PSA film contest held at University

The judges will look at the message, as well as the filmmaking of the PSA.

Aspiring filmmakers may soon be looking to TV legends McGruff the Crime Dog and Smokey Bear for inspiration.

The School of Public Health has announced its second annual “It’s Global” public service announcement contest, in which participants submit a 30-second ad that deals with public health issues.

The event is part of National Public Health Week taking place in April. School of Public Health Dean John Finnegan said PSAs help spread public health messages.

on the web

To learn more about the “It’s Global” public service announcement contest and to see last year’s submissions, go to

“It’s important,” he said. “It’s a different way of talking about public health with people.”

Finnegan said the emergence of Internet communication has caused public health advocates to begin using PSAs to spread messages.

“There’s a platform there, and I do think it sets a high bar for what we’re doing in public health PSAs,” he said.

University multimedia producer Paul Bernheardt came up with the idea to host the PSA contest.

Bernheardt said he was asked to come up with an idea for a competition for the school, and the decision to move toward PSAs was easy.

“It makes a great deal of sense for someone to make a short film that addressed an important topic of public health,” he said.

Julie Hartley, president of the Sean Francis Foundation, won last year’s contest with a PSA that was about organ donation.

Hartley’s organization is named after her son, who died in a motorcycle accident in 2000 when he was 20 years old.

Since then, she has been focused on creating PSAs about issues she feels don’t receive enough attention, such as organ donation and attentive driving.

“In this day and age, with everybody being so media-savvy, I think it’s really an important part,” she said.

Hartley’s ad was one of 17 submitted last year, Bernheardt said.

Three judges assess each entry on a system that rates messages and filmmaking, Bernheardt said. They will look at the message, sound, cinematography and editing. The winner will receive a $500 prize.

Jennifer Johnson, a teaching specialist in the University’s journalism school, said PSAs rely on creating interesting messages about important topics in order to be effective.

“People don’t just read advertising,” she said. “They read what’s interesting to them. It’s absolutely critical that the creative people behind the message are finding something that is going to be interesting to the audience they’re talking to.”

Johnson said PSAs also need to be simple to accomplish their goal of informing and influencing.

“We shouldn’t have to over-explain ourselves,” she said. “If we do, we haven’t accomplished the goal.”

One of the judges for this year’s contest is Marco Yzer, an assistant professor in the journalism school. He said he will focus on the ads’ messages.

“What I would be looking for in an effective health message,” he said, “if we look at the content, is there clear behavioral recommendation?”

Yzer, who also holds a doctorate in psychology, said people tend to tune out when exposed to negative messages.

Finnegan said he thinks a contest like this allows people who work within the health community to express their creativity.

Hartley said she sees a contest like this as a call to action.

“It encourages them to actually do something, which I think is fantastic,” she said.