Public-service advertising nears No. 1 ad pace in US

Americans will soon be hearing and seeing a new series of public-service commercials on television and radio, and ads in newspapers and magazines. The ads will urge United States businessmen to hire needy and disadvantaged young people with the tag line ''Let's get all of America working again.''

The campaign was created as a volunteer effort by New York's Grey Advertising , probably better known for its hard-sell pitches for package goods such as Procter & Gamble's Bold and Joy detergents.

The public-service ads will signal the beginning of the fifth year in which professional advertising support has been enlisted to help promote the summer jobs program for youth. It's all part of a campaign sponsored by the National Alliance of Business, a nonprofit organization working with the Ad Council, the advertising community's principal volunteer coordinating group. The council is made up of some of the country's major advertisers, advertising agencies, and media representatives.

In addition to matching campaign needs to one of the many ad agencies willing to do these public-service assignments, the Ad Council each year must choose the two dozen or so worthy causes which most clearly need promoting, from among the 300 requests it receives. Then, after the campaigns have been made up and are ready to run, it is the Ad Council's job to distribute them to broadcasters, transit systems, magazines, and newspapers.

It all adds up to a lot of nearly free advertising for those nonprofit enterprises and fund-raising drives. For those needing the agencies' services, the expenses are minimal. The volunteer agencies donate their time and talent while the various media contribute space and time. The country's top professional marketing people offer expert guidance and advice. That leaves only production charges, which are billed at cost, and any other out-of-pocket expenses for the nonprofit groups to pay.

The savings are immense. Time and space costs for running the Ad Council's two dozen or so campaigns added up to $654 million last year and, if paid for, would have made the Ad Council the second-largest advertiser in the country, with only Procter & Gamble nosing it out. This year, there is an even more urgent need for this kind of private-sector effort. So volunteer advertising's media costs are apt to go up, putting it in first place. And it is estimated that only about one-quarter of the advertising community's total public-service advertising effort is funneled through the Ad Council.

For the agencies taking part, work on public-service advertising gives them a chance to do some of their most creative work. The recognition that follows not only brings goodwill, it can also result in greater name recognition and, it is hoped, additional business from paying customers.

There's no question that public-service activity has stepped up as many charitable burdens shift from the government to private enterprise.

For the Ad Council, this activity goes back 40 years to World War II, when a group of advertising volunteers worked on the war effort. Some of the Ad Council's early wartime efforts included ''V-Mail'' to troops overseas, ''victory gardens,'' and US War Bonds (now simply Savings Bonds).

A longer-lasting symbol is Smokey the Bear, that endearing spokesman for fire prevention, who was first created by the Los Angeles office of Foote, Cone & Belding 41 years ago. According to recent studies, Smokey remains one of the most easily recognized advertising symbols, outscoring even the ubiquitous CBS eye. One of the first Ad Council projects, the campaign was undertaken for the US Department of Agriculture's Forest Service and is credited with cutting the number of forest fires in half and reducing acreage burned by 50 percent, even though the use of parkland by tourists for camping and hiking has increased tenfold.

Today, the US government accounts for half of the Ad Council's annual efforts , including such recent drives as the ''Take a bite out of crime'' for the Justice Department and direct deposit for social security checks. The ''toughest job you'll ever love'' theme, created by the Ted Bates agency for the Peace Corps, has attracted 100,000 volunteers. The ads included one-time Peace Corps volunteer Lillian Carter, the former President's mother.

For other nonprofit organizations, the Ad Council has produced some equally memorable advertising. Two of the campaigns come from Young & Rubicam - ''A mind is a terrible thing to waste'' for the United Negro College Fund and, for the National Urban League, ''Everybody deserves a chance to make it on their own.'' Then there's the crying Indian in the ''Keep America Beautiful'' campaign created by Burston Marsteller.

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