For the last few months, McCann New York staffers have been working with students from Isaac Newton Middle School in Harlem to teach them how to develop a strategy and creative messaging to produce TV spots in a program called Ad Lab.
Starting in March, agency volunteers worked with 13 students in grades 6, 7 and 8 from 4:30 p.m. to 6 p.m. every Wednesday to develop three 30-second anti-bullying spots.
This was the third year that McCann held Ad Lab for middle school students. Previous efforts focused on anti-obesity efforts and encouraging kids to stay in school. Ad Lab is a Citizens Schools program that was developed by Citizens Lab Teaching Fellow Aidan Thomas, son of former McCann Exec VP-Chief Creative Officer Joyce King Thomas.
Citizen Schools, an organization that partners with middle schools to expand the learning day for children in low-income communities, asks volunteers to create 10-week apprenticeships in such areas as marketing and science to teach students skills and expose them to new career and cultural opportunities. The sessions typically end with a presentation called a "WOW! event."
For Ad Lab, led by McCann chief of staff Mark Strong, the students were divided into three groups that each came up with ideas for anti-bullying spots. On March 30, the teams presented their campaign concepts to five McCann judges at the agency's offices. The judges then selected one idea from each team and gave the students comments and guidance.
Students spent the next six weeks working with agency volunteers to develop, shoot and edit the spots.
Late last month, the students returned to the conference room to present their spots: "Angel vs. Devil," "Karma" and "Locker Slam." Each team gave a description of the strategy, their production vision and what they liked most about the program.