In 1976, the Ad Council and Prevent Child Abuse
America (PCAA) partnered to develop a public service advertising
(PSA) campaign to raise awareness of what was then a hidden
crisis - child abuse. At the time, less than 10 percent of
US adults considered child abuse to be a critical social problem.
But in reality, more than one million children in the United
States were being abused each year, profoundly impacting individual
lives and communities across the country.
The PSA campaign was designed to promote public understanding
of the scope and ramifications of child abuse, encouraging
the public to write for more information. The first PSAs featured
the tagline, "It shouldn't hurt to be a child,"
and generated an incredible response from the public. In the
first month of the campaign, more than 40,000 people sent
letters to PCAA. In 1978, the campaign was recognized with
the International Advertising Association's Public Service
Advertising Award as "the best public service advertising
campaign produced by an agency anywhere in the world."
The campaign began to urge the establishment of child abuse
prevention centers in the communities throughout the nation
or joining existing programs. In conjunction with this appeal,
PCAA began developing a broad network of chapters to help
prevent child abuse on the local level. In 1980, there were
12 chapters, but by 1984 that number increased to 46 chapters.
A 1981 survey found that five years after the campaign launch,
a whopping 91% of the American public considered child abuse
to be a major problem and less than 4% thought that individuals
could do nothing to prevent it. Later evolutions of the campaign
offered practical solutions to preventing child abuse, such
as simple alternative behaviors to discourage lashing out
in fits of anger. Those PSAs featured the tagline, "Take
time out. Don't take it out on your child." Singer Michael
Bolton lent his talent to produce a radio PSA.
Through the years, the campaign shaped the way Americans
viewed child abuse. In 1996, more than 18,000 calls were made
to the hotline and more than 95% of adults surveyed said they
believed child abuse was a serious problem. This PSA campaign
reflects the power of public service advertising to effect
positive change. It began with the unprecedented public exposure
of the problem and continued with the public's willingness
to finally take action.
As a result of the success of the PCAA campaign, the Ad Council
has added Childhelp USA, a Child Abuse campaign with a focus
on intervention, to its docket. This year, more than three
million cases of child abuse will be reported in the United
States. Sadly, most experts believe the actual number of incidences
is three times that number. The new campaign encourages people
to "Trust Your Instincts" when it comes to reporting
||Take Time Out (1986)
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