Advertising in the Classroom Makes Everyone Most Likely to Succeed

By Chris Weil, Chairman/CEO, Momentum Worldwide

Seven years ago, a Brooklyn high school was receiving failing grades, and its students were struggling to find their direction. Today, that same school boasts graduation rates 18% better than average, students are more engaged and inspired, and this below-average school now receives top marks.

And people say advertising doesn't change lives?

Yes, advertising and marketing--and a lot of new partnerships--made all the difference, and there have been a lot of winners since. Some background: This school, now the High School for Innovation in Advertising Media (IAM), was the first major foray into education by the 4A's (American Association of Advertising Agencies), to help create a vocational training program that gave kids a chance for careers--not just jobs. Since its inception in 2007, IAM has spawned a second program, MECA (Manhattan Early College School for Advertising), and the two programs are teaching a new generation the skills needed to compete in our industry--or any number of other fields.

It turns out that for these schools, advertising has made all the difference. And the earlier people learn about advertising, the more everyone wins.

While turning these kids who might never have considered advertising as a career into future Bob Greenbergs and Dan Wiedens is an enviable goal, the most important factor is that they're engaged--and receiving an education that sets them up for future success. The bottom line: the engagement these students have with the idea and applications of marketing and advertising skills is paying off for the students, the schools, and the future of our industry.

Through my perspective as chair of the 4A's High School Initiative, I'm seeing three ways that everyone wins:

"Cool" and creative are big draws for learning: We forget sometimes just how cool what we do can be. That sensation of seeing your ideas out in the world, impacting people's lives, changing the way they think, and exciting them to new possibilities is transformative and why I love this industry. When kids see what they can do, how they really and truly can change the world around them and be creative in the process, well it's no wonder 25-35% of the graduates from IAM and MECA are entering the advertising field.

The skills work beyond advertising: The skills it takes to be great in our industry are transferable to innumerable other fields. Show me a field where being skilled at communicating doesn't help; show me where knowing how to utilize technology won't get you ahead; find me a job where being able to solve problems with creative solutions isn't needed--you can't.

Specialized career training can be an asset: The 4A's are participating in this new movement toward creating career training programs--these students graduate with diplomas and an associate degree--because our kids need more than jobs; they need the skills to be able to move around as the world continues to adapt and evolve. Vocational education used to be limited to blue collar roles, which have great value, but not a lot of transferrable skills. Programs like IAM and MECA provide lots of options and an open-ended future.

The exposure and contact with the advertising world that these students get leads many of them to pursue something that wasn't even on their radar before. As someone who believes that we constantly need to be revitalizing our collective talent pool with influxes of new, diversely skilled candidates, we need more programs like these all across the country.

Everyone wins with programs like IAM and MECA. These programs are open to anyone--no pre-testing, auditions or selective screening; anyone in the community can attend. The students get an education that gives them practical, transferable skills and they are more engaged thanks to the curriculum. For agencies, we get the opportunity to reach teenagers early and get them excited about our industry, encouraging them to ultimately join us and help change the world. And all of us gain because kids that might have been in danger of dropping out are instead turning their attention to careers and fulfilling their potential.

If there's a lesson to be learned, it's this: We can use the collective creativity in our industry to show students that being creative every day while affecting the world around you is desirable, whatever path that takes you down. Let's inspire kids around the country to do more--to be more. The 4A's Initiative is one path--one I obviously believe in and would gladly welcome you to join me on--but the potential for all of us to take action and make new connections is huge.

Partner in new ways. Create an active legacy of creativity. Mentor beyond your walls. Let's all graduate into a future where advertising is inspiring and supporting the creative thinkers of tomorrow, so tomorrow will be brighter for all of us.