MCRC is a clearinghouse funded by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Office on Smoking and Health. MCRC licenses and maintains an inventory of existing tobacco control advertisements developed by a number of U.S. states, organizations, and federal agencies. (Note: The words “advertisements” and “ads” are used interchangeably in this document to refer to all media types. The words “commercials” and “spots” are used interchangeably in this document to refer to ads for television or radio.) By providing access to existing advertising materials, MCRC allows states, organizations, and government agencies to save the time and high cost of producing new ads.

The MCRC collection includes hundreds of television and radio commercials, print, outdoor, and digital ads as well earned media and collateral materials in a variety of formats. The print ads may be used in newspapers or magazines, and the outdoor ads may be used on billboards or posters, as taxi tops, or as transit ads. A growing collection of CDC-produced social media image posts are also available in editable formats for use on a variety of social platforms (Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest and Instagram), as well as on blogs and other owned web properties.

MCRC materials may be used only by nonprofit health-related organizations or government agencies. Each organization/agency must sign a use agreement specifying the intended use of the ads and obligating the user to pay all associated costs (talent/photographer/music fees, tagging, and duplicating). Per our licensing agreements with the original producers of the materials, for-profit organizations are not allowed to use any materials other than those produced directly by CDC. Permission for these for-profit organizations to use CDC materials will be determined on a case-by-case basis and may not be granted.

Performers in the commercials are paid “talent fees,” both when the commercial is originally produced and when it is reused. In most cases, performers are members of the Screen Actors Guild–American Federation of Television and Radio Artists (SAG-AFTRA). This union governs the minimum charges for each type of use. In some cases, performers in nonunion commercials have been paid a single fee for all uses of the commercial; this is called a “buy-out,” and no further talent fees are due. Two types of talent fees exist: “holding fees” and “use fees.” The “holding fee” is a baseline activation fee that covers a 13-week period for a particular spot. The rate stays the same for 21 months as long as the spot is renewed consecutively every 13 weeks. Whenever it is dropped after any 13-week cycle, the commercial must be “reinstated” for new use; the fee often increases at this time. The “use fee” covers the specific city or state where the ad will be shown. If one state pays a holding fee, other states may use the same commercial at the same time by paying only the use fee. To see all ads in cycle in MCRC, select the “Ads in Cycle” option on the MCRC home page. (Note that this feature is available only to registered MCRC users who are logged into the MCRC site.) For more information, contact an MCRC administrator.

Talent fees for each commercial are determined by a number of factors, including

  • The number of performers in the commercial
  • The rate each performer charges (some may accept the minimum rate allowed by SAG-AFTRA, called “scale;” others may charge more—these rates are negotiated between the performers or their agents and the MCRC)
  • The type of use—paid use on network affiliates, cable use, use as a public service announcement, use in theaters or schools, etc.
  • The music fee, if music is in the spot

MCRC can provide estimates of talent fees for each commercial based on expected use. The exact cost will not be determined until rates are negotiated individually for each specific use.

SAG-AFTRA does not allow members to donate their services entirely because, in the past, there have been cases with other public service causes in which actors’ services were abused. Some people are motivated to appear in the MCRC commercials because of their own personal experiences with tobacco or because they believe in the tobacco counter-marketing cause. They normally are willing to accept the minimum “scale” payments. For most of the actors in MCRC commercials, this is a job like any other, and they charge accordingly.

Public service announcements (PSAs) are not defined by the content of the ad. An ad is called a PSA when it is aired on donated time. The time is donated by the television or radio station that airs the ad—in other words, no one buys the advertising time.

To air a commercial as a PSA, one fee is paid to performers for an entire year of use nationwide. As long as the PSA airs on donated time, there is no limit to how many times or how many places the commercial may air during that one year.

The radio and television stations that air PSAs—not the organizations providing the ads—choose the times to air them. PSAs often are aired during off-hours and during times that cannot be easily sold to regular advertisers, such as in the middle of the night. Sometimes individual stations will agree to air PSAs throughout the day, but usually it is more effective to buy air time on a station and work with a station’s staff regarding when commercials will air to ensure that your message is reaching your target audience with sufficient reach and frequency. By paying for the air time, the ad becomes a paid commercial, not a PSA.

Internet usage of MCRC ads is not free. Contact the MCRC administrator for the current rates and options.

These uses are not free. MCRC has a special agreement with SAG-AFTRA to allow use of the commercials in schools at PSA rates. Other uses, such as in theaters, sports arenas, health care clinics/offices, community centers, etc., require payment under “theatrical and industrial use” fees. This is a more expensive rate, but it covers 21 months of use. MCRC free video ads may be used for these purposes without any fees (see question 4).

MCRC offers many resources to help you select which ads might be appropriate for your campaign. MCRC provides detailed information about each ad in its extensive collection of tobacco counter-advertisements for television, radio, print, digital/Internet, and outdoor use. Users can view the ads and order them online (see question 11).

Lists of spots currently in use as PSAs and paid commercials are less expensive because you are sharing costs with another user. To see all ads in cycle in MCRC, select the “Ads in Cycle” option on the home page. (Note that this feature is available only to registered MCRC users who are logged in to the site.) There are also a number of spots that have no talent fees at all. To find free ads in MCRC, select “Free ads only” as the cost range when using the MCRC detailed search tool (see question 11).

MCRC also offers technical assistance to help you select commercials appropriate for your campaign. Contact an MCRC administrator for more information about this service.

You can use MCRC to browse the MCRC collection, identify advertisements of interest, and request more information.

The quick search feature on the home page searches only current ads that are available for use in counter-marketing campaigns. The detailed search function is useful for people who want to target an ad search for a specific population, cost range, language, etc., or review older ads in the MCRC for archive research and campaign ideas.

First, you will need to visit MCRC and add the advertisements to your “requested ads” list. At this point, you should also determine if the costs are within your price range (a price range for each ad is listed on the database—ads listed as cost “unknown” have not been used since production and will be renegotiated upon your request). At the same time you request your ads, provide information on how you plan to use the ads so that we can provide you with a more accurate estimate of the costs for the selected ads. Whenever you request talent fee estimates for a particular ad, you will need to provide the following information:


  • Cities or markets where it will be broadcast
  • Length of time it will be broadcast (1 month, 6 months, etc.)
  • Expected first air date
  • For cable TV, the number of cable subscribers for the cable system on which you will buy time (your local cable affiliate can provide this information)

Outdoor (billboards, bus ads, taxi toppers, airport backlit ads, etc.)

  • Number of boards/ads
  • How long each will be placed
  • Cities/states/markets where ads will appear

Print ads (magazines, newspapers, etc.)

  • Size of ad
  • Number of times it will run
  • Circulation of magazine or newspaper (the publication can provide this information)

When you have selected the actual ads or commercials you wish to use and agreed to cost, MCRC will send you a cost quote to confirm your obligation to pay the associated costs and an ad use agreement that sets out the terms and conditions of use. A person authorized to bind your organization to legal agreements must sign both documents. Production on your order (e.g., tagging and duplication) begins after we receive the signed cost quote and agreement—together these make up your contract. Once the contract has been signed, you are obligated to pay the talent fees even if you decide later not to use a particular ad.

Once we receive your signed agreement, we will tag (see questions 13 and 16) and duplicate your materials. Turnaround normally is 3-5 business days. We deliver material electronically by an FTP site and send a link by e-mail to you or the media outlets or printing vendors you specify. The entire process, from the day we first receive your signed order, takes about 2 weeks.

The Federal Communications Commission requires that each television and radio commercial be identified with the name of its sponsoring organization. This visual or audio identification of your organization is called a “tag.” The tag must not mention the name of any specific government officials (governors, mayors, etc.) because the ads are not to be used for political purposes. Upon request, the MCRC can tag your ads for a fee; including broadcast, print and digital (see question 16). Ask MCRC administration about tagging costs for specific ads.

In addition to the talent fees (see question 4), there are costs for tagging and duplication (see question 16). MCRC customers will be responsible for the tagging costs only; duplication is free.

In order to help make paid advertising campaigns easier and more affordable, CDC sometimes offers a package of ads at reduced cost. For these packages, CDC selects a set of ads on a particular theme and pays some or all of the talent fees associated with the use of these ads. MCRC customers are then responsible for covering the costs for tagging and duplication. Question 16 provides more information about costs for tagging and duplication. Please contact the MCRC for information about current ad packages and specific costs.

Cost for tagging is decided on a case-by-case basis and vary based on need, and the following key considerations:

  • Is MCRC creating the tag (text and/or a logo included)?
  • Is MCRC recording voice over announcer messages to add to your tag and how many?

MCRC in-house creative staff can tag all ad types and formats. Please contact an MCRC administrator for an estimate.

All products are delivered electronically by FTP server. Arrangements can be made to ship files on DVD if you are incapable of downloading files electronically. You are responsible for printing all posters, billboards, and other materials.

Ads that are free of talent fees are subject to tagging costs as described here. Get additional information about obtaining these free products with tagging costs.

SAG-AFTRA rates cover use of TV spots in the United States, Mexico, and Canada. Outside these areas, television talent fees are paid by region: United Kingdom (UK), Europe without UK, Japan, Asia without Japan, and the rest of the world. These fees cover television and theatrical use within the specified region for 21 months. The ads may not be incorporated into a separate media production without expressed permission by the original producer.

For radio, one lump sum is paid for 18 months and covers all use outside the United States, Mexico, and Canada. Spots on the MCRC free ads videos have no fees for use anywhere in the world. Domestic and overseas users sign the same use agreement, although tagging requirements may vary by country and translation to other languages may need approval by the ad producer (see question 19).

MCRC has a compilation of cessation ads from around the world to facilitate communication and sharing of information among different countries. We are able to negotiate the use of ads in MCRC produced in Australia;, for others we provide contact information for the original producing countries.

Any changes to the body of the spot—words or images—must be approved in advance by the original producing agency as well as the original sponsoring health department/organization. This approval is determined on a case-by-case basis, and permission to make changes to the content of the spot is not always granted. Approval to translate a spot into a different language normally is granted, with final review of the translation by the producing agency or organization.

These uses must be negotiated with the individual performers/models/photographers in each ad. For television and radio commercials, the fees are separate and additional to any broadcast use.

The collection contains many ads that can be used for free by anyone including for school/educational purposes. Most of the ads incur talent fees for any use. The only way these fees can be avoided is if the ads are being shown by an agency that will ultimately be purchasing the “winning” commercials for use in a campaign. Contact an MCRC administrator before any such use is planned, as any misuse could lead to the assessment of fines and after-the-fact talent fees.

Placing your ads into MCRC allows other states and organizations to take advantage of the hard work, time, and expense that you have put into producing high-quality materials. If you represent a nonprofit health organization or government agency and have materials to share, the first step is to contact an MCRC administrator. We will send you a licensing agreement that allows CDC the nonexclusive rights to redistribute your materials. A representative from your organization who is authorized to bind your organization to legal agreements must sign this document. Then you send us the ads in master format, along with information about the actors, models, photographers, and other talent in the ads. You will also send us information such as themes, target audiences, etc. about each ad so we can include this information in the database. Please send materials that do not have your state’s or organization’s tag so that the states/organizations using your ads can add their own.

All of the states and organizations that have placed their ads in the MCRC have done so as a service to others in tobacco control. There is no cost to the producing state/organization to place ads in the MCRC, nor is there any payment to the producing state/organization to include ads in the collection. Any talent fees for use of the ads are incurred by the state/organization that uses the ads.

We receive many inquiries from individuals, advertising agencies, schools, etc. that have produced materials and want to include them in MCRC. Unfortunately, most of these materials are not of broadcast quality, and most are not based on rigorous research and testing, as are the materials produced for tobacco control programs at the state or national level. Therefore, we restrict materials that we accept into MCRC to only those produced by state health departments, nonprofit health organizations, and federal agencies. If you are from an entity other than a government or nonprofit health organization and have produced high-quality ads that are used in a statewide or national tobacco control effort, or if you have research to demonstrate their effectiveness, please contact an MCRC administrator to discuss. Exceptions to this policy will be made on a case-by-case basis and may not be granted.

*Note: Any fees listed in this document are subject to change without notice. Please contact an MCRC administrator to confirm fees.