RIP Joan Rivers. There is a literacy connection that some of us of a certain age may recall: Rivers served as the narrator for the Adventures of Letterman cartoons that used to run during the old 1970s PBS show, The Electric Company. The Electric Company was created to help elementary school-aged children children develop their grammar and reading skills—more or less grad school for the original Sesame Street generation.
A Dailymotion user has posted one of the old 1980s Ad Council adult literacy PSAs.
For those interested, here is a little bit of the history behind this campaign:
The [Coalition for Literacy]’s media campaign was officially launched in a press conference held on 12 December 1984 in the Trustees Room of the New York Public Library. The Advertising Council (sponsors of “Smokey the Bear,” “Take a Bite Out of Crime,” and “A Mind Is A Terrible ThingToWaste”) coordinated the media campaign. They recruited the advertising agency of D’Arcy, Masius, Benton & Bowles/Worldwide as volunteers to develop the print and nonprint ads. Two advertising campaign strategies were developed—one to inform and appeal to the general public and the other to raise the awareness of the corporate sector. The theme that was chosen for the general public ads was “Volunteer Against Adult Literacy: The Only Degree You Need is a Degree of Caring.” The audience was identified as those who wanted to become volunteers to help another person learn to read. The advertising theme developed to appeal to the corporate sector [was]: “Volunteer Against Illiteracy: A Literate America is a Good Investment.” This audience is encouraged to bring corporate/private sector resources to assist national and local literacy activities.
The Advertising Council conducted studies to measure the awareness of communities about adult illiteracy before and after releasing the television and print ads. The campaign is now among the top five social awareness campaigns that the council coordinates. Within the first year of the coalition’s advertising campaign, the Ad Council indicators cite that awareness of adult illiteracy has jumped from 21 to 30 percent. The print, radio, and television media have contributed an estimated value of $20 million in advertising space and time to the coalition’s campaign.
—Jean Ellen Coleman, “ALA’s Role in Adult and Literacy Education, “Library Trends (Fall 1986) 207-17.
It’s interesting to read about the corporate messaging strategy—pretty much the same messaging we use today.
Still reeling from the Romney election loss, Montgomery Burns takes a few moments to explain the looming fiscal cliff:
“Think of the economy of a car, and a rich man as the driver. If you don’t give the driver all the money, he’ll drive you over the cliff. It is just common sense.”