Financial Literacy: The Key to Equality

Operation Hope Launches BBDO Campaign to Promote Empowerment

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Promoting financial literacy, Operation Hope has launched its first TV PSA campaign. The three spots, featuring the nonprofit's founder, John Hope Bryant, promote the importance of financial empowerment, including becoming financially literate, serving as a role model for young people and getting foreclosure help.

The PSAs were created pro bono by BBDO, New York, and are being distributed by the National Association of Broadcasters.

The spots were created to focus attention on financial literacy and the Silver Rights Movement, which works to bring financial literary education and empowerment to underserved and low-income communities. "Tactically, it's making free enterprise and capitalism work for the poor," says Bryant, who is chairman-CEO of Operation Hope. "To not understand money, and to not have a bank account, is the very definition of slavery in the 21st century. It's not about color lines.

"More people today don't have a bank account in America than didn't have the right to vote in 1962," he says. "Twenty-two million Americans did not have the right to vote in 1962; 40 million don't have a bank account today, according to the FDIC."

Bryant started working with BBDO, New York, after meeting agency President-CEO John Osborn through their association as Young Global Leaders for the World Economic Forum.

"Through the course of our work, I was talking about my frustration," Bryant says. "The dropout rate among all kids is 30 percent. Among urban kids, it's 40 percent to 50 percent. Among black men, it's a stunning 70 percent. We're going to get our clocks cleaned by India and China if we don't get our act fixed as a nation.

"They're dropping out of high school for one reason: It's not relevant to their future. ... If you're a drug dealer, it's unethical and immoral, but you're not dumb. You are an entrepreneur; you have just had bad role models."

Describing BBDO New York as "a company that led from the heart and the head, a company that cares," Bryant says the agency went all out to create the campaign. "I will be forever in their debt."

According to Osborn, the work of Operation Hope is in line with the agency's values and goals. "Eradicating poverty and empowering underserved communities with sustaining hope is an issue we at BBDO, and I personally, take very, very seriously," Osborn said in a statement. "We believe that our partnership and approach, which we call 'soul branding' that accentuates the positive, will help further strengthen the power of this important message."

Operation Hope has raised more than $900 million since it was founded in 1992 and has helped more than 1.2 million individuals and families. Its latest initiative, Five Million Kids, or 5MK, is focused on curbing high-school dropout rates.

"Financial literacy ties in with your self-esteem. It ties in with your culture; it ties in with your role models and how you were raised," says Bryant, author of the book "Love Leadership" (Jossey-Boss, 2009). "If you're poor, you have crappy health care. If you're poor, you have crappy housing. If you're poor, you have crappy relationships. If you're poor, it's the slippery slope of all those bad things. This is the economic path to freedom."

Next up is a series of PSAs featuring celebrities, starting in the fourth quarter with Quincy Jones.

According to Bryant, Quincy Jones once said that it takes 20 years to change a culture. "Over the past 20 years, we've made dumb sexy," Bryant says." The solution is in the next 20 years, we need to make smart sexy again."