How CPG Companies Can Reap the Benefits of PSAs

PSAs are not just for non-profit organizations. According to Ray Salo who pioneered the concept of “co-sponsored” PSAs, deregulation during the Regan administration provided a key opportunity for for-profit organizations to “co-sponsor” PSAs. For the last 10 years, Salo Productions has been developing co-sponsored PSAs that allow for-profit brands to increase awareness by acting as a credible source for the public on a key topic.

Intrigued by this marketing strategy, we sat down with Ray to evaluate how CPG companies can benefit from “co-sponsored” PSAs.

Q: What is a “co-sponsored” PSA?

A: A for-profit brand can partner with a non-profit and develop and distribute a PSA. For example, a search engine company co-sponsored a PSA with Web Wise Kids to promote Internet safety for children. The Internet safety PSA achieved more than 4,000 confirmed telecasts across the country.

This model is really a win-win-win. The non-profit gets a free ride. The for-profit organization builds brand and the TV or radio station receives good quality content they can share with viewers/listeners.

Q: What was the most successful “co-sponsored” PSA you produced/distributed?

A: “Two Causes of Asthma”, created for the Asthma & Allergy Foundation and a pharmaceutical company, is a great example of how successful “co-sponsored” PSAs can be.

The PSA aired on CNBC, MSNBC and the USA Network during the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver. This PSA was aired 60,346 times, reached 131 million viewers and achieved $663,000 of airtime. The total cost of the PSA development and distribution was less than $45,000.

Q: How do you track results of the PSAs (how often it is played, what markets, audience reach, etc.)?

A: There are two methods we use to track the results. First, we use Neilson Sigma electronic tracking. This allows us to verify what station uses the PSA, how many times it is aired and when it is aired.

The second form of tracking is through BRCs (broadcast report cards). We ask the individual stations to complete and send us back a report of how many times they used the PSA. Surprisingly, the stations are very responsive to this.

Also, companies and non-profits can track website traffic based on when the PSA aired.

Q: What is one major misconception that exists about PSAs?

A: Besides the fact that people think PSAs can only be developed by non-profits, another major misconception is that PSAs air when no one is watching TV, or listening to the radio. In fact, 80% of PSAs are telecast from the time Good Morning America starts to the end of David Letterman, with morning, mid-morning, mid-day and early evening use. Only 20% occur “late night” from 1 a.m to 5 a.m.

Q: What is the typical time line of when a station receives a PSA to when it is aired? Also, how long will stations typically air a PSA?

A: It typically takes about a week from when a station receives a PSA to when it will begin airing. Also, on average PSAs will air for about 6 months, with the majority (about 75%) of telecasts occuring in the first 3 months. The remaining 25% of telecasts air the following 3 months.

Q: Can you target geographic regions with PSAs?

A: Absolutely. If you want to hit specific markets, then we simply focus on distributing the PSA to those markets.

Q: How has the success of PSAs been impacted by the current economic conditions? How will the 2012 political race, at a time when more advertising occurs, affect the success of PSAs?

A. Typically when companies are spending less on advertising, PSA use is up because stations still have to fill that time. PSA use is up about 20% from when the Great Recession started in 2008.

While more advertising tends to occur during key political races, like the presidential race in 2012, I really do not anticipate that PSA use will drop more than 5%. This is not a significant enough drop to really affect any marketers’ decisions to not use PSAs as a marketing strategy.

The only time I advise clients to not distribute PSAs is from November 1 to December 31, unless their message ties in during the holidays.

Jennifer Manocchio


After starting her career with Edelman in Chicago, Jennifer joined Sweeney and quickly established herself as an exceptional industry innovator. In 2004, she opened Sweeney’s first full-service office outside of Cleveland and quickly rose through the ranks to become agency president. Jen leads by example and without fear. She has been critical to agency growth throughout the past decade and continues to lead the agency into the future.