WASHINGTON: The US Army, with the help of the Ad Council and Publicis Kaplan Thaler, is transforming its long running Boost Up stay-in-school campaign into a new iteration called Boost Attendance.
Boost has existed in several forms since 2000. This year the focus will shift away from kids and their influencers, a group that includes peers, coaches, clergy, and teachers, to squarely on parents.
The campaign will emphasize that missing 10% of school days annually going back as early as sixth grade increases the odds of students not finishing high school. Nationwide, as many as 7.5 million students miss nearly a month of school every year, research shows.
The significance of the shift in strategy this year is that the campaign is going away from just being an awareness raiser to a behavior changer, said Rob Feakins, Publicis Kaplan Thaler's CCO and president.
“Often, parents are unknowingly leading their kids to not finish school when they do things like take them out for a vacation that doesn't match up to the school's or make them stay home to care for a younger sibling,” Feakins explained.
“They don't realize the odds of kids dropping out or failing to graduate is tied to the number of days that they miss school, starting as early as the sixth grade. We want to make parents aware of this.”
To get the word out, the firm created PSAs that will run on TV, radio, print, and outdoor and digital channels. The Ad Council is distributing the new PSAs to its network of 33,000 media outlets nationwide.
The Ad Council is performing some social media outreach as well, teaming up with organizations including Attendance Works, which will host a Twitter party on September 10 where people will be able to ask experts about the impact of absenteeism on students' futures.
To help track absences, parents can sign up on the campaign's website for a new tool called Text2Track, which will send out one text per week asking how many days of school their child missed during the last few days. At the end of every month, a message will sum up days missed and the impact those absences could have on their child's math, reading scores, and likelihood of high school graduation.
A second tool on the site, called the Attendance Calculator, has been revamped and allows parents to see the connections between their child's attendance and academic achievement based on the number of school days missed.
The US Army has provided $1 million in funds each year to the Boost program. Last year, the Army re-signed The Ad Council to work on the effort. The military unit not only looks at keeping kids in school as crucial to the country overall, but it could even be “a national security issue” if too many young people drop out, said James Ortiz, director of marketing, Army marketing and research group, US Army.
“The Army has certain qualifications that must be met before joining, one of which is finishing high school,” he said. “Fewer drop outs mean there is a bigger, better qualified pool to choose from.”