Saturday, March 19, 2011

Ad Council-the alternative to mainstream media

There is a quote somewhere in the readings that says something to the effect of advertising should have a purpose to teach and educate. I can't for the life of me find it anywhere, but I know it's there.

At any rate, when I think of alternatives to mainstream images I think of public health and Ad Council. I have been fortunate to be exposed to the innerworkings of advertising and marketing through a class I took before I started working in public health: Integrated Marketing Communication for Behavioral Impact (IMC/COMBI). my classmates were from health ministries around the world: Bhutan, the Gambia, Namibia, Trinidad and Tobago, Indonesia, Thailand, Ivory Coast. There were representatives from the New York City Department of Health for where I work now, and UNICEF which has an office here in New York.

Just because I am and you are an informed educated individual does not mean you or I will behave the way these methods want us to respond. "Behavioral impact will emerge only with strategically planned communication programs, purposefully directed at behavioral objectives, and not directed just at awareness creation, or advocacy or public education." (Hosein 2) Integrated Marketing Communication is used in the private sector and can be applied to health behaviors. "It requires the integrated application of the disciplines of health education, adult education, mass communication, social and community mobilization, traditional media, marketing (including village-level marketing traditions), advertising, public relations and public advocacy, personal selling and counseling, client/customer relations, and market
research to the ultimate goal of achieving behavioral results." (Hosein 3) In three weeks we covered 6 main topics: communication and behavioral impact, communication techniques, marketing principles and practices, marketing research and program evaluation advertising and public relations: functions and practices, and IMC/COMBI itself. What makes IMC/COMBI different from mainstream is that it focuses on one health behavior.

World Health Organization has used IMC/COMBI to battle a whole host of diseases in the past decade. For me personally, I got to see first hand how IMC/COMBI works for lymphatic filariasis in the Philippines. The program there had already been underway for 2 years. The global elimination efforts for lymphatic filariasis involves mass drug administration to an at risk population and an already infected population. People must take the drugs once a year for at least five years. These campaigns require extensive community participation and complex logistics. Social mobilization is key in these campaigns using formal and informal channels to reach people with the message to take these drugs. National and local politcal leaders, trained health workers, religious leaders and teacher plus the mass media all have a part to play in this social mobilization. They are in a position to use their influence both to get people to accept and support the campaign and to help increase the value that people place on the campaign when they understand its benefits. They use banners and posters, television, films advertisements, etc. to convey this one message.

Perhaps it is unfair for me to focus on advocacy advertising; however it does offer alternatives to the mainstream media and "takes issues into public view by attracting media attention." (Cortese 45) Ad Council has been addressing and impacting America's most critical social issues for almost 70 years. Ad Council has been the leading producer of public service announcements (PSAs) in the United States. It was founded in a time of American crisis: World War II, shortly after the attacks on Pearl Harbor. Ad Council used the power of advertising to influence social responsibility and change behavior and has been creating public service ads ever since. Today the Ad council's mission remains the same which differentiates it from mainstream media: "to identify a select number of significant public issues and stimulate action on those issues through communications programs that make measurable difference in society. To that end, the Ad Council marshals volunteer talent from the advertising and communications industries, the facilities of the media, and the resources of the business and non-profit communities to create awareness, foster understanding and motivate action." (Mission) Advertising agencies from across the nation create the ads pro bono and PSAs are run in donated media time and space.

Ad Council created the iconic Rosie the Riveter and "We can do it" campaign slogan to help recruit more than 2 million women into the workforce during World War II, proving that Ad Council PSAs get results. (Women) Working outside the home became acceptable and even desirable. I find it ironic that this campaign was so successful that women did not want to go back to housework after the war. Before the war ended, magazines focused back on domesticity and "three million American and one million British women were fired or quit their jobs". (Wolf 64)

The Ad Council staff evaluates requests for campaigns. They focus on three categories: community, education, and health and safety. The issue must be of critical importance to to Americans; the message must be appropriate for a PSA and the entity requesting must have national fulfillment capabilities. The entity, a not for profit, present to the proposals committee and defends the appropriateness of inclusion on the Ad Council docket, and upon approval an ad agency is assigned and the campaign length minimum is 3 years. The campaign team members consist of the Ad council, the not for profit sponsor and the volunteer advertising agency.

I wanted to reference the father and his "special moment" with his son in the Log Cabin ad in the Hunger as Ideology article. "The visual image of the father lovingly serving the son undoubtedly destabilizes cultural stereotypes (racial as well as gendered)." (Bordo 119) To counter this ad is now one of my favorite ads from Ad Council. It references fatherhood and it has the visual image of the father loving his daughter which definitely destabilizes the cultural stereotype racially and gendered. An African American father is practicing his daughter's cheer routine with his daughter. It just brings a smile to my face. "The smallest moments can have the biggest impact on a child's life. Take time to be a dad today."

What makes Ad Council different from mainstream media? They are not selling us anything we do not need. Ad Council focuses on individual action that is a solution to a significant public problem. The solution can be offered through advertising. Messages need to be relevant and actionable at the community level. The intended audience is targeted with a proposed call to action. This call to action is measurable result and should be evaluated to assess the success of a campaign. The best PSA is the one that transmits only one compelling central message that we remember: "Only you can prevent forest fires." "Friends don't let friends drive drunk." "Together we can take a bite out of crime."


Bordo, Susan. "Hunger as Ideology" from Unbearable Weight.

Cortese, Anthony. "Constructed Bodies, Deconstructing Ads Sexism in Advertising"

Hosein, Everold. "NYU-WHO IMC 2010 Full Course Announcement." New York: New York University, n.d. Print.

This is from Ad Council's website terms of use: "If you would like to cite/source the website, or any portion of it, as a reference, written permission from the Ad Council is required"; however, I did not have time to get their permission.

"Mission.", Ad Council, n.d. Web. 19 Mar.2011.

"Women in War Jobs-Rosie the Riveter (1942-1945).", Ad Council, n.d. Web. 19 Mar.2011.

Wolf, Naomi. "Culture" from The Beauty Myth.

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