At a glance

Find answers to frequently asked questions about the MCRC.

Frequently asked questions

1. What is the Media Campaign Resource Center (MCRC)?

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.

2. What types of advertisements does MCRC have in its collection?

The MCRC collection includes hundreds of video and radio commercials, social media materials, print, outdoor, and digital ads as well as 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. CDC and partner-produced social media image posts are available in formats for use on a variety of social platforms (Facebook, X, Pinterest, and Instagram), as well as on blogs and other owned web properties.

3. Who can use MCRC ads?

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, image license fees, music license fees, and tagging). 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.

4. What are the talent fees, and how much are they?

Performers in some commercials are paid “talent fees,” both when the commercial is originally produced and when it is reused. In many 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.

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.

5. Why don't performers donate their time for this kind of commercial?

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.

6. Aren't public service announcements (PSAs) supposed to be free?

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 SAG-AFTRA 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 (1) year.

7. Why aren't all MCRC advertisements paid PSAs?

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.

8. What are the fees for Internet usage of MCRC ads?

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

9. What about using MCRC commercials in schools, theaters, clinics, and other community sites?

These uses are not free. Uses such as in theaters, sports arenas, health care clinics/offices, community centers, etc., require payment under “theatrical and industrial use” fees.

10. With so many ads available, how do I determine which MCRC ads I want to use?

MCRC offers many resources to help you select which ads might be appropriate for your campaign. The MCRC application 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 administrator for more information about this service.

11. What information is in the MCRC Database?

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: (1) target an ad search for a specific population, cost range, language, etc., or (2) review older ads in the MCRC for archive research and campaign ideas.

12. Once I've selected the ads I want to use, how do I order them?

First, you will need to visit MCRC and add the advertisements to your “requested ads” list (shopping cart). 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
  • Start and end dates
  • Platforms/channels if digital use

Social and digital ads:

  • Start and end dates
  • Platforms

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

  • Start and end dates
  • Cities/states/markets where ads will appear

Print ads (magazines, newspapers, etc.):

  • Start and end dates
  • Circulation of magazine or newspaper (the publication can provide this information) markets

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 (For example, tagging) 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 if requested (see questions 13 and 15). Turnaround normally is 3–5 business days. We deliver material electronically by a file transfer protocol (FTP) site and send a link by email 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.

13. Can I add the name of my organization to each ad?

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 15). Ask MCRC administration about tagging costs for specific ads.

14. What are the costs for using MCRC commercials?

In addition to the talent fees (see question 4), there are costs for tagging or other production support.

15. How much does tagging cost?

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

  • Is MCRC creating the tag (text and/or a logo included)?
  • Is MCRC recording voice-over 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. 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.

16. Can MCRC commercials be used outside the United States?

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. The ads may not be incorporated into a separate media production without express permission by the original producer.

Tagging requirements may vary by country, and translation to other languages may need approval by the ad producer (see question 18).

17. May I use materials from countries other than the United States in my country?

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.

18. What if I want to change some of the words in a commercial or just use part of it to make my own spot?

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.

19. Is there a cost to use ads for school/educational purposes?

The collection contains many ads that can be used for free by anyone including for school/educational purposes. Many ads in the collection can also be found on YouTube and public health websites.

20. How do I place ads that I have produced into the MCRC?

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 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.