The purpose of public service advertising is, in a nutshell, to motivate. The very talented and driven people I work with spend all day and frequently most of the evening trying to do just that. But there’s a common misconception that once our target is motivated, the advertising has done its job and mission accomplished! At the Ad Council we know that a motivated target can make the biggest impact in their community and inspire those more hardened to traditional public service advertising. That’s why Amanda Bagwill, a campaign manager, and I flew to Chicago for the annual Students Against Destructive Decisions (SADD) Conference.
For any “normal” high school student our workshop on starting an Anti-Texting While Driving grassroots campaign would be met with blank stares and an air of palpable invincibility. Not so with these superhuman catalysts of positive change! We were dealing with a whole new breed of highly motivated and passionate individuals who chant their hometown like NFL football players at dinner (which, if you’re not expecting it, can be pretty startling). The workshop was a total hit (the evaluations prove it) and we had created 30 passenger seat riding, phone swatting ambassadors.
These students were already on board and now they offer a vital component of changing public behavior that the Ad Council, or any company anywhere, can’t accomplish on its own – the peer to peer effect. After the SADD Conference there’s a small army of informers who have the face-to-face power of persuasion vital for reaching a target (16-24) that has an annoyingly effective “opt-out” gene. This technique of motivating people to motivate others proves itself successful everywhere – on a sports team, in a political campaign, when deciding between products, etc.
As I was bombarded with questions from these eager 14 to 18 year old information thirsty sponges of social change (AKA the SADD members) I felt what I realized shortly after I started here as a Campaign Management Intern – this position is incredibly rewarding. You can’t always feel the impact a television spot or bus shelter PSA makes on a person – Wait! Did that feel that?! Someone just decided to heed our call to action and prevent wild fires! No? Exactly my point. In the same way I was inspired to help the members of SADD they too will receive the same gratification when they begin their own grassroots campaign. This all just goes to show that motivation doesn’t stop at the TV.