BRANDING APPROACH TO PSAS COULD PROVE TO BE COSTLY: WOODEN

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For ruth wooden, her 11 years as president-CEO of the Advertising Council was a time of challenges.

The Ad Council not only moved into new offices during that period, but it adopted a more research-oriented model and a mission to target children and families with new public service campaigns.

Ms. Wooden, who on July 1 becomes president of the National Parenting Association, points to the mission change and shifts in the way the Ad Council approaches media as the biggest changes for the organization under her tutelage.

'ABOUT EFFECTIVENESS'

The revised mission was "about effectiveness" and not waiting for an issue to become "a crisis as opposed to preventing it in the first place," said Ms. Wooden.

"We froze the docket. . . . Now 80% of our campaigns address the needs [of families and children]," she noted.

The council's media approach changed because of the increased difficulty of getting the resources committed to public service messages.

"It was harder and harder to get resources and donated media," she said. "The ability to volunteer is not as easy as it used to be. And, with the media proliferation, it is harder and harder to get time that cumes," referring to the accumulation of gross ratings points.

BRANDING PSA'S

Ms. Wooden, aided by former Federal Communications Commission Chairman Reed Hundt, led an effort to get TV networks to recommit time to traditional PSAs, but in the end reluctantly agreed to alter policies and create "branded" campaigns featuring Ad Council causes for individual networks.

"I may sound like a Luddite, longing for the days of traditional public service ads, but it's not in the cards," she said. "It's unfortunate that in the current environment, [non-commercial] time is so heavily skewed towards promotions. . . . Promotion has become sacrosanct in the media."

She said she worries that the effort to brand public service campaigns could prove costly and make it more difficult to reach media levels that are effective.

"The new model is very labor intensive. If everything is branded, then nothing is universal. It is very unfortunate."

Yet she is pleased at the switch to children-oriented causes, and believes the change has had both direct and indirect effects.

"In taking this approach, we have educated so many people in industry that the issues are drawing a lot of attention from the media outlets in their own campaigns. There is a lot of momentum.

"I think we identified the place we have to be, but it will be a continual struggle in this media climate to get enough exposure to change things for

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