PSA Meaning


When you watch TV, you might sometimes notice something called a PSA. It might be a message about using tobacco (smoking) or drugs, for example. I have seen PSAs about having a conversation with your parents when you are uncertain about things. This could be important to prevent large miscommunications from happening, as these could result in dangerous situations.

The point is, PSAs are everywhere. What exactly are they?

PSA stands for Public Service Announcement

A PSA is a sort of advertisement for a specific issue. That is why you can see them on TV or the internet. Instead of trying to sell a product or service, like most ads, they focus on getting people to learn or acknowledge something.

In the case of the PSA I saw about smoking, the idea of the ad was not to smoke. It was trying to show the viewer that smoking is not an effective way to make friends, blend into a crowd, or avoid facing your problems and fears. The point of the PSA was to try changing your behavior!

The same is true for all sorts of other PSAs. The topics can be anything, as long as it related to your habits and your knowledge. Some common focuses of PSAs include:

  • Smoking
  • Exercise
  • Eating habits
  • Voting and voter registration
  • Reading habits
  • Financial habits
  • Using social media

Another big difference between PSAs and typical ad campaigns is the people that sponsor them. For regular ads, different companies buy the air time. You might see an ad about a new toy available for children, or for some new type of account from an investment bank. For a PSA, however, the people who pay for them are usually government departments or nonprofit organizations. They personally are not trying to benefit from your change in action. Instead, they benefit society as a whole by asking you to change your behavior.


The Ministry of Health developed a PSA urging people to smoke less, and to stay away from young children if they do.

I want this PSA to be different from others that feel like old people trying to “fit in” with their children and just making things more awkward.

Slang Usage

In some cases, PSA can actually be used as a slang term. For example, PSA can describe a message that someone wants to share with other people, regardless of the actual utility of that message. A typical PSA might be about exercising more, for example. It is aimed at actually benefitting the lives of the people that see it.

If it is used in a slang way, however, the PSA does not actually have to be about something that is actually beneficial. It could be about a fashion faux pas, for example. If someone really does not like it when people wear sandals and socks, they could make an announcement about why socks do not pair well with sandals. They are almost always used in a joking, satirical, sarcastic, or humorous manner.

  • I can’t believe that people are still wearing socks with sandals! PSA everyone! They do not go well together.
  • This is my formal PSA about why you should not pair stripes and polka dots in the same outfit!

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