Social Advertising

Social advertising has been around for years. It’s about applying marketing and advertising principles to promote health and social issues and bringing about positive behavior change. It’s what nonprofits and some organizations have been engaging in for years.

Social Advertising represents ad formats that engage the social context of the user viewing the ad. Whereas in traditional, non-social, advertising the ad is targeted based on what it knows about the individual person or the individual page, in social advertising the ad is targeted based on what it knows about the individual user’s social network.

Social Advertising is the first form of advertising that systematically leverages historically “offline" dynamics, such as peer-pressure, friend recommendations, and other forms of social influence.

 “Social actions are powerful because they act as trusted referrals and reinforce the fact that people influence people,” said Zuckerberg. “It’s no longer just about messages that are broadcast out by companies, but increasingly about information that is shared between friends. So we set out to use these social actions to build a new kind of ad system.”

Some other definitions are contextual advertising, or interactive ads. (adapted from wikipedia)


This is an example of social ad I would love to share with you.


They can’t tell anyone. But you can

These pictures of the current campaign from the Scottish National Child Protection Line. All of Glasgow and the rest of Scotland distressed children are seen in telephone boxes.
Main goal is asking people to speak out and help stop the abuse or neglect of young people.

“He can’t tell anyone his mum’s too drunk to look after him.
But you can.
If you are concerned about any child’s welfare, call the Child Protection Line: 0800 022 3222”


Announcing the campaign to raise awareness, Children’s Minister Adam Ingram said:
“I believe that child protection is everybody’s business.
No young person should have to suffer abuse or maltreatment as they grow up and we must all play our part in stopping it. It’s not always obvious when a child is being neglected or cruelly treated and we know how hard it can be for them to speak up. But whether people are relatives, friends, neighbours or just passers-by, they can make a difference if they raise their concerns.”
“We all have a duty to look out for our young people and this phone line provides an easy and accessible gateway to the child protection services.”

The campaign was launched at February 19th. The activity will run on radio stations and in local press. Besides the targeted adverts on phone boxes the campaign is supported by posters and stickers in busy community sites such as GP surgeries, libraries and sports centres.


 Images taken from


I would like you to think about the role played by social advertising.

Do you deem it important?  Why?

Do you think it can really make a difference as to certain issues?  Why (not)?

Can you think of social advertising in Italy?  Which issues does it address?  Is there any that struck your attention or spurred you into taking some kind of action?

I would appreciate if in your post you could possibly refer me and your classmates to a social ad (no commercials for the time being, just ads) of great interest to you.  Post the webpage so that we can all view it, then add your considerations. 

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21 Responses to Social Advertising

  1. anonimo says:

    Social advertising helps up to get in touch with our society’s and planet’s problem, to understand which are the main risks and how to solve them. Without social ads we would not be aware of important and alarming issues. In this case commercials, spots, billboards are useful, the communication here is independent from the presence of the product and from the invitation to consume it. Its aim is to stimulate in every citizen a remark about fundamental values (for example honesty, respect, responsibility ecc….) and to raise their awareness in order to make them act against or in favour of certain problems. When I bump into a social ad ( like this one “Not only a tree is cut down”) and I read the slogan, I feel almost guilty because according to me this is their technique: they want to strike directly your conscience. Personally I agree with this method, it is the only way to allow, help and make people reflex and focus on our world’s troubles. In Italy we have social ads in the form of spots, and I have noticed, if I am not mistaking that these commercials are broadcasted mainly by Rai, when we go out we will never see billboards like this (number 12); ads deal with: driving safety, abuse of alcohol, importance of education, drug-addiction and so on. is a very impressive and strong ad: the girl has the same pose of Jesus Christ, she is naked; the background is grey with a light who illuminate from the top her body, her eyes are closed and she seems impassive and apathetic. The slogan says : “Essere vicini,comprendere,aiutare chi ha subito una violenza sessuale,o a chi tutti i giorni subisce maltrattamenti,è un atto di coscienza che aiuta a non far sentire la morte nel cuore”,and through it we can under stand the comparison between Jesus and the girl, they are both result of injustice and they are paying it with violence. Social ads are of vital importance, and they should be broadcasted even in kids’ channels, because we have to provide incentives them to respect other people ,the environment, every races; we have to entrench in them the awareness of burning issues, of course at their capability.  

  2. anonimo says:

    social advertising is the good side of the wide world of advertising,its aim is helping our society to live better – if i think to our work on ads we have carried out till now it makes me smile xD- .
    anyway there are many social ads about lots of problem of our society and environment : abuse on children and women, abuse of alchool and drugs,omophobia and xenophobia,sensitization on certain genetic diseases, ill-tratement on animals, pollution and extinction and so on..
    so social ads are really useful and important to make people think about certain issues that lots of time are not considered ( ill-tratement on animals) but also to support you if you are helpless.this type of ad uses slogan and image of a strong impact and not always explicit because it must stimulate our curiosity and reach our conscience ,the following ad is an example :

    this image immediately creates a sense of disgust and confusion because of his connection with sex and the hitler's face. it promotes a campaign to sensitize the use of condom because "aids is a mass murderer" as the dictator was.
    so the job of social ads is not easy, because  it is not easy striking our conscience!
    in Italy is really rare seeing some posters that spread these messages..personally I have never found them…some tv channels broadcast "pubblicità progresso", now it comes in my mind a recent one about homophobia…unfortunately i did not find it on youtube..but it is plenty with another social ads of various themes..
    but i noticed with my disaprovement that rai and mediaset censor a large number of these ads…

    it is discouraging that our government does not approve an important resource to help people.


  3. anonimo says:

    I think social advertising is important in our life. It helps us thinking about the problems that surround us. People can realise what is happening in a sort of “another world”.  But unfortunately this world is seen with indifference and is not taken in consideration. The role of social ad is needful. However it makes no difference. People prefer living their life, facing their problems and watching the tv, without considering the fact that in the world there are lot of children that are abused, abandoned, women and young girls that are raped simply for fun, for satisfy a temporary pleasure. How can we be indifferent?
    Probably, social ads involve only people who real suffered from this pains. I used this series of ads to clarify my ideas and my opinions.

    This social is AGAINST CHILD ABUSE. There are three different scenes: one is set in a bedroom, one in a living room and the other in a dining room. Three rooms that are common in everyone’s house. Seeing these ads, people that are not been abused, can think: How can it be possible? I have never seen something like that, it is not my case. So, they look away.
    But if a young abused girl sees that ad she immediately starts crying and thinking about that night, that man, that room: her house, her dad, her bedroom.
    I think is true! The majority of child abuse is done in homes, where usually children feel safe and secure.
    We have to pay more attention to this social ad. They are useful and show the reality. An nowadays we live in a society were reality has more negative aspects than the positive ones.


  4. anonimo says:

    Social advertising is very important, because helps us to understand the problems and the risks of our society, of our world. It is not easy to create a social ad because you have to enter in the heart of the people. But this side of advertising’s world is important to spread messages, good values and ideas. In order to have success in their job, social advertisers use strong images and strong messages, because, as Valentina says, is the only way to make people reflex on our world’s problems. Here in Italy there are not billboards based on social advertising, there are only spots but they are few, very few and this is a sad reality. I think social ad can really make the difference because without it we would not know some type of troubles. May be this could be a way to invite people to fight together against problems like AIDS, or violence in order to live in a better country and in a better world.
    This is a beautiful social ad:
    It is against those who deprive human rights. Inside of this mouth is built up a wall; it symbolizes the fact that not everybody has the right to speak in a wonderful way. These people could not express their ideas and it is really like as they had a wall inside them. The color is important: grey, it make us understand that the world of these people has no color.
    Social ad could be broadcasted everywhere, in every country to sensitize people all over the world. And I think is sad that this type of advertising is censored, but the one that manipulates us is free.


  5. anonimo says:

    Social ad is, in my opinion a great invention.
    Everyone know about the social problems that characterize our society but, too many times we have not time to reflect upon them and to do something against them.
    Social ads use strong images and strong sentence to catch immediately our attention making our own more sensitive to the problem of our society like alcohol and drug addiction, sexual and psychological abuse…
    If we surf the net we came across with lots of social ad I found this ad, a paper one that catch my curiosity…
    I think that this image speaks more than thousand words…
    This woman, after abuses, looses her dignity and her human feeling. She becomes a doll, a toy of the man!
    Her eye are empty and do not feel emotion anymore!
    This is the comment under this social ad. I found it very interested and I decided to share it with you:
    “ The advertiser Dar Al Amal has recently come up with a social advertising print campaign about the women anti-abuse crusade, executed by Memac Ogilvy & Mather Dubai, UAE. The public awareness campaign is for the brand name Counseling Services for Abused Women. The advertiser shows exactly its full understanding of the plight of abused women all over the world. The campaign’s copy of “Help Her Feel Human Again” is the truest description of what happens to women under abuse: the demise of their mental, psychological, and emotional health. They die before their time, if the abuse, indeed, even stops. For some, abuse has literally killed them.
    Abuse is a universal phenomenon. It cuts across all economic levels, cultures, and geographies. It can occur in a tribal society, as well as in a metropolitan setting. Both rich and poor women fall into this predicament. Abuse knows no religion, although some abusive practices that are borne of religious belief may not be construed by the female victims of abuse as such. This is, perhaps, the highest form of abuse next to being killed. Some victims do not even know that they are victims.
    One out of three women in the world is a victim of abuse. Abuse is a top killer of women. It can come in various forms, aside from physical death, such as domestic violence or physical battery and sexual abuse such as rape. Abuse is, ultimately, not about abuse. It is about power. Abuse is what happens when gender that has been dictated by the norms of society, rears its ugly head. Abuse is a byproduct when the female sector of society is value-judged by the laws of gender, as perpetrated by the male sector of society that basks in the glory of a patriarchal mindset.”
    I have no words to write…I have nothing to add!

  6. anonimo says:

    Social ads are very important because it  make us think about things that maybe we do not know or we do not think as a problem.
    I think  it can make a difference to certain issues because when we watch a social ad we can reflect upon the problem, do something agaist it and maybe help someone who has this problem.
    There are a lot of social ads, they address to domestic violence,to violence, to health problems, to sexual abuse, to alcoholism, to drug problems,to smoke,etc..unfortunatelly in Italy,on tv, we can see social ads only against smoke.
    If we surf the net we can see even the other and we can reflect,when I see:; I reflect a lot upon the problems that we (human) cause to nature,without realizing we kill many animals with our rubbish, we have no respect for the other creature.


  7. anonimo says:

    I think that Social advertising is very important because it helps us thinking about the problems that surround us in every moment. Everyone knows about the social problems that charachterised our society but, unfortunately or we have not time to reflect upon them and to do samething agaist them or in same case we ignored them. Moreover I think that Social ads can support you if you are helpless.
    There are lots of social advertising, for example: domestic violence, sexual abuse, violence in general, alcoholism, drug and smoke problems, pollution……..this ads used strong and very impressive images and sentence to catch immediately our attantion.The followings are example:
    This Social ad is against children abuse.
    This Social advertising is about alcool.
    In Brazil, police ask drivers to make a 4 with their legs to show they are sober.Great visual but the bad thing is that the copy has no relation with the rest of the artwork.These ads are from NewAd, the indoor media company.
    The slogan says: "Drink and drive also kills those who didn't drink".
    I think that is true!!!!

  8. anonimo says:

    To me social ad is very important even if it is difficult to find them here in Italy (or maybe I am not a such careful reader and I cannot spot them while reading magazines or newspapers!!)I think that it makes people think because it strikes the attention with strong images that you did not ever expect to find in a news paper. Also videos make you think…there are some ads that I did not like because they were not so real but others are really effective (as the one of Keira Knightley for example).
    In Italy there are not so many social ads, and this is a huge gap of our society: why other countries promote the use of social ads??
    Take a look at this pictures:,,,,,
    I think that these photos are wonderful…very effective…but in Italy there is not this kind of sensitivity…some social ads are broadcast and translated by WWF, but to me it is not enough!! We have to be sensitized by our government…but I think that in order to raise consciousness, we have to do it all by ourselves!


  9. anonimo says:

    The role played by social advertising is extremely important, because this kind of ads raises awareness about (usually "big") problems which have to be addressed in order to inform people about serious risks they run if they do not adopt the behavior being "promoted". It can really make a difference as to certain issues: we are not talking about material objects or products, but about our life as a whole. Social advertising demands attention in order to be understood, even if it has to be clear and incisive: the packaging is usually really "strong", because it has to grip on the (world) population.
    I can think of social advertising in Italy: when I was a child I used to read Topolino (and I am proud of it) and I remember there were a lot of social ads, especially about animal abuses and drugs. "Who takes drugs goes into a decline" ("Chi si droga, si spegne") is a famous slogan I will never forget. Nowadays social ads make people more aware of global warming, environmental problems, pollution. Recently In Italy were broadcast on Tv lot of social ads promoted by government: campaign against homophobia (, against violence on women (, against drugs (the protagonists were famous footballers); these are only a few examples.
    I have found some social ads which are quite shocking: ; Unicef attacks abuses on children through an ad which is really direct: we see Mickey Mouse's (a typical hero for children) head made of blood; it means they cannot live as they were children anymore, their certainties become deceits. Their purity (white background) is contaminated with blood and the last hope is "Children's dreams cannot die"; ; I think "Smoking Kills" is not necessary to understand this ad!


  10. anonimo says:

    Social advertisement is the “light side” of ads.First of all ,it introduces viewers  into the problems that many people forget.For example these social ads  about SMOKING are very impressive and groovy because catch the attention and the feelings of the viewers .

    On the other hand social ads are exploit by “V.I.P.” as actors,singers,politicals  because of social images.The majority does not know the aim of  humanitarian associations and the associations  at the same time  exploit this kind of peolple and their popularity.In my opinion this is the negative aspect of social ads!!!!
    In Italy there are lot of social ads about Health (for example “cancer”) and human rights (for example human rights for children ).Personally I do not believe in social ads because  the society is not change and I do not think that social ads will save the world!!

  11. anonimo says:

    the number 10 is nazzarena

  12. anonimo says:

    I think Social ad, has fundamental role . Social ad is able to make us thinking and observing our consciences. When we are in front of a social  ad, we feel guilty…. Because of the situation, because of the things we knew and we did not do, because of the world we live. Some times social ads are really strong, but…. more stronger they are, more impress us, and in my opinion, this is the way  some companies works.  Reflecting on a Social Ad, nobody can save the problem… but everybody can know and think of it!! and this is a  great  result!!!
    Unfortunately, in Italy there are not  too much social ads, and  that’s  a pity, because people are bringing to think that there are not  problems to solve in their country… this is a sad reality, because we all know that in Italy, problems and difficulties are everywhere.
    I remember just  two  Italian social ads I  saw on television. They were one for the  situation that strike woman at home and the violence they are forced   to live,  the other one was for the  smoke.
    The others social ads I saw, were on the net and the thing that I really can’t stand is the fact that some social  ads broadcasted in other country , are banned in Italy, because of the impact they could have on the viewers. I understand that sometimes are really  impressive,  especially for children, but…. does not exist  “protected slots” in Italy?!
    This is one of the things an Italian young person could not understand . This is one of things we might fight for.. this is one of the things WE HAVE TO CHANGE.

     Jessica L.

  13. anonimo says:

    To me social advertising is really important. Some of them have a great impact to the viewers and make people reflect upon problems that regard all of us. In my opinion, social ads are extremely powerful and convey messages that otherwise would fall in vain. Some countries have a strong culture of this kind of advertising, which arises the attention and is a peculiar way to talk to people. In these countries it is common to see posters on the city walls that highlight social problems and environmental issues. In Italy we call it “pubblicità progresso” and it is a foundation born in the 70s whose aim is to stimulate civil conscience and promote the culture of social communication. Since then it has addressed many issues such as blood-letting, respect of other people's opinion, tourism, rubbish matter, tolerance against racism, illnesses and help for disabled people.
    Social ads are mostly touching, involving and profound. Here there are some examples.

    The first two of them regard violence against animals, individual and market affairs, because there is a big business beyond fur coats. I think they are really touching and smart. The third is about African exploitation and the needy conditions of local people. We see a woman posing with a pair of sunglasses and its price, which is three times the price for accessing to water, that is indispensable. It is underlined the contrast between life of modern society and poor people's, who can not even afford to have water. The last ad deals with the social problem of drinking, that is a high road to death.
    I appreciated these ads because they convey something to me and do not leave me indifferent.


  14. anonimo says:

    social advertisement is extremely important; it gives us knowledge on what could happen to us if you don't preserve your health or if you do not pay attention to social problems. nowadays people watch a lot of TV, that is why most of social ads are broadcast on television, so they can reach much more people than in newspapers and radio, but also because images are more powerful than words; if i see a poor African child i would be more involved than just listening someone who said that in Africa children die because of HIV virus, i supposed thagt this is the reason why social ads are on television.
    maybe they cannot make a big difference, but with social ads we can figure out problems, so we will be more careful in certain things like separating collection of rubbish or not wasting electric energy; but for "more serious" problems, sometimes social ads are not enough. In Italy social ads are promoted by ministries, and most of the time  social ads are about healthy problems like how to prevent diseases or to get knowledge about disease not well known by most of Italian, like sclerosis multiple or schiena bifida, but there are also social ads about social problems like children abuse, or women which are beaten up by their husband, or about sexual and phsychological abuse.
    few years ago here in Italy there was a social ad on anorexia, there was a girl who cut a piece of paper with a figure of a girl and when she finished to cut this piece of paper, the figure drew on it, suddenly appears other line drawing always slimmer and slimmer, so everytime that this girl cut this figure, her line drawing became thinner. this ad struck my attention because it makes me think about this disease  that is a plague of our society; children, especially girl are influenced by this new kind of beauty; if we think about what kind of image society gives to teenagers, it is quite scary… most of "TV-stars" are extremely skinny and since these stars are like an icon for many young girls it is quite obvious that anorexia or bulimia are unfortunately quite common in tennagers, and of course this is quite dramatic and worrying!
    chiara f.

  15. anonimo says:

    First the webpage I chose:
    Best anti-smoking ads – Focus – Advertising Archive 

    Social advertising serves its useful purpose as long as it is effective. Recently we saw in TV some students being interviewed, who said that in Italy social advertising doesn’t get to the point and doesn’t catch the attention of the addressee. They often use the endorsement, who usually is a sportsman or a sportswoman, an actor or an actress, for instance, the one with Federica Pellegrini, Valentina Vezzali, Aldo Montano and Maria Grazia Cucinotta about Road Safety. But as those students said, social advertising tends to be banal. I really guess why! In France, where they really care for the health of  young people, advertisement on road safety are really shocking, because they show people crushing and dying in an impressive an realistic way. In Italy such a kind of ad would be immediately accused of offending common sense and cause fear on children. I think Advertising is all about strong feelings, isn’t so? Fear and disgust are strong feelings as well as joy, love, happiness, excitation and thrilling. Why shouldn’t be social advertising fearful and disgusting? There are many other programs much more disgusting and dangerous for children than it.
    Stefano P.

  16. anonimo says:

    Social advertising born in Italy in the seventies, after the economic crisis that hit the world. This type of advertising is non-profit, and it deals with themes of general interest in order to raise public awareness. The topics considered are therefore: road safety, drugs, alcohol, abuse of kids, women, animals, etc.. I reported here some video examples of social advertising:

    In Italy, however, they are not very convincing: it may be for censorship that limits them, or because it is a very individualistic country .. The dead in the streets because of the speed are still high; reckless youth who have sex without protection too.
    These are simple examples showing that the neglect and careless reign among the people.
    Once in class we saw a video against trafficking and torture of women. The video came from England, and was played by Emma Thompson.

    In Italy we will never see a video so strong and "raw" as this. I think this is one of the reason why  that advertising has such a little social effect.
    Now we are all more than aware of the dangers, and also about the right behaviors to adopted: it is for us to act with conscience and respect for life. Advertising is not enough.

    Jiulia B.

  17. anonimo says:

    In my opinion social advertising is something really witty: it exploits some of the features and means of the classic advertising, for example the originality to catch the passer’s-by attention, to employ them in a social and ethic setting. The importance of these  ads can be easily understood if we think of the power that the non social advertising has on people: it can push us to buy something even if we don’t need it nor like it (actually it can convince us that we need it and that we like it). Well, in the same way social advertising can push people, no more consumers but citizens and human beings, to feel involved and moved by a certain problem, to help them in realizing that we are all part of it, even if it does not concerns us directly or personally.
    As far as Italy is concern social advertising and commercials are mostly promoted by some big nonprofit association and by the government. They deal overall with problems regarding young people, like speed, alcohol, contraceptives, or environment. Personally I don’t see much social ads around, but rather some social commercials on TV, like the recent one with Fiorello about orphan kids in Haiti.
    Surfing the net I found this interesting French ad about AIDS:
    Even if it is strong and somehow crude, in my opinion it is very effective. It represents a beautiful woman and a handsome man having sex with a scorpion and a spider. The eye is suddenly caught by the juxtaposition between the white of the setting and of the human beings and the black of the two mortal insects. The protagonists seem to be normal people, they don’t live  in bad conditions but they are quite well –off, and this underlines the fact that AIDS does not strike just certain social classes (blacks, poor people, prostitutes or immigrates) but everybody. Moreover the fact that the protagonists are young and good looking  involves also young people in using contraceptive to avoid any sort of mortal poison!

  18. anonimo says:

    I think that social advertising is important because it highlights some aspects of society that we tend to “forget”.
    Society is sick but as long as we mask it behind big billboards, we could never try ti get out.
    I think it can really make a difference as to certain issues, especially if it can arrive to people conscience and can reveal the real world.
    From the web I chose:
    to call your attention to what and how we communicate to each other.
    it regards our social commitment to recycling.
    I think that comments are unnecessary…
    the only thing we can do is to reflect upon it.


  19. anonimo says:

     I think that social ad is really important for us because in this way we can have an other view of the world and the society. Maybe when we see tv, we don’t pay attention on this kind of commercial, but when we see it carefully, it “speaks” to us. I liked the social ad that I have seen at school with my classmates. I think they are really strong and have a lot of emotions. The bad thing is that kind of ad there is not in Italy. We can see it only in the web or maybe in other part of the world. Social ads I Italy is not so strong and I think that they not catch attention. This ads are really important because strike our feelings. But I truly think that people don’t pay attention on this kind of ad maybe because not every person knows what means have problems like domestic violence, alcoholism, drugs addiction, ecc… I decide to put the link of an ad about speed:  It is a very bloody social ad, but I think that it strikes a lot. When I see it for the first time I feel shivers. On my opinion this ad are , whose catches our attention because when we see it we feels emotions.

  20. anonimo says:

     I think that social ad is really important for us because in this way we can have an other view of the world and the society. Maybe when we see tv, we don’t pay attention on this kind of commercial, but when we see it carefully, it “speaks” to us. I liked the social ad that I have seen at school with my classmates. I think they are really strong and have a lot of emotions. The bad thing is that kind of ad there is not in Italy. We can see it only in the web or maybe in other part of the world. Social ads I Italy is not so strong and I think that they not catch attention. This ads are really important because strike our feelings. But I truly think that people don’t pay attention on this kind of ad maybe because not every person knows what means have problems like domestic violence, alcoholism, drugs addiction, ecc… I decide to put the link of an ad about speed:  It is a very bloody social ad, but I think that it strikes a lot. When I see it for the first time I feel shivers. On my opinion this ad are , whose catches our attention because when we see it we feels emotions.

  21. anonimo says:

    Social ads are a special form of advertising to let people get to know about social, environmental, healthy (etc.) issues. What is sold? Moral messages. Social advertising has to use the smart technique of the usual commercial; it has to strike people but also to raise their awareness. It faces lots of different issues, and sometimes it works, sometimes not, it depends both on the addressee and on the issue. For example it is more likely for an adult to be touched by a social advertising on domestic violence, than a teenager by binge drinking. In Italy the majority of social ads are shot with popular people, such as footballers, models, singers, show men, presenters and actors, so that people see someone already known and probably reliable. It implies that the message conveyed is likely to be more effective. Recently in Italy I think more and less all the main issues are faced, for example prostitution, cancer and other diseases,…. Actually I do not see some many social printed ads, only on certain channels on television (personally I do not really know the reason of this disinterest for these issues). But to be honest after a while all social commercials of these Italian channels look the same, they all have the same pattern and I think they tent to be not so impressive. On the other hand I find very effective and powerful the social ads on the blog, with the printed children as they were sitting in a phone box; if the text on the top is quite long, in my opinion, and may not attract any person, the image of a lonely and abandoned child catches everybody’s attention. As an example of printed ad I found:
    Sara T.

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