Publicis New York Gets Involved in Ad Council Effort

After Creating Campaign, Agency Encourages Employees to Pitch In

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When Publicis New York created the BoostUp program with the Ad Council, it decided to get its own employees involved in the effort to encourage high-school students to stay in school. Rob Feakins, president-chief creative officer of Publicis, New York, explains what the agency did and why.

In the U.S., three out of 10 students don't graduate from high school. In some areas of the country, it's as high as seven out of 10. The misconception is that most of these students want to drop out. But they aren't lazy; they aren't unmotivated. Rather, the challenges they face in their personal lives leave them no other option. Teen pregnancy, absent parents, financial troubles -- all create difficult hurdles for them. For these students, just wanting to study and work hard isn't enough. They need something more. They need constant encouragement and support. They need a boost.

Boostup.org posters
To help address this problem, Publicis New York, along with the Ad Council, created a 360-degree advertising campaign for BoostUp, a program that enables people to send encouragement (boosts) to potential graduates in their communities who are at risk of dropping out. In addition to TV spots, radio, print and outdoor, we completely redesigned the BoostUp.org website to be a resource for students struggling to stay in school, as well as for the members of the community who are committed to helping them. In addition to sending prewritten text boosts and e-mails, the new site even has a series of programmable celebrity wake-up calls that students and their friends can send to one another to help them get up on time for school.

But we decided to take our commitment a step further. It wasn't enough just to tell everyone else to help these at-risk students. We decided we were actually going to be the ones who helped them. To rally the Publicis New York agency around the at-risk student community, we declared June to be BoostUp month at Publicis.

On June 1, BoostUp.org had received 12,000 boosts since the inception of our campaign a few months earlier. We resolved to increase that to 50,000 by June 30. If we succeeded, the entire agency would get a day off. But 38,000 boosts in 30 days is no small feat. So to keep BoostUp.org at the top of everyone's mind, we embarked on an internal advertising and PR campaign.

We created a series of posters around the office reminding people to send boosts. Then, to make the process of sending a boost even simpler, our IT department changed everyone's browser home page to BoostUp.org. At all agency meetings, laptops were connected to BoostUp.org, and participants were reminded to send a few boosts before returning to their offices. In addition to weekly e-mail reminders, CEO Joe McCarthy and I recorded our own "celebrity" wake-up calls that went out to the entire agency. Finally, we created innovative stickers for the windows of the revolving doors in our lobby. People entering the building could give a "push" to a student and then see the results of their effort as that same student came around the other side wearing a cap and gown, proudly holding a diploma.

As advertisers, we usually try to encourage people to change behavior or donate without putting any of that burden on ourselves. Our hope is that this type of grass-roots effort will begin inside the walls of our company, and then be carried beyond the walls by our friends. We also hope that by acting like citizens and not just an agency, we'll not only give our high-school kids a boost but ourselves as well.

Editor's Note: By July 1, the agency had sent more than 25,000 boosts, a 37% increase in a month.