies its existence when used in the public interest - it is much too powerful a tool to use solely for commercial purposes." - Attributed to Howard Gossage by David Ogilvy
Advertising, in its non-commercial guise, is a powerful educational tool capable of reaching and motivating large audiences. The same advertising techniques used to promote commercial goods and services can be used to inform, educate and motivate the public about non-commercial issues, such as AIDS, energy conservation, and deforestation.
Public Service or non-commercial advertising campaigns have existed in the United States since 1942. The best known proponents of public service advertising are the Advertising Council (Ad Council) and the Partnership for a Drug-Free America (PDFA), both are nonprofit organizations. Essentially this system operates as a cooperative venture by nonprofit organizations and private advertising and media companies. The key management and intermediary role is provided by the Ad Council or PDFA. For example, to produce a campaign on an issue, such as recycling, the Ad Council forms a "partnership" with a nonprofit organization, an advertising agency and the media industry. The nonprofit provides the program initiative that is to be advertised, while the participating advertising agency and media companies provide creative, media planning and dissemination services on a pro bono basis.
Non-commercial advertising, public service advertising, public interest advertising, issue advertising, cause-related marketing, public education campaigns and social marketing are different terms for (or aspects of) the use of sophisticated marketing communications techniques (generally associated with commercial enterprise) on behalf of non-commercial, public interest initiatives.
Non-commercial Advertising and the Public Interest
With science providing an ever clearer picture of the planet and our impact on it, we can no longer ignore serious environmental, public health, and population issues. Over the last thirty years a consensus has emerged within the scientific community: to meet the long-term threat posed by environmental degradation and population growth, a policy of sustainability must be adopted worldwide.
Presently, advertising is not being used widely on behalf of serious trans-national issues such as global warming, deforestation, family planning or AIDS education. Whatever the reason, advertising's potential as an educational tool is grossly under-utilized.
If we are serious about achieving a sustainable society, the power of mass communications must be mobilized on behalf of non-commercial public interest issues.
Advertising and Not-for-Profit Advocacy Organizations
At present, the global communications infrastructure is dedicated almost completely to commercial activities. And existing non-commercial advertising messages about serious environmental issues are overwhelmed by the sheer volume of commercial messages.
To compete effectively for public opinion and acceptance, not-for-profit advocacy organizations (NGOs) must begin to use sophisticated communications techniques, commonly associated with commercial martketing, to promote sustainable activities and business practices. It is imperative that the current system for funding, producing and disseminating non-commercial messages be strengthened and extended worldwide.