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“We need a new PSA. We need it now.”

Ahh, the infamous public service announcement. A carefully crafted, message-rich video or radio spot typically created with the direct intent of promoting an issue or cause. In the old days, PSAs were often shipped off to TV and radio stations with the hopes of garnering some free air-time. Thankfully, the social web has opened up new avenues and opportunities to approach PSAs in a different way with regard to distribution. In turn, sites such as YouTube can now serve as databases to assess strong content and pluck ideas to craft your own creative message.

Recently, I stumbled across the PSA below that reminds us all to treat handicapped people fairly in society. Having helped produce a number of PSAs in my career, I was very impressed with the simple, authentic, moving nature of the spot (not to mention the fantastic music selection).

A coworker was also quick to point out that the idea seeded for the video was in fact a nearly identical rip of the creative used for this H.I.V. awareness effort:

Initially disappointed by the discovery, it brought to mind a few points about how you can best tackle your next PSA video assignment.

1. Do Your Homework: Scour YouTube, Vimeo, icyou, Facebook, Twitter, SocialMention and any other new resource you can think of to dig up video content that others have created. Particularly on YouTube, assess video details and statistics to gain a better understanding of how a video has been discovered. It also helps to scan video comments to analyze the degree of engagement and message resonance. As in the case above, chances are good that you’ll come across two or three different creative nuggets that you can seed into an idea for your own masterpiece.

2. Redefine “PSA”: The best part about social media is that it’s helping us all rethink what it means to target audiences and serve as media publishing outlets in the truest sense. You now have more flexibility than ever. Think beyond the message-dominant thirty second spot and take advantage of the flexibility you now have to craft a creative storytelling spot that may extend up to a couple minutes long. I’d also encourage you to consider crowdsourcing avenues such as BestNewAd as a way to engage the public in your efforts, build a catalog of content to share down the line and mix up your line of thinking on a particular topic.

3. Use Real People: It works. I promise. People want to hear from people like them. Your audience does not want to hear from an actor or someone pretending to have the issue you’re addressing. Give viewers authenticity and you’ve taken a solid step towards affirming your credibility.

4. Ditch the Dancing: Not that I don’t have tons of creative respect for the Pink Glove Dance and its many…many spin-offs, but it’s time for hospitals to drum up a new creative theme. Just don’t use a bear costume to hug people in the street.

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