Skip navigation

Calls to Action

The Advertising Council and Autism Speaks Unveil National PSA Campaign to Raise Awareness of Autism

Created pro bono by BBDO New York

The Advertising Council, in partnership with Autism Speaks announced today the launch of a new public service advertising (PSA) campaign designed to raise awareness about autism and to urge parents to learn the signs of autism.

According to the Centers for Disease Control, which are collaborating on the production of the campaign, autism is the fastest-growing developmental disability in the United States, with life-long consequences for individuals, family, and society. This complex brain disorder inhibits a person's ability to communicate, respond to surroundings, and form relationships with others. Thirteen years ago only 1 in 10,000 children was diagnosed with autism; today that rate has soared to a staggering 1 in 166.

Despite its growing prevalence, research shows that many parents of young children are generally unaware of autism. This campaign ultimately seeks to increase the level of early detection and early intervention, which research has shown can make a significant difference in the life of a child with autism. With appropriate early-intervention services, from ages 3-5, between 20% and 50% of children diagnosed with autism will be able to attend mainstream kindergarten.

“The increase in autism diagnoses in this country is startling. We are honored to be working with Autism Speaks and BBDO on this critically important campaign to encourage parents to learn the early signs of autism,” according to Peggy Conlon, President & CEO of The Advertising Council. “I am confident that this new campaign will raise awareness about the fact that early detection of autism is critical to a child's future.”

Created pro bono by BBDO New York, the new, multi-media campaign, which includes television, radio, print and internet advertising, aims to motivate parents and caregivers of children aged 0-6 to learn the signs of autism. To view the PSAs please visit

“Early diagnosis of autism is critical -- kids who start receiving treatment early on can experience astounding results,” said Bob Wright, who co-founded Autism Speaks with his wife Suzanne in February 2005. “Together, we will get this important message out to everyone who should hear it.”

“We've come a long way recently in our efforts to get people to recognize and understand disorders like autism," said CDC director Dr. Julie Gerberding. “But we must strengthen these efforts because autism continues to rob too many families of all that life has to offer. This campaign partnership is an important part of our efforts, and one that we hope will help to further educate people about autism and foster early diagnoses. Early intervention can help children grow to be as happy and healthy as possible throughout all stages of their lives.”

“The agency team wanted to make parents aware that the likelihood of their child being diagnosed with an Autism Spectrum Disorder is higher than they think. Much higher.” said Steve Rutter, Creative Director at BBDO New York. “So the advertising compares the everyday precautions parents take such as using a car seat to avoid their child being fatally injured in an accident, a 1 in 23,000 chance, to the possibility that he/she will be diagnosed with Autism, a 1 in 166 chance. The comparison makes the ‘1 in 166' statistic have the startling impact it deserves.”

The new television, radio and print PSAs are being distributed to over 28,000 media outlets nationwide this week. Per the Ad Council model, the PSAs will run and air in advertising time and space that is donated by the media.

Autism Speaks
Autism Speaks is dedicated to increasing awareness of the growing autism epidemic and to raising money to fund scientists who are searching for a cure. It was founded in February 2005 by Suzanne and Bob Wright. Bob Wright is Vice Chairman and Executive Officer, General Electric, and Chairman and CEO, NBC Universal. Autism Speaks and the National Alliance for Autism Research (NAAR) recently combined operations, bringing together two of the leading organizations dedicated to accelerating and funding biomedical research into the causes, prevention, treatments and cure for autism spectrum disorders; to increasing awareness of autism, the nation's fastest growing developmental disorder; and to advocating for the needs of affected families. To learn more about Autism Speaks, visit

BBDO New York
BBDO New York is part of BBDO Worldwide, a global agency network with 316 offices in 77 countries. In 2005, BBDO was named “Agency of the Year” by all of the leading industry trade publications including Ad Age, Adweek and Campaign magazines. In addition, BBDO has been the most awarded agency network in the world for the past seven years, according to The Gunn Report.

The Advertising Council
The Ad Council is a private, non-profit organization with a 60-year history of marshalling volunteer talent from advertising and media industries to deliver critical messages to the American public. The Ad Council has produced thousands of public service campaigns that address the most pressing social issues of the day. Ad Council icons and slogans are woven into the very fabric of American culture – from Smokey Bear's “only You Can Prevent Forest Fires” and McGruff the Crime Dog's “Take A Bite Out of Crime,” to the United Negro College Fund's “A Mind is a Terrible Thing To Waste,” and “Friends Don't Let Friends Drive Drunk.” Last year, the Ad Council received more than $1.7 billion in donated advertising time and space from the media. To learn more about the Ad Council and its campaigns, visit its Web site,