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It’s 9am, do you know where your kids are?

Today, across the nation, 7,000 students will drop out of high school each day.  What's even more alarming is the number of students who don't show up for school at all.  In New York City, 1 out of 5 (250,000) public school students missed 20 or more days of school last year.  Statistics show that even as early as middle school, if a student misses over 20 or more days in a school year, there’s a very good chance they won’t graduate.

In May 2010 the NYC Mayor Interagency Task Force on Truancy, Chronic Absenteeism and School Engagement partnered with the Ad Council to address the issue of school attendance in NYC – a campaign funded by AT+T.

The message of the campaign is clear - "It's 9am, do you know where your kids are?"  Parents and caregivers can text “SCHOOL” to 30365 to get the help they need and find out how many days their child has missed.

The campaign goal was to help parents and caregivers understand that attendance is a critical factor in educational outcomes and they should do everything in their power to ensure their child is going to school every day.  The campaign connects the audience to an online resource center at where they can access the support they may need to get their children to school.  The website provides links to help parents with issues ranging from asthma to elder care, to academic help and bullying.

Due to limited funding, we had to be creative in determining how we were going to get the message out to New Yorkers.  We knew we needed to engage with these parents and place media where they would see it most - on their daily commutes.  We opted out of traditional advertising and utilized alternative media instead.

We decided to reach out to all the alternative OOH vendors in the city to see if they would be able to donate space. CEMUSA owns the rights to the NYC bus shelters and newsstands and Van Wagner and Titan place advertising on all of phone kiosks scattered across the city.  Using the resources of these 3 vendors alone we were able to secure placements on 289 bus shelters, 100 newsstands and 310 phone kiosks.  These PSAs were posted this past August – prior to the school year in an effort to get parents to start thinking about the importance of attendance.  The MTA who manages transit advertising in NYC were also huge supporters of the campaign.  The MTA committed placement of 4,000 in-bus PSAs and 500 subway station placements.  Between September and October 2012, the MTA is issuing 5 million metro cards in NYC subway stations that feature the PSA.  We also worked with an alternative media company, BriteMedia to distribute 117,000 coffee sleeves to cafes in areas of the city that have the worst school truancy rates.  In addition to the PSAs, the campaign produced over 5,000 posters and 50,000 postcards which were distributed directly to parents through New York City government agencies and libraries.

The results we’ve received thus far are encouraging.  Since the campaign started, over 350 text messages have been received each month (1,400+ in total).  A final awareness postwave tracking study will be fielded in October.

With limited production funds we are able to get the message out there to so many NYC parents.  Alternative media can make such an impact when you are trying to reach people on the go.  We wanted to reach these parents several times on their commute – while getting their morning coffee, walking to their bus or train stop, purchasing their metro cards, waiting for their bus or train, or while riding into work.  For a parent with children in school – it is practically impossible to avoid seeing this message.

A couple weeks ago I was pleasantly surprised when I walked to my bus station at 1st and 1st in Manhattan and noticed our PSA printed on a bus shelter.  Moments later, I saw a man step on the bus drinking a coffee with our coffee sleeve attached.  You can probably guess the first thing I asked him… "It's 9am, do you know where your kids are?" Then of course I asked him if I could take a picture.  :)


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