Recruit! Recruit! Recruit!
There was a huge push in the 1950s to recruit people for the GOC. While the GOC officially started in 1951, Operation Skywatch in 1953 set the goal of having all observation posted manned 24/7 at full capacity. Recruiting volunteers to watch the skies for planes at all hours of the day and night, every day of the year was a very tall demand. As noted in this post about the Supervisor’s Guide, a lot of the information in the guide is about recruiting and retaining volunteers to keep posts operational. And while the Air Force ultimately oversaw all GOC operations, it was up to the post supervisor to recruit and train all volunteers at their post.
The Air Force had guidance for supervisors on how to conduct ad campaigns and volunteer drives. One such guidance was the Suggestions on How to Obtain Advertising and Public Relations Support for the Ground Observer Corps, which is undated but I believe was sent out in 1953 around the launch of Skywatch. While only being 4 pages typed, it is a good primer on advertising theory and how to generate enthusiasm and support for your post.
Publicity vs. Advertising
The GOC’s public relations campaign was targeted at the general public from teens on up. Both the Suggestions document and the Supervisor’s Guide make the distinction between publicity and advertising. Publicity is news and editorial matter. The biggest suggestion is to get your volunteers in the news – “names make news”. Keep a steady stream of public interest stories about your volunteers, which will make them happy and continue to generate interest. There are also suggestions to host public education sessions on the GOC and civil defense. Local filter centers had short films that could be shown at public events or with news reels as part of public education and recruiting efforts.
On advertising, Suggestions says that the GOC started an ad campaign in 1952. It advises supervisors on how to get local sponsors for ads and suggests talking to people about “volunteer, civilian plane spotters” as the Ground Observation Corps was not as widely known. It also suggests appealing to the Public Service Committee for help with ads and public awareness. The best ad placement were in newspapers. Supervisors could also get promotional posters from the GOC Project Office in Washington, DC.
The Ad Council
The Advertising Council or Ad Council, as it is now called, is a non-profit advertising organization started during WWII to keep the nation informed on topics of vital interest. If you’ve been in the United States, you’ve seen Ad Council Ads. During WWII, the Ad Council ran ads to promote war bonds, the Cadet Nursing Corps, and to warn people that loose lips sink ships. The Ad Council went on to run man more iconic campaigns throughout the years such as the “crying Indian” ad during the 1970s, Nancy Reagan’s “Just Say No” campaign, AIDS awareness, Michelle Obama’s “Let’s Move” campaign, and most recently anti-bullying ads. They created iconic characters such as Smokey the Bear, McGruff the Crime Dog, and the Crash Test Dummies (from the commercials, not the band.)
The October 1955 Aircraft Flash had a two-page spread on the advertising efforts of the Ad Council for the GOC. Some stats for 1955:
- 96,300 car cards
- 105 ads in house magazines
- 1,485,000 lines in daily newspapers
- 2,231,000 lines in weekly newspapers
- 46,200 messages of 50 lines of preferred space
- 89,000 home impressions on radio
- 117,000,000 home impressions on TV
- estimated cost of $3-4 million
That’s an incredible amount of advertising, especially the money spent. I need to see how that compares to other ads of the time. A simple newspaper search for “Ground Observer Corps” during the 1950s will return thousands of ads in addition to public interest stories and other snippets. It’s easy to see the effect of the Ad Council’s work.