Teaching N.Y. High School Students About Advertising

Big Fuel Hosts Ad Futures Competition to Foster Learning

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Now in its eighth year, the Advertising Futures competition is a partnership by the Advertising Club of New York, the New York City Department of Education and Virtual Enterprises. In the span of a month, teams of local high school students are mentored by some of the world's top advertising agencies and design a print ad in support of a specific cause or movement.

Earlier this month, Big Fuel welcomed more than 30 schools, 23 mentor agencies, teachers and students' families as the teams went head to head before a panel of judges for final presentations. This year's challenge was to create an ad for first lady Michelle Obama's "Let's Move" campaign. Together with their mentors, the teams brainstormed and executed designs that would "change the culture of a generation -- to make them think and act different about food and friends, eating and exercise," according to the creative brief.

New York high school students created ads for the Ad Futures competition.
New York high school students created ads for the Ad Futures competition.

While all the students produced amazing work, in the end, the all-girl team from Grace Dodge High School took home the grand prize -- the chance to see their ad in the pages of The New York Times and on a billboard in Times Square. "There's nothing in this ad that doesn't have a reason for being there," said one student from the winning team.

The girls' "Don't Indulge the Bulge" ad featured a mascot named The Bulge that symbolized laziness and unhealthy eating habits. Copy encouraged our students' peers to make healthy decisions, offering a checklist of "small choices that lead to a bigger change." When asked if she was interested in pursuing a career in advertising, one of the winning students replied that she "had never given any thought to it before -- but now it's a definite possibility."

The second- and third-place ads -- one crafted around the theme of winning and losing, the other featuring an image of an obese Statue of Liberty -- will also be featured in the Times.

Beyond those who actually get to see their work published, every team that participated walked away a winner. For the past few weeks, the students learned about the hard work and innovative ideas that go into building success in advertising, all while working alongside the best in the business. Not only were they inspired to pursue careers in the industry, but I think the agencies themselves were inspired by the students' determination and youthful creativity.

In addition to hosting the event, Big Fuel mentored two teams of students in the competition.

Seth Berk is CMO of Big Fuel, New York.
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