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Old July 30th, 2012, 07:26 AM   #1
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how do PSAs work?

I'm going to start work on a series of short informational videos for a non-profit's website. We'll be asking individual businesses to sponsor each video, and giving them either on the web page or in the video itself.

The NP had the idea of using some of the material as the basis for a PSA on one of the local TV stations.

I'm new to this PSA stuff, but after some digging on the web, these are my tentative conclusions:

1. Any hint of commercialism, like mentioning a business that sponsored the video, is likely to disqualify it.
2. The TV stations seem to like creating the PSA in-house so they can win awards for their work and, presumably, charge more for the local commercials they produce.
3. The 2 major broadcast stations here seem to favor very non-controversial nonprofits for their PSAs, like a camp for kids with cancer and a post-hurricane community rebuilding coalition. My client is not nearly as mainstream.

Am I on the right track with these thoughts?
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Old July 30th, 2012, 10:27 AM   #2
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Re: how do PSAs work?

1. Correct, commercialism is not allowed unless it's a fund raising event. i.e. Race for the Cure sponsored by... (which is really more of a calender event).
2. When I worked in production we hated PSA's. They were extra work for no additional revenue and we'd post them as quickly as possible with as little work as possible after paying advertisers commercials were completed.
3. Remember PSA's are used to fill in for time not taken by paying commercials. The station/traffic manager can choose to air your PSA or not based on any criteria they choose.
"The good thing about science is that it's true whether you believe it or not." Neil deGrasse Tyson
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Old August 3rd, 2012, 10:28 PM   #3
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Re: how do PSAs work?

Over the years, the amount of PSA time a broadcast station has to give away has gone down - way down.

Any station with a "personality" - generally any station with TV news or local programming - will want to produce their own PSAs for their own events, featuring their own talent: "News 4 presents News 4's Pencil Drive for Kids with Cancer, hosted by News 4's own Guy Smiley".

The Ad Council sends out PSAs en masse, they are guaranteed to be good, un-controversial, NAB approved, easy to ingest/broadcast, and fulfill those hours for the FCC.

Given these factors, it is difficult to get a broadcast PSA on a decent station.

Crappy broadcast stations (no news, small transmitters, translator stations, low-power stations) may make arrangements to air your PSA, especially if you involve them in "decision making". The eyeball count is much lower, but still, it's eyeballs.

Lastly, public access stations (on cable), educational stations, local channels, college stations, often have time to kill and a derth of programming to use. They are open to :30 PSAs, :60 PSA's, 2:30 full break PSAs, and sometimes 28:30 informercial PSAs. They are run by your cable operator, who also has time to kill on all those obscure cable channels. While the slots on ESPN and Discovery are high dollar spots, the cable operator might be undersold on the pet channel - which might not get great ratings, but if your PSA client is a dog rescue, it might just be the right demo for you.

I have personally had a fair amount of luck with cable operatiors. As always, relationships are key.
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Old August 6th, 2012, 09:59 AM   #4
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Re: how do PSAs work?

This is really helpful information, and aligns with what I've observed on our local stations. Mike, almost an exact match for your example is our local NBC station's Xmas toy drive. They'll have the weatherman or a reporter in 10 second spots to urge people to come to the mall with a wrapped toy and give it to the very same news/weather people. Other things they push are all very mainstream: jazz festival, First Night festival, etc.

I never thought of those event promos as PSAs, since I was remembering the old, elegantly produced PSAs for national organizations ("Keep America Beautiful" "A Mind is a Terrible Thing to Waste" etc) Come to think of it, I don't remember ever seeing a PSA with any production values or real writing/directing on the local stations.

I think I'm going to suggest that my client focus on the local cable channel, which will actually produce an entire 1/2 hour show in their studio on any topic of interest to the public. They could have a few non-profit staff talk about other developments at the org and show an example of one of the videos I'm doing.
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