The Advertising Council, commonly known as the Ad Council, is an American nonprofit organization that produces, distributes, and promotes public service announcements on behalf of various sponsors, including nonprofit organizations, non-governmental organizations and agencies of the United States government.[5]

The Advertising Council, Inc.
Logo of the Ad Council
FoundedFebruary 26, 1942; 79 years ago (1942-02-26)[1] (as The Advertising Council, Inc.)
Legal status501(c)(3) nonprofit organization
Headquarters815 Second Avenue
New York City, New York, U.S. 10017[2]
Coordinates40°45′04″N 73°58′19″W / 40.7509767°N 73.9718453°W / 40.7509767; -73.9718453Coordinates: 40°45′04″N 73°58′19″W / 40.7509767°N 73.9718453°W / 40.7509767; -73.9718453
Area served
United States
ProductsPublic service announcements[2]
Linda Boff[3]
Lisa Sherman[4]
Revenue (2014)
Expenses (2013)$42,528,600[2]
Employees (2013)
Volunteers (2013)
Formerly called
The War Advertising Council, Inc.

The Ad Council partners with advertising agencies which work pro bono to create the public service advertisements on behalf of their campaigns. The organization accepts requests from sponsor institutions 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 Ad Council distributes the advertisements to a network of 33,000[6] media outlets—including broadcast, print, outdoor (i.e. billboards, bus stops), and Internet—which run the ads in donated time and space. Media outlets donate approximately $1.8 billion to Ad Council campaigns annually.[7] If paid for, this amount would make the Ad Council one of the largest advertisers in the country.[8]


The organization was conceived in 1941, and it was incorporated as The Advertising Council, Inc., on February 26, 1942,[1] On June 25, 1943, it was renamed The War Advertising Council, Inc.[1] for the purpose of mobilizing the advertising industry in support of the war effort for the ongoing Second World War. Early campaigns encouraged enlistment to the military, the purchase of war bonds, and conservation of war materials.[9][10]

Before the conclusion of World War II President Franklin D. Roosevelt requested that the Ad Council continue its work during peacetime.[11] On February 5, 1946, The War Advertising Council officially changed its name back to The Advertising Council, Inc.,[1] and shifted its focus to issues such as atomic weapons, world trade and religious tolerance.[12] In 1945, the Ad Council began working with the National Safety Council.[9]

Since Roosevelt, every U.S. president has supported the Ad Council's work.[13] In the 1950s, First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt and General Dwight D. Eisenhower appeared in the Ad Council's anti-communism ads.[14] In the 1980s First Lady Nancy Reagan collaborated with the Ad Council on the “Just Say No” anti-drug campaign.[15]

The Ad Council's longtime logo, used from 1974 until 2018. It is still in use on many PSAs.

The Ad Council's first president, Theodore Repplier, assumed leadership of the organization in 1947. Robert Keim succeeded Repplier as Ad Council president from 1966 to 1987, Ruth Wooden succeeded Keim from 1987 to 1999, and Peggy Conlon succeeded Wooden from 1999 to 2014, when the current president, Lisa Sherman, began her tenure.[12]

The Ad Council celebrated its 70th anniversary in 2012.[16] The Ad Council released an infographic that demonstrated its impact through the years on issues including safety belts, autism, litter reduction, crime and wildfire prevention.[17]

Since 1986, the Ad Council's archive has been housed at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.[18]

Famous campaignsEdit

  • American Capitalism was popularized in the mid-1950s as a name for the American economic system. It was endorsed by President Dwight David Eisenhower for worldwide use by the United States Information Agency, to highlight the successful aspects of the American economy worldwide during the Cold War. It depicted the United States as a society of prosperous citizens versus societies of "slaves" in the Soviet Union and China.
  • Savings Bond (1942–1980) The first campaign by the then War Advertising Council encouraged Americans to support the war effort by purchasing war bonds.[19]
  • Security of War Information—Loose Lips Sink Ships (1942–1945) The War Advertising Council's "Loose Lips Sink Ships" and "Keep It Under Your Stetson" public service ads reminded Americans to be discreet in their communication to prevent information from being leaked to the enemy during World War II.[19]
  • Wildfire Prevention (1944–present) The Ad Council's longest running campaign, Smokey Bear and his tagline, "Only You Can Prevent Forest (now Wild as of 2001) Fires", was created in 1944[9] 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/wild fires!"[20] The Forest Fire Prevention campaign has helped reduce the number of acres lost annually to wildfire from 22 million to 8.4 million (in 2000).[19]
    Smokey Bear
  • Bye Bye Baby (1968-1999) The longest running PSA in the history of American Television was one of several spots encouraging viewers to “Give to the College of [Their] Choice” while subtly showing a crying baby as a symbol for those who might not have a future at all without a college to go to.[21]
  • American Red Cross (1945–1996) The Ad Council PSAs for the American Red Cross has recruited blood donors, enlisted volunteers, and raised funds for the Red Cross for more than 50 years.[19]
  • Polio (1958–1961) PSAs for the polio vaccine helped get 80% of the at-risk populace fully immunized, eradicating the disease in the USA.[19]
  • Crying Indian (1971–1983) This was an anti-pollution campaign for Keep America Beautiful. The iconic “Crying Indian” ad, which featured Italian-American[22] actor Iron Eyes Cody, first aired on Earth Day in 1971.[19] The campaign helped reduce litter by as much as 88 percent by 1983[5] and won two Clio Awards.[23]
  • Peace Corps (1961–1991) PSAs featuring the tagline "The Toughest Job You'll Ever Love" helped recruit thousands of volunteers to the program. In 1991, 30 percent of Peace Corps volunteers had been reached through the Ad Council's recruitment campaign.[24]
  • United Negro College Fund (1972–present) This campaign, with its slogan "A mind is a terrible thing to waste," has helped raise more than $2.2 billion and helped to graduate more than 400,000 minority students from college or beyond.[9]
  • McGruff (1979–present) This campaign's slogan is "Take a bite out of crime" for the National Crime Prevention Council (in conjunction with the U.S. Department of Justice). It was created in 1978.[9]
  • Drunk Driving Prevention (1983–present) This campaign is intended to reduce the number of DUI accidents and alcohol-related fatalities, this campaign with the U.S. Department of Transportation has featured the taglines: "Drinking & Driving Can Kill A Friendship", "Friends Don't Let Friends Drive Drunk" and "Buzzed Driving is Drunk Driving".[25]
  • Vince and Larry, the Crash Test Dummies (1985–present)[9] This is a campaign about safety belts. Since the introduction of this campaign, safety belt usage has increased from 14% to 79%, saving an estimated 85,000 lives, and $3.2 billion in costs to society.[19]
    The Crash Test Dummies
  • AIDS Prevention (1988–1990) This Ad Council ad campaign was the first to use the word "condom" in America. The PSAs informed Americans of the dangers of the HIV and encouraged them to "Help stop AIDS. Use a condom."[19]
  • Domestic Violence (1994–present) The PSAs encourage people to get involved in efforts to prevent domestic violence and to intervene if they know someone in an abusive relationship. In the first year of the campaign, more than 34,000 calls were made to the Family Violence Prevention hotline.[26]
  • I am an American (2001–present) a campaign launched in wake of the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks emphasizing the diversity of America. The ad features people of many ethnicities looking in the camera and simply saying "I am an American". A slightly updated version of the ad was shown in 2011, during the 10th anniversary of the attacks.
  • Adoption from Foster Care (2004–present) This campaign delivers the message that "You don't have to be perfect to be a perfect parent." Since the beginning of the campaign, more than 14,000 families have registered to adopt kids through the campaign Web site
  • Autism Awareness (2006–present) The PSAs encourage parents to visit to learn the signs of autism and to find out about early intervention. The campaign won an Effie Award for advertising effectiveness in 2008, a Silver Telly in 2009, a Silver Addy and Gold Ogilvy in 2011.[27]
  • Gay and Lesbian Bullying Prevention (2008–present) GLSEN and Ad Council launched the first campaign to address anti-gay language among teens. PSAs feature celebrities such as Wanda Sykes, Grant Hill and Hilary Duff and ask kids to stop using homophobic language such as "That's so gay."[28]
  • Love Has No Labels (2015–present) This is a campaign focused on diversity and inclusion. Its video was among the 10 most watched videos on YouTube in 2015.[29] The commercial for the campaign won the award for Best Commercial during at the 2016 Emmy Awards.[30]
  • Fatherhood Involvement (2008–present) PSAs featuring the tagline "Take time to be a dad today" encourage fathers to play an active role in their children's lives. The campaign's “Cheerleader” PSA is one of the Ad Council's most popular PSAs and has earned $9.7 million in donated media since 2008.[31]
  • FWD campaign with USAID (2011–present) In September 2011, Ad Council and United States Agency for International Development (USAID) launched the FWD campaign to spread awareness about famine, war and drought in the Horn of Africa. The initiative garnered the participation of celebrities like Uma Thurman, Geena Davis, Josh Hartnett, Chanel Iman and Anthony Bourdain who starred in Public Service Announcements that asked the public to "forward the facts" about the crisis.[32]
The "We Can Do It!" poster was used by the Ad Council for its 70th anniversary celebration, through a Facebook app called "Rosify Yourself". However, the historic image was not produced by the War Advertising Council.

The Ad Council claimed the 1943 "We Can Do It!" poster (associated with Rosie the Riveter after 1982) was developed by the WAC as part of its "Women in War Jobs" campaign.[9][33] In February 2012 during the Ad Council's 70th anniversary celebration, an interactive application designed by Animax's HelpsGood digital agency was linked to the Ad Council's Facebook page. The Facebook app was called "Rosify Yourself" and it allowed viewers to upload images of their faces to be incorporated into the "We Can Do It!" poster, then saved to be shared with friends. Ad Council President and CEO Peggy Conlon posted her own "Rosified" face on The Huffington Post in an article about the Ad Council's past 70 years of public service.[34] The staff of the TV show Today posted two "Rosified" images on their Web site, using the faces of news anchors Matt Lauer and Ann Curry.[35] However, the now-famous poster was actually produced by an internal Westinghouse Electric Corporation corporate program as part of a series of posters shown to Westinghouse employees for two weeks then discarded. It was not produced by the Ad Council nor was it used for recruiting women workers.[36]

Organizations with campaigns done by the Ad CouncilEdit

Partnerships with film production companiesEdit

Several recent Ad Council PSA campaigns have involved partnerships with film production companies, including Warner Bros., Sony Pictures Entertainment, and Disney. Examples include a partnership with Warner Bros. featuring characters from Where the Wild Things Are in PSAs to counteract childhood obesity,[37] PSAs for child passenger safety featuring clips from Warner Bros. The Wizard of Oz,[38] a partnership with Sony Pictures Entertainment's The Smurfs 2 to encourage children to explore nature.[39]


Due to the Ad Council's historically close collaboration with the President of the United States and the federal government, it has been labeled by historian Robert Griffith as "little more than a domestic propaganda arm of the federal government."[40][41]

Environmental activist Mike Ewall has criticized the Ad Council for what he believes is distracting the public by focusing on individual lifestyle changes, rather than on the perceived 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.[42]

Ad Council spots, like other public service announcements, are often used to fill unsold air time by talk radio stations on the local or nationally syndicated level. Activists unfamiliar with the radio advertising model have complained to the Ad Council itself, or affiliated groups such as AARP, about Ad Council spots airing on controversial radio programs. The Ad Council and related groups responded by announcing they do not necessarily share the views of the host stations or programs where their announcements air.[43]

Notes and referencesEdit

  1. ^ a b c d "The Advertising Council, Inc.". Entity Information. Division of Corporations. New York State Department of State. Accessed on April 5, 2016.
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h "Form 990: Return of Organization Exempt from Income Tax". The Advertising Council, Inc. Guidestar. June 30, 2094.
  3. ^ "Board of Directors". Ad Council. Accessed on April 5, 2016.
  4. ^ "Executive and Senior Staff Archived 2016-04-10 at the Wayback Machine". Ad Council. Accessed on April 5, 2016.
  5. ^ a b Ad Council. "About Ad Council". Retrieved 2013-01-15.
  6. ^ "Frequently Asked Questions". Retrieved 3 October 2018.
  7. ^ "Pet Adoption Campaign Partner Toolkit" (PDF). the shelter pet project. Ad Council, Humane Society of America, Maddie's Fund.
  8. ^ "Public-service advertising nears No. 1 ad pace in US". Christian Science Monitor. 26 April 1983. Retrieved 3 October 2018.
  9. ^ a b c d e f g "The Story of the Ad Council". Ad Council. Archived from the original on February 16, 2007. Retrieved September 24, 2012.
  10. ^ 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.
  11. ^ "Ad Council". Advertising Age. 28 April 2015.
  12. ^ a b "The Story of the Ad Council".
  13. ^ "Presidential Praise". 60th Anniversary Advertising Supplement. Archived from the original on 2013-09-25.
  14. ^ "Roosevelt PSA". Advertising Supplement.
  15. ^ "The Advertising Council".
  16. ^ NPR. "The Ad Council 70 Years of Good Advice".
  17. ^ "Ad Council Impact".
  18. ^ "Advertising Council Archives". 3 August 2012. Retrieved May 22, 2017.
  19. ^ a b c d e f g h Ad Council. "Our Work - The Classics". Retrieved 2013-01-15.
  20. ^ "Story of Smokey - Smokey Bear". Retrieved 3 October 2018.
  21. ^ Ad Council. "Bye Bye Baby PSA". YouTube.
  22. ^ "FACT CHECK: Iron Eyes Cody". Retrieved 3 October 2018.
  23. ^ Ad Council. "Frequently Asked Questions". Retrieved 2013-01-15.
  24. ^ Ad Council. "Our Work - The Peace Corps". Retrieved 2013-01-15.
  25. ^ Ad Council. "Our Work - Drunk Driving". Retrieved 2013-01-15.
  26. ^ Ad Council. "Our Work - Domestic Violence". Retrieved 2013-01-15.
  27. ^ Ad Council. "Press Release - Autism Speaks New PSAs". Retrieved 2013-01-15.
  28. ^ Ad Council. "Our Work - GLSEN". Archived from the original on 2013-04-14. Retrieved 2013-01-15.
  29. ^ Adweek. "The 10 Most Watched Ads on YouTube in 2015".
  30. ^ Adweek. "The Ad Council and R/GA's 'Love Has No Labels' Wins the Emmy for Best Commercial".
  31. ^ Ad Council. "Adlibbing - Campbell Ewald". Retrieved 2013-01-15.
  32. ^ Ad Council. "Our Work - FWD". Archived from the original on 2013-04-14. Retrieved 2013-01-15.
  33. ^ "Frequently Asked Questions". Ad Council. Retrieved September 24, 2012. Working in tandem with the Office of War Information, the Ad Council created campaigns such as Buy War Bonds, Plant Victory Gardens, 'Loose Lips Sink Ships,' and Rosie the Riveter's 'We Can Do it.'
  34. ^ Conlon, Peggy (February 13, 2012). "Happy Birthday Ad Council! Celebrating 70 Years of Public Service Advertising". Huffington Post. Retrieved September 24, 2012.
  35. ^ "Plaza sign of the day: Matt as Rosie the Riveter". Today. MSN Allday Today. February 13, 2012. Archived from the original on July 7, 2017. Retrieved September 24, 2012.
  36. ^ Kimble, James J.; Olson, Lester C. (Winter 2006). "Visual Rhetoric Representing Rosie the Riveter: Myth and Misconception in J. Howard Miller's 'We Can Do It!' Poster". Rhetoric & Public Affairs. 9 (4): 533–569. Also available through Highbeam.
  37. ^ "U.S. Department of Health & Human Services". Archived from the original on 2013-09-02. Retrieved 2013-09-02.
  38. ^ "Business Wire". 27 August 2013. Retrieved 2013-09-02.
  39. ^ "ProductionHub". Retrieved 2013-09-15.
  40. ^ Barnhart, Megan (2009). Mariner, Rosemary B.; Piehler, G. Kurt (eds.). The Atomic Bomb and American Society: New Perspectives. University of Tennessee Press. p. 106. ISBN 978-1-57233-648-3.
  41. ^ Allen, Craig (9 November 2000). Eisenhower and the Mass Media: Peace, Prosperity, and Prime-time TV. Univ of North Carolina Press. ISBN 9780807860076. Retrieved 3 October 2018 – via Google Books.
  42. ^ Ewall, Mike. "Occupy Earth Day: An Expose of the Corporate Propaganda Systems that Undermine Systemic Change Activism".
  43. ^ "AARP Press Room". Retrieved 3 October 2018.

See alsoEdit

External linksEdit