Posted 06/08/2010 - 02:54:24pm by John Barczyk
Approximately 5,000 young people under the age of 21 die each year as a result of underage drinking. It is a horrific problem, an adult problem. As a parent of four kids, I knew a different kind of horror: waiting up for teens to come home on a Saturday night, wondering where they were and what they were doing.
I was a senior vice president at an ad agency in Detroit, and I decided to approach teenage drinking from a different direction.
In 2000 I knew that many high schools were building video editing suites and setting up departments of video production. And if the kids weren’t lucky enough to go to one of those schools, odds were good that their parents or a friend’s parents had a Camcorder, or they could borrow one from a neighbor. Everybody was a moviemaker. YouTube was taking videomaking to a whole new level.
So, I co-founded Courageous Persuaders, a contest where high school kids make TV commercials targeted at middle school kids to warn them about the dangers of alcohol. They make videos with their friends, win scholarship money and trophies, get some recognition and have fun. And maybe even save a life.
My insight was that creativity was not a linear process. Anybody involved in any creative endeavor knows that to be true. In advertising, you get an assignment and you dive into the subject head first. Analyze, research, strategize, brainstorm. Eventually, hopefully, you solve the riddle and feel pretty good about it.
Along the way, something else often happens: Your attitude about the subject changes. You become a believer in things you were barely aware of before you started. After months of working on a campaign, single people buy minivans and city slickers buy pickup trucks. In Courageous Persuaders, we replicate that same dynamic by challenging high school kids to make a commercial to discourage underage drinking.
High school students who engaged in the process of developing commercials became champions against teen drinking. Post-involvement interviews demonstrated their awareness of the dangers and their enthusiasm for the program. They took on an adult problem and did something about it.
On top of those findings, preteens in middle school who viewed the commercials reported increases in their own sensitivity to the dangers of alcohol.
If you work with high school kids, take advantage of Courageous Persuaders and make it yours. It won’t cost you anything. Your kids have the potential to create something unique, powerful and persuasive. Encourage them to enter. Stage your own local competition. You will be amazed at what your kids can do.
We are also constantly looking for new sponsors and funding sources, so we can offer more scholarships and help more kids and continue to grow.