Social Marketing & The Most Infamous PSA: “Save The Manatees”


"Our PSA might be a laughing matter to Iowans, but we still need saving!"

This week in one of my journalism courses we discussed social marketing, which is the use of marketing techniques to get people to change a behavior or an attitude.

In college radio, social marketing is typically found in public service announcements that are aired as part of campaigns by outside organizations.

At our station, the most infamous PSA we play is the Alec Baldwin “Save The Manatees” PSA.  Why is it infamous? Take one listen and you’ll get an idea.

But enough about that. Let’s take a look at where the “Save The Manatees” PSA originates from, the aptly-named Save The Manatees Club.

  • The Save The Manatee Club is a non-profit organization. The group was co-founded in 1981 by the musician (and Florida resident) Jimmy Buffett and the then-governor of Florida, Bob Graham.
  • The first objective of the Save The Manatee Club is to protect manatees, a species of marine mammal, which is internationally classified as endangered. The second aim of the club is to preserve manatees’ marine habitat for future generations.
  • The general public of Florida and those who are otherwise interested in manatees are the target audience of the Save The Manatee Club and its subsequent social marketingcampaigns. In nearly all the threats to manatees, humans are involved.
  • Boaters are a big audience that the club hopes to inform, as manatees can sustain
    grave injuries from boat propellers, which often result in infection. In extreme cases, tugboats and ships have been known to cut manatees in half. Manatees also hear at a high frequency, and some boats also emit a frequency that confuses manatees, so they do not hear to swim away from the potentially dangerous boat.
  • Fishermen are another audience in Florida that the club wishes to reach. Manatees often swallow hooks, weights, and lines. Additionally, they can also get caught in crab pots that are not properly monitored.
  • The Save The Manatee Club and its subsequent campaigns utilize audio and video public service announcements with various celebrities acting as announcers. Jimmy Buffett is a commonly used announcer for the campaign messages. Others, like John Lithgow, Alec Baldwin, and Carl Hiaasen, the author of Hoot, have also appeared in these public service announcements.

While saving the manatees is a very serious cause that is, actually, quite worthy of anyone’s time, a nationwide campaign with a comedic actor doing the voice over is not exactly the way to go about helping these marine mammals.

Time and time again our station has received calls asking if the PSA is, in fact, real. And I get it. Given that most Iowans will never even see a manatee in their lifetime, it does seem strange that the Save The Manatees Club sent the station a PSA.

My advice to the Save the Manatees Club? Advertise the “Adopt a Manatee” option to the select few manatee-loving Midwesterners, but stick to the coastal regions of the United States when advocating for manatee protection.

One response to “Social Marketing & The Most Infamous PSA: “Save The Manatees”

  1. Pingback: Discovering Florida’s Endangered Manatee |

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