RECYCLING TV PSAs
The Coast Guard is a comparatively small military service that prides itself in getting more done with fewer resources. This is particularly true when it comes to their public service advertising program. To save production cost, the Coast Guard distributed a TV PSA titled: "Hero" to broadcast TV stations, on two different occasions, but created new packaging the second time around.
For each release, the PSA was distributed to 1,100 broadcast outlets and 25 major cable networks. The PSAs were tracked using the A.C. Nielsen SIGMA electronic monitoring service for 26 weeks for the first release and 39 weeks for the second release.
As shown by the graph below, the value of the second release increased by five percent over the initial release, but part of this increase was due to the longer tracking period, still another important way to get additional mileage from a PSA.
YFU "Go Global" TV PSA
A more compelling argument for recycling is provided by a campaign we have distributed three different times for the Youth For Understanding International Exchange. YFU is a student exchange organization, which uses TV PSAs to recruit students and adult sponsors for their programs. Their PSA entitled "Go Global" has been distributed to 1,100 broadcast outlets on three different occasions and usage was monitored for 26 weeks in each case. As the graph above indicates, the second release generated 2% more value than the first release and the third time the PSA was distributed, it generated 30% more value than the initial release.
AAOS "Sedentary" TV PSA
The most dramatic example of how a recycled TV PSA performed the second time around was a campaign we distributed for the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons. The PSA shows a young boy doing everything possible to avoid exercise including putting his dog on a treadmill while he watches TV on the couch. As shown by this graph, the campaign generated four times more value the second time it was distributed.
However, there were two factors which contributed to this increase. First, we began employing an outreach specialist to contact national networks to pitch our TV PSAs to them. Secondly, in the transition to High Definition, TV stations were given up to six sub-channels to use for expanded programming, and many of them used this increased capacity to air PSAs. However, when you look at it from the benefit-to-cost return viewpoint, the second release generated a phenomenal return, since there was no production cost.
Fortunately, there are two realities of the broadcast public service environment which work in favor of recycling TV PSAs. First, there is an extremely high turnover in public service directors at most broadcast stations which means new public service directors would probably not know what the station ran previously. Secondly, many stations do not have elaborate logging systems for the community affairs department. Since it is a non-revenue producing function, they may not know what ran previously. However, when recycling a PSA, we recommend changing the packaging to give the release a fresh look. Also, in case a station tracks PSAs by title, you may want to change the title when you redistribute it so it will be tracked under a different title.
Another way to stretch scarce resources is to find new media outlets for video footage you have already shot and paid for. On every film production, a lot of perfectly good film or tape goes unused that can possibly be re-edited for another release, saving the cost of shooting new footage. Given the popularity of video sites such as You Tube, you can post longer video pieces there to tell a more compelling story than is afforded by PSAs.
Also, if you have tape or film that was used for another project, i.e. a commemorative event, think about editing it down to a shorter piece and distributing it to either broadcast or cable TV. For the Social Security Administration, we took a half-hour video tape and distributed it to cable stations and generated a substantial amount of new value from the release. Another client produced a half-hour program that aired as a paid show on broadcast TV. We distributed the half-hour program (two different versions) to cable systems and generated $4.4 million in exposure from cable usage.
If you do decide to recycle your PSA, make sure that you use a new Nielsen SpotTrac code so you will be able to distinguish the values of the recycled version from the original.
The one cost factor you need to consider when thinking about recycling PSAs is the talent payment. You need to ensure that you have arranged for the talent buy-out to cover the period when your PSA is in circulation. So, the next time your boss or your organization's financial manager calls you into the office to discuss budget cuts, think recycling. By far the biggest cost of distributing a PSA is the production cost, which you can save by reusing a PSA in your inventory, or think about using existing footage in an imaginative way.