In one form or another, public service announcements (or advertisements) have been with us for well over a hundred years. They have as their chief objective the goal of educating the general public in order to raise awareness on a multitude of social issues; from cancer and global warming to domestic violence and drug abuse. PSAs seek to cause action and change opinion.
It’s little wonder, then, that to capture society’s attention in an age of visual inundation, the creators of public service campaigns have had to step up. The likes of such major ad players as Ogilvy, Grey, and McCann-Erickson — along with the creative minds of boutique agencies — have risen to the occasion, producing a new generation of printed public interest ads. Some are edgy and envelope-pushing, using imagery that makes the viewer uneasy. Others go for power through simplicity, employing striking illustrations to move an audience.
One thing that all of these ads have in common is their striking visual impact: Photoshop work isn’t just effective, it’s epic; illustrations aren’t just employed, they’re integral.
Below is a collection of 25 standout public interest ads whose creativity, art direction, and emotion-evoking properties work together to deliver a poignant message. They are a good reminder that delicate subject matter is oftentimes most successfully delivered when the inclination for gentleness is abandoned and instead is confronted head on. These are ads that make a statement…quite literally.
Heart and Stroke Foundation: Future
Salvation Army: Politician
Surfrider Foundation: Plastic Invasion
World for All: Train
Dutch Heart Foundation: QR Bystanders
Amnesty International: Tsunami
Ecuadorian Red Cross: Life Inside Life
Department of State Health Services: Share Air
World for All: Building
WWF Desertification: Elephant
Amnesty International: Pencil
Operation Smile: Charlie Dot
Safe Kids: Football
OndAzul NGO: Sardine
Operation Smile: Sally Monkey
TAC: Confusion, Overpass
Samusocial: Stop the Nightmare
Fight for Peace: Favela
Canadian Journalists for Free Expression: Tara
Pedestrian Council of Australia: Man
Stivoro: Open Road
Utah Department of Highway Safety: Alcohol Cuffs
Greenpeace: Become David
So Acao Solidarity Movement: Much More than Trees
Which ads resonated most with you? What tactics do you think work best in public service ads? Let us know in the comments.