As an agency that is well versed in nonprofit clients, we are often asked about new PSA trends.  Instead of citing our own first-hand knowledge, we let the station contacts in charge of getting PSAs on air speak for themselves.  Some of the 2012 insights are surprising, yet promising, and it looks like progress in digital is being made.

In addition to the top 8 debunked PSA myths, here is some other interesting information we’ve acquired from our recent survey.


While nearly 3 out of 4 PSA Directors say their station does not have a preference for a particular PSA subject matter, there are some messages that are more popular than others:

  • A little more than 20% prefer promoting messages about child-related issues (educational, health, development, etc).
  • Educational messages and disease and health related messages come in second and third.
  • Military, environmental, elderly and poverty/hunger issues round out the top 7.
  • Other issue preferences include: sports, animal safety, minority issues, arts and men’s issues.


There are many factors that go into determining if a PSA will make it on air at each station.  We asked PSA Directors to choose all of the factors that affect their decision from the list below.  The percentage next to each reflects a “yes” answer.

  • Availability of Airtime: 61%
  • It appeals to our local audience: 68%
  • Alignment with station policy and/or partners: 36%
  • Well-executed overall package: 25%
  • Other factors included: variety of lengths available, no celebrity, kill date, whether they received advanced notice, ease of getting materials.


And for those that missed the top 8 myths, here they are again:

Myth #1: Even in an evolving digital world, most stations only accept PSAs on tapes.

35% of stations now prefer digital downloads, with an additional 7% preferring DG Fast Channel (or similar) download for a total of 42%.

Myth #2: With the economy picking up, there isn’t as much space available for PSAs.

Almost half the radio and TV stations run more than 10 PSAs each week, and 13% of TV stations and 22% of radio stations run more than 40.  

Myth #3: PSAs don’t have a very long life span.

Most stations will keep a PSA message in rotation for 1-6 months (59%).

Myth #4: Most stations have a preference for certain PSA subject matter.

Nearly 3 out of 4 PSA Directors say their station does not have a preference.

Myth #5: Stations are taking quite a long time to make the switch to digital and it won’t make an impact on my PSA distribution budget in the short-term.

75% of those not currently accepting digital downloads expect that their TV station will be capable of and prefer a digital download within the next one year.

Myth #6: My priority is simply getting a PSA produced and in the hands of a PSA Director.

The most important determining factor for a PSA to receive airtime on stations was identified as the on-air quality of the spot.

Myth #7: Most PSAs only make it on air if they are Ad Council supported.

Only 1 respondent said they prefer Ad Council messages.  That’s less than 1%!

Myth #8: My message will get aired if it makes the PSA Director cry.

While that always helps, the second most important determining factor (behind the on-air quality of the spot) for a PSA to receive airtime is if it appeals to a local audience.