After 75 Years, The Ad Council Rebrands

By Ad Council InSites Archives
Cover image for  article: After 75 Years, The Ad Council Rebrands

For 75 years, the Ad Council has been a staunch communications partner to brands and organizations, sparking significant social change in America.  There was Smokey Bear in 1944 with “Only you can prevent forest fires” and 1983’s famous "Friends don’t let friends drive drunk.”  Whether the cause was safety, health or education, the Ad Council was there.  With the constantly changing media landscape, including technological innovation, content clutter and waning attention spans, even the Ad Council is evolving.  This includes an expansion in how it works with corporate brands, the broadening of its content creation model and a major rebrand that includes a new visual identity (see image below).

“For more than 75 years, our logo has been a trusted mark -- symbolizing creative quality, deeply researched messaging and an incredible propensity for impact," says Lisa Sherman, President and CEO of the Ad Council.  "That remains true today.  But this announcement is so much more than anew logo; it is a recognition and celebration of our history of impact and of the incredible innovations we’ve made to position us for the years to come.”

To articulate the Ad Council’s new focus and purpose, the nonprofit teamed up with branding agency Superunion to create a new verbal and visual identity -- the first in nearly 50 years.  The uppercase “Ad” is now a lowercase “ad” in the organization’s name, along with a square frame, illustrating the organization’s brand as an accessible, compassionate partner for creativity and causes to converge.

This new identity isn’t just about a modernized logo; it also represents a richer visual language around the logo to develop a truly holistic brand.

When it first launched in 1942, the nonprofit had campaigns including “Savings (or War) Bonds” and “Women in War Jobs” and The War Advertising Council’s “Loose Lips Sink Ships” and “Keep It Under Your Stetson,” reminding Americans of the dangers of revealing too much information.  Today, the Ad Council develops content annually for more than 40 issues.  Brands now place greater emphasis on purpose and recognize their role in enacting social change.  Plus, there’s a surge in public service communications programs from every sector of the industry.

“As the communications industry grows and diversifies, there are new players in the space who may not know or entirely understand us,” explains Sherman.  “This is in part because we often focus our efforts exclusively on raising awareness about our campaigns; people recognize Smokey Bear or “Love Has No Labels” but don’t always make the connection to the Ad Council.  There is no doubt that our industry has the passion and the ability to change the world around us, but with a rapidly changing marketplace it’s essential that we evolve.  With the new changes we’re announcing, the Ad Council is poised lead that evolution.”

The organization is building on its traditional client model (with non-profits and federal government agencies) by convening corporate coalitions to fund and support campaigns.  This enables the organization to bring to market many more campaigns addressing critical issues.  Recent examples include the "She Can STEM" initiative funded by GE, Google, IBM, Microsoft and Verizon; the "Because of You" campaign that addresses bullying prevention funded by 3 Muskeeters, Adobe, General Mills and Twitter; and the "End Family Fire" campaign in partnership with the Brady Campaign and the Gun Safety Alliance to address gun safety.  This industry coalition model is one that the Ad Council will continue to pursue for future initiatives.

Complementing its work with leading advertising agencies across the country, the Ad Council invested in developing more content created with digital and linear media channels and platforms.  The Ad Council also launched a new internal content studio which will develop graphic and video assets.  The organization has also created the largest network of influencers, celebrities, musicians and athletes to help support causes through its Creators for Good program, where these talent partners create authentic content across their digital platforms.  And, in leveraging the latest technological advancements, the organization implemented Amazon Alexa integrations with campaigns like “Save The Food,” dynamic audio ads with Pandora and mobile gaming advertisements -- along with the first social good emoji for its bullying prevention campaign.

“Refreshing the Ad Council brand meant that every person on our team understood its importance and the exponential positive impact that it could have on society, and we were hyper-aware of this fact throughout the year-long process,” says Sabah Ashraf, CEO North America.  “If done right, the refreshed brand would have the power to attract the right partners and support to tell even greater social impact stories for years to come.”

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