Pandas vs Zombies: A Case Study in Public Service Announcements

March 5, 2014

My husband was recently in Singapore on business and the Public Service Announcements caught his attention, so he snapped this photo.

He texted it to me with the note, “You don’t see PSAs like this in the US. Ours usually say something along the lines of, ‘Please don’t stab each other.’”

In my experience, he is exactly right. To test the hypothesis, I did a Google image search for “US Educational Public Service Announcement.” At the top of the page, was the PSA below from the US Navy.


To recap, Singaporeans are worried that their children aren’t proofreading carefully enough while Americans are worried about people turning into vampire/zombie hybrids due to using bath salts.  I could say a lot of things here:  we need to aim higher, the U.S. is falling behind, etc.  But what I take away from the PSAs is that some of the most effective advertising aligns what the advertiser wants out of people with how people want to see themselves (or in the case of the bath salts PSA, how people do NOT want to see themselves).  Nike and Gatorade wants us to think of ourselves as striving to be elite athletes and we’re happy to indulge in that fantasy.  Apple wants us to see ourselves as creative and hip so we buy Macs to edit our home movies like pros (and also so we’re not perceived as John Hodgman’s stodgy PC character).  You get the idea.  It’s not enough to think about what you want potential customers to do—you need to also think about how those customers want to see themselves.

(The other takeaway is that everyone loves cute pandas. Duh.)

This article was originally published with InTheCapital.

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