The Advertising Council, Inc.
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 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 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 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 campaigns

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 "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 Council

Partnerships with film production companies

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 references

  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 also