Coalition Sets Advertising Campaign To Stir Up Support for School Reform

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A major public-service advertising campaign designed to promote grassroots interest and participation in school reform will be launched this week by a coalition of national business and education organizations.

Developers of the campaign hope that its creative portion will match the effectiveness of some of the nation's most memorable public-service advertising efforts, such as the United Negro College Fund's ads that feature the tagline "A mind is a terrible thing to waste.''

In fact, the same advertising agency that developed that campaign, Young & Rubicam of New York, did the creative work for the school-reform effort.

The new campaign, which centers on the theme line "Keep the Promise,'' will be distributed by the Advertising Council on behalf of the Education Excellence Partnership, a joint effort of the Business Roundtable, the U.S. Education Department, the National Alliance of Business, the National Governors' Association, and the American Federation of Teachers.

"We hope this campaign will be pivotal in building the consensus for change,'' said Christopher T. Cross, the executive director of the education initiative of the Business Roundtable, an organization made up of more than 200 chief executive officers of the nation's largest corporations.

The ads were to be unveiled at a Nov. 17 press conference in Washington. They will start appearing on national television networks, cable outlets, and in print media this month and on local media in January, officials said.

The education partnership has pledged $5 million for the campaign over five years. Advertising time and space will be donated, but the money is needed to cover the costs of production and duplication of the ads and of a toll-free telephone line for viewers and readers to call to get more information on school reform.

"We see this as having several phases,'' said Mr. Cross. "The first phase is aimed much more heavily at raising awareness. We are trying to make people better educated on the issue and aware of school as something of concern for all communities. In later stages, our emphasis will be on commitment and involvement--getting people involved in school mentoring or volunteering.''

'Keep The Promise'

The "Keep the Promise'' theme, chosen after extensive research with focus groups, is intended to remind audiences of the promise and potential of every child and the nation's commitment to provide each child with an education, organizers said.

One 60-second television ad focuses on the young child who was rescued from an abandoned well in Midland, Tex., in 1987.

"No country comes to the aid of a child the way we do,'' the ad says. "Imagine if the same effort that went into saving that little child in Texas went into keeping the promise that every child in America gets the best education.''

Every print and television ad will feature the toll-free number, (800) 96-PROMISE, and callers will get a packet of information on the national education goals and a list of school-reform resources for their state.

Callers will also be added to a mailing list and will receive follow-up information as the campaign goes along. The partnership hopes to receive 100,000 calls in the first year and 750,000 calls over five years.

The organizers know that many causes compete for the air time and space that the media donate for public-service ads, so they are urging local executives of Business Roundtable companies to help place the ads in the markets of their headquarters.

Mr. Cross said the diversity of the groups making up the Education Excellence Partnership testifies to the importance of the new effort. He noted that the National Education Association was also approached about joining the partnership, but the union chose to use its resources for its own public-service ads.

Vol. 12, Issue 11

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