Student body uses currency of Salt to ease debt woes

With millions of Americans under 30 grappling with debt from college loans, American Student Assistance is using humor to engage young people and educate them about their finances.

Company
American Student Assistance
Campaign

#20SomethingProblems
Agency mix

SS+K (advertising, digital strategy, social media, PR, and production); The Campus Agency (event production and sponsorship); Steak Group (media strategy and buying); and Firefall Pro (Web development)
In-house team
Sue Burton, MD, consumer products and marketing; Jay Magilligan, director of consumer marketing; Allison Coburn, senior manager of digital marketing and product development; Brooke Henninger, marketing programs manager; Ross Forniri, interactive marketing manager; and Heather Haggerty, marketing specialist
Budget

About $1.1 million

With millions of Americans under 30 years old grappling with debt from college loans, nonprofit American Student Assistance is using humor to help engage young people and educate them about their finances.

In phase two of its Salt campaign, which kicked off in fall 2013, the group worked with agency SS+K to explore cultural memes among people in their 20s and came across the hashtag #20SomethingProblems, says Sue Burton, MD at the group.

The hashtag is often used by college students and graduates to lament their financial woes, so the organization joined in by saying that Salt is the solution.

Salt is a free online educational resource created by the nonprofit to help people understand their finances. The name came from the fact that Roman soldiers were paid with the seasoning, making it a form of currency.

The effort initially launched in May 2013 with a short film about facing the fears of student debt, as well as a sweepstakes. For phase two, CollegeHumor.com comedians Jake Hurwitz, Amir Blumenfeld, and Josh Ruben teamed with the group to star in a funny video called #20SomethingProblems. In the first two weeks, it received more than 100,000 views.

The nonprofit toured eight college campuses in the fall with the "Carnival of #20SomethingProblems," where students could play games and win prizes.

The campaign included a second sweepstakes and garnered coverage in outlets such as Yahoo and BuzzFeed.

"We are still working with partners to put out content and find opportunities to solve problems," says Burton.

Mark Kaminsky, partner at SS+K, says the campaign has been a success because the group took a serious topic and "embraced the idea of being entertaining."

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