X-PAC and Arsalyn Foundation 1998 Special Project
Movie Theater Public Service Announcements promote
X-PAC's multi-media Young Voter Project '98

X-PAC is a Portland, Oregon-based non-profit, non-partisan organization dedicated to educating and activating the next political generation. X-PAC accomplishes its mission through hosting monthly meetings at which local speakers discuss social, political and economic issues of particular interest to its membership - 500 members of Generation X. Several X-PAC members have run for or been elected to office in local or state government, and the organization advocates for the appointment of young leaders to local and state boards and commissions.

X-PAC utilized public service announcements in movie theaters to promote their get-out-the-vote efforts and Youth Voter Project '98.

How to Utilize Movie Theater PSAs

Placing a public service announcement (PSA) in movie theaters is a cost-effective means to deliver a message to a young audience.

  • For less than $1,300, including the cost of creating and copying slides, X-PAC's reminder to vote appeared in over 200 Act III Theater auditoriums before approximately 1,356,667 people.
  • While 18-34 year-olds represent 35% of the population, they represent 48% of movie-goers. X-PAC's message reached approximately 648,487 adults aged 18-34.

If your organization is interested in placing a PSA in movie theaters, here are a few steps to consider:

Identify the ad agency. Ad agencies, rather than theaters, usually coordinate on-screen advertising for larger theater chains. Call the theater to get the name of the ad agency that books their PSAs.

Book in advance. Movie theaters have a limited amount of low-cost PSA space. You may need to reserve space several months in advance.

Request audience demographic information. Would a movie theater PSA help your organization reach its target audience? Ad agencies should be able to provide you with basic demographic information about their audience such as age, education level and income.

Ask about content restrictions. Does your message qualify as a PSA? PSAs must be acceptable for general audience viewing. Content may be restricted to positive images. Religious, political, alcohol and tobacco advertising may be prohibited.

Understand design specifications. Can you effectively get your message across through a movie theater PSA? Simplicity is important in designing your slide, as your audience may only view the PSA for a few seconds. You will likely be limited to a certain number of words and images. The ad agency may also have preferences such as using a dark background with bold yellow or white type.

Secure volunteer, professional design services if possible. Also make sure that all volunteers understand your organization and the purpose of the PSA.

Get design approval early. The ad agency will need to approve your PSA before you make copies of the slide. Allow yourself time to make design adjustments if necessary.

Copy slides. The ad agency may be able to recommend a production company to copy your slides. Many production companies also offer design assistance.

View your PSA at a theater. See your PSA, and the audience's reaction to your PSA, when it runs in theaters. Ask for feedback from audience members to help measure the effectiveness of your PSA.

Young Voter Project '98
Research conducted by X-PAC members revealed that in the Portland metropolitan area, only 1 out of every 9 registered voters between the ages of 18-34 cast a ballot during the 1998 primary election. Concerned about low voter turnout, especially among young voters, X-PAC developed a multi-faceted plan to encourage voter turnout among 18-34 year-olds in the 1998 general election. The plan included a July-September voter registration drive at major rock concerts and a get-out-the-vote campaign in October.

Although young people are underrepresented in terms of voter registration, X-PAC realizes that the biggest challenge is to motivate those who are already registered to actually cast their ballot. To meet this challenge, X-PAC sought volunteer advice and services from young staff at local ad firm Weiden and Kennedy. X-PAC members and ad professionals developed the campaign theme "Your Vote on the Subject?" along with a media plan that attempted to "motivate" young voters in several ways.

X-PAC's first concern was to alert young people about the upcoming November 3rd election. To spread the word, X-PAC volunteers put up hundreds of posters in establishments frequented by young people. Advertising company Watercloset Media donated ad space in dozens of bathroom stalls in restaurants and pubs popular among young voters. X-PAC got its message out to thousands of 18-34 year-olds through a public service announcement slide shown at over 200 Act III Theater auditoriums during the month of October.

Second, X-PAC wanted to communicate the importance of voting because election outcomes affect issues concerning many young citizens. The posters and Watercloset ads -- portraying starkly different outcomes to "hot button" policy issues with the tag line "Your Vote on the Subject?" -- attempted to do this.

Finally, X-PAC provided information about candidates and ballot measures in a fresh, concise and non-partisan manner so that young voters might take the time to learn more about the choices on their ballot. X-PAC's answer to the 2-volume, 200-page state voters' pamphlet was to create and distribute 30,000 copies of an 8-page voter "zine" to help inform voters about local candidate races and 4 statewide ballot measures. An online "zine" was also available through X-PAC's website.

In addition to these targeted media efforts, X-PAC moved its message by enlisting the support of Willamette Week -- a weekly Portland area newspaper, popular among young people. The paper made a significant contribution by developing a cover story based on the results of X-PAC's voter turnout research from the primary election. It also promoted X-PAC's get-out-the-vote efforts and publicized the Young Voter Project '98 fundraising concert. Coverage by Willamette Week led to interview requests from local radio stations, regional newspapers and even a Japanese publication based in Washington, DC.