Too often the fight for racial healing looks like a passive Twitter hashtag or one-time civil rights rally, but Miami Ad School co-founder Pippa Seichrist wanted to changed that. So, she asked for help — from her students.
“There isn’t one solution to our race problem,” she said.“[But] our students are all creative thinkers, and if we asked them, we’d have hundreds of solutions.”
And that’s exactly what happened.
Advertising students from the school’s four locations — Miami and Atlanta, New York and San Francisco — worked for a month on the social campaign projects. Submissions from about 100 of the 350 students at the four campuses were then entered into a contest for students of the school. The winning entry will receive the technical and production support to make it a reality.
Among the ideas submitted were a stencil-and-chalk plan to transform crosswalks, a YouTube channel to promote discussion between races, and pixellated Facebook profile pictures made from the user’s Facebook friend skin colors.
“If the whole country could have been in the classrooms at that time, we would’ve been in a better place,” Seichrist said.
A panel of judges chose the top seven, and now the contest is on to see whose idea will be implemented, via an online vote open to the public through Nov. 7. The top entries have been posted on the school’s blog.
Barry Wacksman, a judge and an executive vice president for advertising agency R/GA, said the best submissions were those that were simple to understand and engaging. Wacksman’s clients include Nike, Samsung and Unilever. He is also the board’s chairman at the Miami Ad School.
To him, the social campaign’s goal is to go viral.
“The work that’s the most powerful is the stuff that has that ability to potentially cross over and become something that people want to participate in,” he said. “There were at least a few ideas that I felt reached that bar.”
Atlanta portfolio student Shenice Brotherson spent about 100 hours to arrange and interview subjects for “Color Conversations,” a YouTube channel showing a discussion between two people of different races. The video channel is meant to create an open and safe forum to ask potentially uncomfortable questions about race.
“In order to address racial situations, we need to talk about it,” Brotherson said. “A conversation is a perfect place for people to start talking about the situation and start understanding each other more in order to build acceptance... Private conversations can only do so much, and private conversations with people of your similar race aren’t going to help” she said. “The point is for people to see these conversations actually take place. They hear both sides of it and not just hear it from their own circle.”
Atlanta portfolio students Lauren Kimrey-Sanders, 29, and Kaitlyn Clark, 23, created “One Word, to encourage minorities to write about their experiences. In this campaign, posters are placed in public areas; passersby are urged to contribute a word about their minority experiences. The next step, says Kimrey-Sanders: Go digital, mapping the responses so the audience can see how minorities feel all across the country.
The Miami Ad School is also donating more than $200,000 per year in scholarships to minority students.
Seichrist said leaders in the advertising industry are realizing there’s a shortage in diversity and that the school felt an obligation to help minority students break into the industry.
“We each have a power that we can use to do good,” she said.