Ad Council Film, Digital GED PEP TALK CENTER by DDB Chicago

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Industry Charities, Foundations, Volunteers
Media Film, Digital, Interactive & Mobile
Market United States
Agency DDB Chicago
Director Jesse Dylan
Producer Greg Shultz, Shanae Diewold
Editor Grant Gustafson @ The Whitehouse
Released June 2012


Cannes Lions 2012
PR Lions Celebrity Endorsement Bronze

Credits & Description

Type of Entry: Technique
Category: Celebrity Endorsement
Product/Service: FREE GED CLASSES
Entrant Company: DDB CHICAGO, USA
DM/Advertising Agency: DDB CHICAGO, USA
Chief Creative Officer: Ewan Paterson (DDB Chicago)
Creative Director/Assistant Director/Copywriter: Matt Collier (DDB Chicago)
Creative Director/Assistant Director/Copywriter: Wayne Robinson (DDB Chicago)
Executive Producer: Scott Kemper (DDB Chicago)
Assoc. Creative Director: Alex Zamiar (DDB Chicago)
Assoc. Creative Director: Jonathan Richman (DDB Chicago)
Producer: Shanae Diewold (DDB Chicago)
Executive/Digital Producer: Jon Ellis (DDB Chicago)
Director: Jesse Dylan (Wondros)
Asst. Editor: Aaron Kiser (Cutters)
Graphic Designer: Lindsey Stuart (DDB Chicago)
Editor: Grant Gustafson (Cutters)
Flame Artist: Justin Winkler (Filmworkers)
Colorist: Brian Carlucci (Filmworkers)
Executive Music Producer: Eric Johnson (DDB Chicago)
Audio Mixer: Nick Papaleo (Gutenberg Networks)
Executive Producer: Debbi Landon (Hum Music)
Producer: Greg Shultz (Wondros)
Describe the campaign/entry
If you want a job in America 89% of businesses require you to have a GED diploma, yet 35m Americans don’t have one. Before we could get these people back into the workplace, we had to get them back into the classroom. We had to find a way to motivate them. Daniel-san had Mr Miyagi to motivate him. Rocky had Micky. But who do these high school drop outs have? We knew you couldn’t talk to all these people with one voice, so we set up the GED pep talk centre and had 13 voices, so everyone could find a voice that would motivate them.
We approached a number of celebrities, ranging in style from gentle (Debra Jo Rupp, famous from 'That 70's Show') all the way up to the extreme end of the scale (Danny Trejo, famous for being a bad ass from films like 'Machete', 'Heat' and, funnily enough, 'Bad Ass'), as some people needed more motivation than others.
You can get a face-to-face pep talk online, or you can also call a hotline and use the numbers on your key pad to choose a level of pep talk. We also set up a specialised text service where by you can text the name of a celebrity pep talker and they will call you back with a pep talk. Posters, TV commercials, radio, online banners and a PR push all directed people to the Pep talk centre.
Describe the brief from the client
High school drop outs come from a huge range of backgrounds, and can leave school for a number of very different reasons, not always of their own choice. So not only were we having to talk to a massive number of people, we had a range of ages, and social and ethnic backgrounds to appeal to. And more importantly, within these groups, there were people with differing levels of motivation. While some believed they were stuck with the hand life had dealt them, others knew they could better themselves, but needed a gentle push.


We have obtained a total of more than $40m in donated media since the launch of our campaign. This is way above other well-performing Ad Council campaigns.
We have driven more than 2m (2,430,346) unique visitors to our website since launch.
And we have generated more than 7,359,283 page views.
In addition to website visits, 38,371 potential students called our hotline for more information about getting their GED Diploma. That’s 29% higher than the initial estimate of 18,000 calls per year. (Source: ProLiteracy National Literacy, Directory Referral Partnership.)
The texting service was used 5,000 times in the first week of launch.
A total of 97 news stations highlighted our campaign within the first week of launch.
With a 34% sign up rate, it’s evident that our campaign was persuasive in its ability to drive potential students to the website.

Creative Execution

The campaign broke across every media platform possible to create maximum impact. Outdoor posters, TV and radio commercials, social media, digital, earned media and, most importantly, word of mouth, all led potential GED students to a bespoke website where they would find the GED Pep Talk Centre. Here they could select a level of pep talk, ranging from level 1 ‘Gentle’, for people who just needed a little encouragement, all the way up to level 13 ‘Extreme’, for people who needed a lot of persuading. This gave them the motivation they needed to sign up for free GED classes in their area.
We were also mindful to select celebrities who already had huge social media followings, so that when the campaign broke, they could spread the word to an audience who were already listening.

The Ad Council is the American governmental body responsible for public service announcements. Amongst other causes, they encourage high school drop outs to better themselves and get their GED high school diploma – a qualification 89% of American businesses require applicants to have.
A huge proportion of the population, 35m Americans, don’t have one. So we had to find a way to motivate this massive and diverse target market in a way traditional advertising couldn’t.

It became clear very quickly that ‘one size fits all’ would not work here. We had to talk to people on more of a one-to-one basis. Which led us to the idea of pep talks. If talking with one voice wasn’t going to work, why not talk with many voices? Create a group of motivational talkers, from a range of social and ethnic backgrounds to talk to the target on their level. We wanted this campaign to have impact and get noticed, so rather than use people like motivational speakers, we used famous Hollywood faces that the target could identify with.
By using recognisable faces, we were starting at an advantageous point as our audience were prepared to listen to the message and engage with it. It felt like a conversation with a friend, rather than a corporate instruction from a faceless organisation.