In 2000, the strongest year ever for advertising spending, the time and space donated to public service campaigns created by the Advertising Council also reached a record.
The council received about $1.55 billion in donated media time and space, a 38 percent increase from the $1.12 billion in 1999. And with advertisers spending less in a sluggish economy, the council hopes to do better this year.
"We hope to grow it, of course, and I think there is plenty of room to grow" even if overall public service advertising does not increase, said Peggy Conlon, president and chief executive at the 59-year-old council in New York, which produces campaigns to educate viewers about issues like crime, drunken driving and seat-belt use.
"It's definitely an opportunity for us to get our P.S.A.'s out there," Ms. Conlon added, and the slowing economy "certainly has been a factor in the increase that we've seen in media in the first quarter."
Donated media time and space increased 23 percent in the first quarter, to $323.9 million from $262.9 million in the quarter a year earlier. Radio, the Internet and television were the top three donors in the first quarter, as they were in 2000.
Donations by radio in the first quarter rose 34 percent, to $159 million from $119 million; Internet donations were up about 13 percent, to $77.1 million from $68.5 million. Donated television advertising fell about 3 percent, to $61.6 million from $63.2 million.
"We're not looking for a huge increase in television inventory going to P.S.A.'s," Ms. Conlon said. "We know that they have to generate revenue and that may actually work against us because if they're getting a lower rate, they have to sell more ads in order to meet their revenue projections."
The donated time and space last year had the largest percentage increase since 1994, and 2000 was the third consecutive year that the value exceeded $1 billion. It was fueled by the sharp growth on the Internet and by continued support from radio.
And it was not just because of altruism. Ms. Conlon attributed the council's success in 2000 to three things: compelling campaign topics, emphasis on the importance of creative work and an increase in media outreach.
Radio was also the largest donor in 2000, providing $707 million of time, an 18 percent increase from $597.7 million in 1999. After radio was the Internet, whose donations jumped 499 percent, to $391.6 million from $65.4 million. Television was again third, up 0.5 percent, to $316 million from $314.6 million.
"I don't have any empirical evidence that the whole category of public service advertising grew," Ms. Conlon said. "We just look at what our part is in it, and I think what we experienced was probably a better share of market of that piece of the pie that is public service advertising."
She acknowledged that the Internet, the medium that had the largest increase, was also one that attracted cynicism because of skepticism about the effectiveness of banner advertising. But, she said, the council had found that the largest source of traffic to sites operated by Environmental Defense in New York was from Internet users clicking on donated banner ads.
Of the council's 40 or so campaigns, the two that earned the most donated support in 2000 did so because of the Internet. They were the campaign for Environmental Defense, at $169.5 million for the year, followed by one for the National 4-H Council in Chevy Chase, Md., with $117.3 million.
The campaign for the National Crime Prevention Council in Washington, which traditionally attracts the most in donated time and space, was third with $75.4 million. The council said that if the Internet was excluded, the crime prevention campaign would be No. 1, and it attributed the change to preferences among people who make decisions about online advertising.
The council said it had been working to make sure its campaigns were being brought to the attention of the public service directors who decide whether to donate time and space, and it had been doing so by acknowledging the contributions of the media; educating agencies, advertisers and outlets; and attending media conferences, among other things.
The council is also trying to work more closely with regional markets and is providing more information about local associations and groups that are a part of a campaign. For example, the council is offering TV spots that can be "tagged" by local networks featuring their anchors, weather forecasters or sports figures.
To increase awareness and make the content more relevant, the council has started partnerships with organizations like the Association of Hispanic Advertising Agencies in McLean, Va. (about six campaigns now have a separate Spanish-language component); Mediascope in Studio City, Calif., which promotes media responsibility; and Promax in Los Angeles, an organization for promotion and marketing executives.
"We're also going to put together a media advisory committee this year that will help us look at the issues that come before us," said Ira B. Tumpowsky, executive vice president for media at the council, "and maybe there's somebody out there that has a creative idea that we haven't tapped yet that we can look at and see how it works in the marketplace."
Allison Fass, The New York Times. August 3, 2001
Copyright © 2001 The New York Times Company. All rights reserved.