When Do They Decide?

How to Make Ad Industry Front of Mind for Kids

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A correction has been made in this story. See below for details.

Let me take you back . . . way back . . . back into time.

Tiffany Warren Tiffany R. Warren
It is 1986, I am staring at a blank piece of construction paper, colored pencils in hand and it is my first studio art class at The Winsor School. Earlier that week, my Class II (sixth Grade) homeroom teacher, Ms. Knox, accompanied us to a performance of the Boston Ballet. The performance was beautiful and ethereal but something was missing. As a twelve year old black girl, I knew by the second act that there would be no black ballerinas in this performance. I watched, I waited with chin resting on fist. No one up there looked like me.

Credit: Tiffany R. Warren
So in my first studio art class I was going to wage a quiet protest. Ms. Gao, my studio art teacher, gave us our assignment: Draw a rendering of the profession you'd most like to be some day. So I drew an ad. The ad was a picture of a black ballerina with boobs and long black hair (I had neither at the time). Again, the ad was aspirational! The tagline was "Boston Ballet, Join Today!" Ms Gao liked the ad but said I didn't quite follow the assignment. Oh, how wrong she would be! I followed the assignment perfectly and later became a manager of diversity programs for the advertising industry.

When do we decide what we want to be? Kindergarten, sixth grade, or a junior in college? In kindergarten, there is usually a border that goes around the length of the room. It features your ABC's, 123's and professions. The border usually features a teacher holding an apple, a doctor holding a stethoscope, a lawyer standing next to the scales of justice, a fireman and a policeman. But I don't recall a picture of an adman. So how does the advertising industry become part of a young hopeful's consideration set? There are a couple of industry initiatives that aim to do just that.

In 2006, Advertising Week, in partnership with Four A's New York Council, created GeneratioNext Fund. The program aims to promote diversity and generate dedicated funding to establish new internship, mentoring programs, and scholarships for New York City students. Twenty-nine creative and media agencies supported the new initiative last year, over $100,000 of new dollars was raised to fund GeneratioNext. The unique aspect of GeneratioNext that may be missed is that the core of its support comes from junior and mid-level advertising professionals who attend the events associated with the fundraising effort. Over 5,000 people attended last year's GeneratioNext concert and after party. This year, AOL is sponsoring the concert featuring Gym Class Heroes and Panic at The Disco, and Univision is wrapping it up at the Tribeca Studios.

Another event of note during Advertising Week is the Advertising Futures Program. Now in its fourth year, Advertising Futures is a program that connects the advertising industry to high school students in partnership with the New York City Department of Education and Virtual Enterprise.

In 2006, the program hosted nearly forty public high-school classes and a corresponding number of agencies. The 2006 brief -- a campaign on the importance of discussing the dangers of underage drinking in the home -- was developed and executed in partnership with the Ad Council. VCU Ad Center director and former Ogilvy creative honcho, Rick Boyko, led the judge's panel and The New York Times dedicated a full page space to the winning student ad. AOL also built a dedicated site for all the great work.

This year, the Ad Council developed a creative brief highlighting the dangers of reckless teen driving. The final student presentations will take place this Wednesday, September 26 from 2 p.m. to 5 p.m. at the New York Society for Ethical Culture. Arnold is the proud host of the Edward R. Murrow High School and all involved have gained a tremendous amount of pride and excitement for the future of the advertising hopefuls we have hosted for the last three weeks.

On Wednesday, when those students look out on the audience of advertising professionals there to support their creative effort, my hope is that some day they won't have to create an ad that says "Join Today!"

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> CORRECTION: An earlier version of this story incorrectly stated that Rick Boyko was the founder of VCU Ad Center. Boyko is the director. The founder is Diane Cook Tench.
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