Commercials vs PSAs

Why we don't host PSAs.

There are a lot of LGBT ads out there that are really PSAs.

In creating this site, the idea was for recording all commercials. While sometimes a commercial will blur the line, like Vicks and Tylenol, a distinction had to be made. It’s far too easy to lump a public service announcement (PSA) and commercial together. They’re both advertising, but there are some key differences:

  • How they are made
  • How they air
  • Who makes them


Commercials are Paid Media

All commercials have been paid for by a company, who uses the commercial as an investment to reach viewers. By contrast, a PSA can request a spot, for free, from a station, but there is no assurance the time will be given or the PSA aired. Some PSAs will pay for specific time-slots, but there’s no obligation. A commercial will not air unless paid for.

Commercials Can Make Money

While a commercial must be paid for, it also can be used to make money for a group or ask for donations. If you’ve seen political commercials, you may have noticed some say “Paid for by …” The reason for that is a PSA cannot be used to raise money or recruit. It can’t use ‘free’ or ‘discount’ in the language either.

Commercials Can Tell You What to Do

This can often be subtle, but only a commercial can have a call to action. For example, a commercial might say “Feed the beast!” A PSA would not be able to do so, as that directs people to do something specific. That’s why the PSA says “Friends don’t let friends drive drunk” and not “Don’t let your friends drive drunk.” The latter is a call to action while the former merely implies.

So Why Does It Matter?

As I said before, the goal of the site was commercials, not PSAs. That means there are certain ads that air that we won’t be hosting here. Like PSAs. And this means there are a lot of PSAs for things like LGBT friendly churches or ads that support athletes going to the Sochi Olympics.

But they’re not commercials. They’re not trying to sell a thing. And right now they won’t be hosted here.

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