The Advertising Council, commonly known as the Ad Council, is an American non-profit organization that distributes public service announcements on behalf of various sponsors, including non-profit organizations and agencies of the United States government.
The Advertising Council generally does not produce public service advertisements itself, rather, it acts as a coordinator and distributor. The Advertising Council accepts requests from sponsor organizations for advertising campaigns that focus on particular social issues. To qualify, an issue must be non-partisan (though not necessarily unbiased) and have national relevance. The Advertising Council then assigns each campaign to a volunteer advertising agency that produces the actual advertisements. Finally, the Advertising Council distributes the finished advertisements to media outlets.
The Advertising Council was conceived in 1941, and shortly after, in February 1942, it was incorporated as The War Advertising Council for the purpose of mobilizing the advertising industry in support of the war effort. Early campaigns encouraged the purchase of war bonds and conservation of war materials.
After the conclusion of the Second World War the War Advertising Council changed its name to the Advertising Council and shifted its focus to peacetime campaigns. In 1945, the Ad Council began working with the National Safety Council.
- Rosie the Riveter was developed by the WAC as part of its "Women in War Jobs" campaign.
- "Crying Indian" anti-pollution campaign for Keep America Beautiful, was created in 1973 and won two Clio Awards.
- United Negro College Fund campaign, with its slogan "A mind is a terrible thing to waste", was created in 1972.
- McGruff campaign with its slogan "Take a bite out of crime" for the National Crime Prevention Council (in conjunction with the U.S. Department of Justice), was created in 1978.
- "Friends don't let friends drive drunk" campaign for the U.S. Department of Transportation that helps prevent DUI accidents until 2005, now Buzzed Driving is Drunk Driving.
- Smokey Bear campaign was created in 1944 to educate Americans about the harm wildfires could cause the war effort, and the danger that the Japanese might deliberately start forest fires by shelling the West Coast of the United States. It was 1947 when the iconic Smokey Bear phrase was finally coined: "Remember...only YOU can prevent forest fires!". 
- Vince and Larry, the Crash Test Dummies (1985 1999) a campaign about safety belts.
- "I am an American" (2001-present) a campaign launched in wake of the September 11, 2001 terrorist attack emphasizing the diversity of America. The ad features people of many ethnicities looking in the camera and simply saying, "I am an American."
- "Be cool About Fire Safety" (1996-98), a campaign that teaches kids about fire safety.
- In September 2011, Ad Council and USAID launched the FWD campaign to spread awareness about the devastating famine, war, and drought affecting over 13 million people in the Horn of Africa. The initiative garnered the participation of celebrities like Uma Thurman, Geena Davis, Josh Hartnett, and Chanel Iman, who starred in Public Service Announcements that asked the public to FWD the facts about the crisis.
Organizations with campaigns done by the Ad Council
- Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality
- American Cancer Society
- American Foundation for AIDS Research
- American Heart Association
- American Red Cross
- AmeriCorps VISTA
- Autism Speaks
- Big Brothers Big Sisters of America
- Family Violence Prevention Fund
- Give Kids The World Village
- The Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation
- Keep America Beautiful
- National AIDS Network
- National Crime Prevention Council
- Peace Corps
- Save the Children
- United Negro College Fund
- United States Department of Agriculture
- United States Department of Health and Human Services
- United States Department of Justice
- United States Department of Transportation
- United States Olympic Committee
- WIC (Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children)
Relationship with Disney
Many recent Ad Council PSAs predominantly use Disney characters, such as Baby Einstein for the LATCH System for the U.S. Department of Transportation, Pinocchio and The Jungle Book for MyPyramid, Bambi, Sleeping Beauty, and Disney's Adventures of the Gummi Bears for Smokey Bear, Cinderella for child booster seats by the U.S. Department of Transportation, and the Little Einsteins for art instruction.
Radio show host/Comedian Adam Carolla has many times taken umbrage with the Ad Council on both his show, The Adam Carolla Show and Loveline, stating that they do not provide any value, and that the topics they choose to provide statements on are not real issues that affect Americans, such as airplane turbulence, or are issues that an ad on public radio could not possibly do anything about, such as housing discrimination. Furthermore, Carolla has stated that this valuable time taken up could be used to enlighten Americans on topics such as teen pregnancy and options, or illiteracy, topics that have a much more significant impact on society.
Given the Ad Council's historically close collaboration with the President of the United States and the federal government, it has been labeled by Robert Griffith as "little more than a domestic propaganda arm of the federal government."
The Ad Council has been further criticized for distracting the public by focusing on individual lifestyle changes, rather than on the need to fix social problems by changing institutions, such as the Ad Council's many corporate sponsors, or the government and military, whose campaigns the Ad Council has also promoted.
Notes and references
- Robert Jackall and Janice M. Hirota, The Image Makers: Advertising, Public Relations, and the Ethos of Advocacy (University of Chicago, 2000). ISBN 0-226-38916-2 (paperback: ISBN 0-226-38917-0)
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