Drama in a PSA

Watch this extraordinary 90-second public service announcement made by the Brits, then learn about the history of PSAs.

A public service announcement is an advertisement made for radio or television that serves the public interest and is broadcast free of charge. PSAs seek to modify public attitudes, and the most common topics of PSAs are public health and safety. Political campaign ads are not PSAs. They serve a candidate, not the public interest.

PSAs arose with the entry of the United States into World War II. Radio broadcasters and ad agencies offered their skills and facilities to support the war effort and to exhort citizens to buy War Bonds. By the end of the war, the practice of volunteering free air time had become standard.

Health professionals credit PSAs with saving millions of lives by initiating the decline of smoking in the United States. At one time, broadcast stations carried an anti-smoking PSA for every three tobacco commercials. The PSAs proved so effective that smoking rates began to decline for the first time in history, the tobacco industry withdrew all cigarette advertising, and Congress made such advertising illegal after 1971.

Some of the most famous PSAs have been Smokey the Bear’s “Only You Can Prevent Forest Fires” campaign; the United Negro College Fund’s “A Mind Is a Terrible Thing to Waste” campaign; and the Drug-Free America PSA of a frying egg with the words “This is your brain on drugs. Any questions?”

I always wear my seatbelt. For those who don’t, perhaps the seatbelt PSA above will be the visual jolt they need.

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Explore posts in the same categories: Visual Communication

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