August 17, 2009 / It's Worth It

Ramblewood draws attention with video ads

Written by Karen Murray

Yearbook pre-sales are minimal in our school, Ramblewood Middle School in Coral Springs, Fla. Most yearbooks are sold live, during school lunches. As is typical with middle schoolers, they wait until the sales are upon them or their friend buys a yearbook, to tell parents of their need for cash to purchase the product. To create a stir about yearbook sales, our yearbook students move from photojournalists to videographers. They are charged with creating meaningful, attention-getting ads, to be broadcast on our morning television program.

The students are coached about the nature of the yearbook business. They are taught that yearbooks are not created simply for creativity’s sake; they must be sold to regenerate cash flow for next year’s yearbook and equipment replenishment.

Companies are set up for the purpose of creating a constant and attention-grabbing buzz about yearbook sales. Students are assigned to one of three of these companies for ad campaigns strategies: the yearbook is coming, the yearbook is here, get your yearbook before it’s gone.

Students work diligently on creating advertisements that are parodies of recognizable trends, sayings, movies or ads. New skills are taught as students upload and edit their work in Apple’s iMovie and then burn their ads to Apple’s iDVD for use on our morning show. This lesson focus encourages students to gain more technology knowledge, opening them up to easy acquisition of any new future technology or programs, extending the yearbook curriculum to real world applications and job training.

The advertisements are produced using digital cameras with video, or with mini-camcorders using digital tape. The advertisements are 60 to 90 seconds long, and must follow particular guidelines.  Students engage in scripting, camera shot planning, pitching to the teacher and class, and applying basic rules of creating ads such as: repeat your motto three to five times; incite the customer to act and how to act; and use popular music or sayings to accent the ad and get it stuck in the heads of the entire school population. They are told to put their heart and commitment into creating an ad that actually generates sales.

The advertisements work because they appeal to the entire school population on a peer-to-peer level. Students are proud when their particular ad is shown on the morning broadcast, and the entire school looks forward to each new advertisement. The end result of the advertising campaign is always a frenzied run to the yearbook sales table, as the yearbooks sell out in short time, during lunches.

Yearbook sales numbers are posted in the classroom, and students take pride in knowing that their advertisements had an actual effect on the outcome of sales. As a result, they take ownership and responsibility in bringing their product from creation to production and then to market.

Perhaps the most rewarding experience from teaching the students to generate advertisements occurred one day in the teacher’s lounge. I could hear an ad’s theme song being hummed, sung or whistled from three different adjoining areas. The students had caught the teachers’ attentions and planted their ad’s theme song squarely into every classroom. The advertisement lived on for the entire day, as the teachers moved through the building inadvertently singing our yearbook’s praises through our hallowed halls. Coincidentally, we sold through to 72% of our stock on that particular day.

Karen Murray