PSAs can’t beat Prudent Boozers

The language isn’t bad, it’s what you say

Casual visitors to the Anti-Advertising Agency site might find it odd or incongruous that we take issue with advertising, and yet use advertising methods in our projects. But they misunderstand. It’s not the method as much as the content. The core methods used to speak to a broad audience in a language they understand are tremendously effective, and we have great respect for them. Advertising and marketing are only a subset of mass communication, but mass communication in general isn’t the problem.

In fact, the methods of advertising and marketing can be used to do great things. In the field of social marketing the methods of advertising are used to promote behavior for the social good.

The most familiar examples of social marketing we all know are public service announcements from the Ad Council like this one:

These are often seen late at night because television stations are required to run them by the FCC – but the hours are less specific. The AdCouncil messages might tell you what your brain would look like on drugs, or to drive your SUV safely. There are other organizations that get involved, like the mormons, who remind us to tell the truth or even the broadcasters themselves make “the more you know” style 15 second announcements.

I’m glad these exist, but there’s a lot of problems with them. Like how effective a NBC celebrity can be in creating positive change with a 12 second statement for example. Or that the AdCouncil’s work seems to be made by major agencies looking to boost employee morale with some charity work. And for a variety of reasons the AdCouncil’s work is rather safe: instead of “ride your bike and take public transit” the message is “drive safely” – wouldn’t want to offend those auto clients! And even the great stuff seems to run predominately at 2am instead of primetime.

When it’s good, it’s good

The AAA’s Adam Connelly was at an advertising conference in New York City and picked up this card:

This was distributed by an market research outfit called The Ministry of Culture. They’ve done work for everyone from Colt45, to Lexus, to American Express, and Scion. But for this project they have not revealed the client, beyond “the Nurse Family Trust.” My hunch is it’s a spec piece, done by the agency as a calling card.

What is it? A membership card for the Prudent Boozers “age-old secret society of bon vivants around the globe who have adopted the practice of […] never quite finishing their third libation. Members often reach this point after enduring years of embarrassing shenanigans and poisonous hangovers induced by bacchanalian excess.” Seriously, check out their site.

The four floor program mentioned in the card above is to “savor the first drink, sip the 2nd, nurse the 3rd” and not quite finish it, thereby “skip the 4th.” This is the foundation of the concept and everything else is built around it.

Ok, so the secret society isn’t real. But who cares. Ministry of Culture has painstakingly created a whole society with a history, culture, and artifacts. The story is amusing and great, the message is fairly complete, and the concept encourages drinking in moderation.

But most if all, it’s fun.

I challenge you to find a non-commerical alchohol related PSA that isn’t serious, sober toned (sorry for the pun), and binary.

When alcohol companies take a stab at a “drink responsibly” message, at least it’s funnier and more palatable (does that count as a pun?) Let’s take a look:

I used the Errol Morris video because I think it’s stronger than most. However, this still works as an advertisement. Because that’s what it needs to be. A key part of this message is the brand. Take out the drink responsibly message and this could still be part of a successful ad campaign.

Prudent Boozers, on the other hand, can focus on the moderation message and spend time on it. They provide a “how-to” for drinking in moderation. They talk about the benefits, and the problems of doing otherwise. And they make it fun and kinda cool – you’re part of a club! There’s nothing very cool about the Errol Morris/Miller PSA (sorry Errol, I love the movies).

So what’s the angle here? If there’s an alcohol company behind this, I don’t want to know. I don’t believe there is, but don’t ever let me find out because it would ruin it. If it’s a spec piece – then it’s partly meant to draw attention to Ministry of Culture. But when the work is good, the creator deserves some credit, so I don’t mind. MoC, I don’t want to know what you did with Colt45, but bravo on this one.

Quit Your Jobs

This is just an example of the great non-commercial work advertisers and marketers are capable of when they put their minds to it. And there are non-commercial entities that can use that expertise. If you are a creative person working in advertising or marketing (I know you read this) and you know you could do more valuable things – QUIT YOUR JOB. We need your talent full-time in this world. There’s battles to be won and volunteering some spec pieces or working on a weak “drive safely” campaign wont be enough.

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  1. Jeff Ganger says:

    Not too long ago I did quit my job at an ad agency. I can honestly say that I have never been happier. I now have the time to devote to my own work, and to collaborate with other like-minded people to create projects that are actually beneficial. I’ve really just started, but the excitement and enthusiasm I have for these projects is priceless. No amount of income offered me by traditional ad agencies will make me return. I am determined to run my own show, and will fight the good fight as long as I am able. It’s good to see that there are others who feel the same way I do about the current state of advertising in this country. I find your site to be a very valuable resource and an inspiration. Keep up the great work.

  2. Steve Persky says:

    Thanks for the smart thinking and for steering me to

    Is there any chance this secret society could be real? The chronology and logic seem to line up (a drinking society that became secret during Prohibition and petered out as a result).

    Maybe it’s wishful thinking on my part, but I kinda believe it.

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