An opportunity in PSAs


by Laura Hunt, President, 1st Degree

Janet Tonner, president of Donor Direct TV, has written about the increased-viewership-plus-decreased-cost-plus increased-effectiveness opportunity in DRTV. Nick has detailed the same alignment for digital advertising.

Now it’s time for the same review of PSAs and earned media.

A sampling of eight 1st DegreeSM clients, powered by PSAdirectSM, found an increase from $8 million in PSA earned media in March to $11.4 million in April (809 million impressions).  And so far in May, we are on track increase last month’s success.

These results beg the questions: Why? How?

Every broadcast station has a requirement to serve the “public interest” to maintain their license. While the FCC doesn’t specifically mandate PSAs, they are one of the most effective tools for broadcasters to meet the requirement.

With softness in paid ad revenue (you probably haven’t seen a Carnival Cruise commercial in a while), stations can air more PSAs without displacing paid revenue. And, from an altruistic perspective, we need broadcasters to act in the public interest now as much as we ever have.

In April, we saw local-market PSA placement across all major networks including ABC, CBS, Fox, NBC and CW. Additionally, cable networks like Fox News, Cooking Channel, Food Network, HGTV, Great America Country, and others — some of which previously had limited space for PSAs — are turning to air more charity-provided content. National and regional sports channels that historically favored high-energy campaigns have broadened their PSA airings to include a variety of organizations, missions and creative themes. And despite all live and televised events being cancelled, sports networks are still securing big audiences. ESPN is a prime example with the Michael Jordan documentary, The Last Dance, and its incredibly high viewership.

The news only gets better with airing timeframes showing great daypart results. While it’s always been a myth that PSAs only run at zero dark thirty, the reality is on average, just one-third of placements occur between midnight and 5 a.m. In April, this percentage dropped to 15%, meaning that more people were seeing PSAs during daytime and evening primetime.

PSAs are also hitting the target donor population. Even in the before-COVID-19 times, people ages 50+ watched an average of five to six hours of live or time-shifted TV. That time in front of the tube has only increased with lockdowns and social distancing.

While PSAs don’t have a direct ask, the awareness they bring amplifies the performance of fundraising efforts. For instance, running a PSA campaign at the same time as a DRTV campaign drives more people to call or go online to give. As we say, the PSA primes the pump for when the financial call-to-action is made.

A Moore client recently launched a campaign that integrated direct mail, digital, PR, PSAs (TV and radio), and paid advertising, and it’s proving to be a winning combination. The campaign has reached more than 70 million impressions so far and audiences have resonated with the consistent creative and storytelling across the channels. Increased awareness, coupled with a seamless journey for readers, viewers, and listeners, is resulting in large lifts in fundraising, new donor acquisition and reactivation of lapsed donors. During this campaign alone, the client has increased its active donor file size by 28% and website traffic has increased by 232% compared to last year!

Even in the best of times, when nonprofits see donation numbers on the rise, many finance departments and board members have cost-to-fundraising concerns. As some organizations can no longer deliver programs and services the way they used to, expenditures are going down and the ratio is becoming unbalanced. The good news is, PSAs can offset those changes. The PSAdirect reporting infrastructure, built by 1st Degree, provides third-party ad value verification so donated and earned media placements function as in-kind contributions and program revenue.

We’re seeing that PSAs with current, relevant messages and fresh appeal far outperform those that have been running the same creative for a long time. Learn more about some of our featured campaigns that have proven successful at psadirect.com.

As people are choosing among charities to support right now, being relevant and staying top of mind is the best way to secure a spot in donors’ hearts. PSAs are proving more effective than ever before to do just that.

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