Peace Corps (1961-1991)
While campaigning for presidency, then-Senator John F. Kennedy arrived at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, in the early hours of October 14, 1960, and made an impromptu campaign speech to thousands of students gathered on the steps of the Union. He asked if they would be willing to serve their country and the cause of peace by living and working in under-developed countries around the world. In March of 1961, less than one year later, President Kennedy issued an Executive Order creating the Peace Corps.
Kennedy’s idea was that young people would serve in places like Asia, Africa and Latin America, assisting people in community development. The first assignments were,planned for Ghana, Tanzania, Colombia, the Philippines, Chile, and St. Lucia. Participants were trained in public health and recreation, building roads and schools, and teaching everything from farming to English, math and science.
Unfortunately, many Americans didn’t understand the purpose of the Peace Corps. To that end, The Ad Council and ad agency Young & Rubicam developed a campaign that would soon capture the spirit and the nobility of the Peace Corps. Ad agency Ted Bates & Co. later created the slogan that conveyed its hardship and rewards — “The Toughest Job You’ll Ever Love.” The public service advertisements (PSAs) described the opportunities for service and challenged the public to make the commitment by depicting both the hardships and the rewarding personal experiences.
The campaign helped to attract volunteers to the program almost immediately. In its first year, the Peace Corps sent 614 volunteers to 13 countries, but that number dramatically increased with more than 14,800 volunteers serving in 46 countries by 1964. The print ads included clip and mail coupons, and in 1965, more than a thousand people a week were sending them in. By 1991, 30 percent of Peace Corps volunteers were recruited through the Ad Council’s campaign. At one time half of the mail to Peace Corps was directly traceable to the advertising.
With the help of the Ad Council’s recruitment campaign, the Peace Corps was able to capture the interest and the imagination of an entire nation.
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