Best Practice from Farm
The Department for Children Schools and Families asked us to use communications to get more 11 to 14 year olds to consider choosing a modern foreign language as a GCSE option.
In the last five years there’s been a widespread collapse in the study of languages at GCSE in England’s secondary schools, in part because in 2004 the government made changes to the national curriculum and languages became optional rather than a compulsory subject.
We initially approached the problem from a traditional perspective: what’s the benefit to the product we were selling? Languages are a skill you can learn that unlocks a ‘wealth of opportunity’. Our research however clearly showed that deferred benefits were too far off for kids to care about.
Thoughts young people have about their career, aged 14, are at best vague – beyond aspirations to be a footballer or a film star, or to earn ‘lots of money’. Messages that suggest concrete outcomes did not resonate, and our outcomes felt tenuous at best. So our approach was to get teenagers to reframe languages.
We wanted teenagers to rediscover the relevance and credibility of languages in their immediate lives. And this rediscovery would have to come from the kids themselves if it was going to be credible.
Ultimately we settled on the creative idea: “Try life in another language”. We created a fly on the wall TV show called ‘je suis un rock star’, in the style of ‘faking it’ and featured recent foreign language graduates working as roadies for musicians across Europe. The show played out on T4 across the summer.
The broadcast presence was supported by 5 x TV spots concentrating on passion points like hip-hop, electro, football, street dance and the ads deliberately downplayed strong directional messaging, encouraging the audience to decode the message for themselves by driving the audience to the “Try Life” web hub, which rather than being a typical government microsite was instead a dedicated area of the channel4/t4 website.
Allowing the audience to discover and pass on content was critical. We created videos on Youtube that allowed the audience to stumble upon foreign language versions of existing youtube hits – e.g. a French language instruction manual for creating an emo hair cut. We also used youth advocates to spread the word about the content across sites like myspace, piczo and facebook.
The campaign really struck a chord with the audience. On a lightweight media spend of 300 TVRs the TV advertising alone reached recognition levels of around 70% and we drew over half a million visits to the website. The TV show has been repeated on t4 and there a plans afoot to create something even bigger next year.
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