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Ad Agency Run by High-Schoolers Lands First Paying Client

In the advertising world, the teenage demographic is perhaps the most highly-sought-after group of consumers; agencies use everything from focus groups to research consultants to figure out how to best reach the youth of our nation.

But how can a company be sure that their campaign truly speaks to teens? Well, they could let teens create and execute that campaign themselves, couldn’t they? That’s what PBS decided to do when they hired IAM Advertising, an ad agency run by students from the Innovation and Media High School in Brooklyn, NY.

IAM Advertising is the first accredited agency in the country run by high-school students, and PBS will be its first paying client. The National Black Programming Consortium/BlackPublicMedia.org will work with the students to promote its PBS documentary series, “DC Met: Life Inside School Reform,” which focuses on the lives of staff and students at an alternative high school in Washington, D.C. called DC Met.

The students involved in the agency have taken on the responsibility of creating a social media campaign to promote the program, and PBS has also given them the freedom to explore other media as they see fit. All fees paid to IAM Advertising will go toward educational funds administered by the 4A’s, the main sponsor of their school.

So, will hiring teenagers to advertise to their peers really work? Everyone involved in the project is hopeful, and their reasoning makes sense. Jacquie Jones, the executive producer of the series, admitted that PBS isn’t on the top of the average teen’s must-watch-list, but she hopes the students will create an ad campaign that “gives kids center stage to talk about their lives.” She also stated that the students “have a better idea of how to reach their peers than we do.”

Echoing that sentiment, Nancy Hill, president and CEO of the 4A’s, said that “The main benefit for the majority of the clients approaching the agency is that they gain access to a demographic that they’ve never had access to before…[these students] speak the language of the business and the language of the demographic.”

Watch out, Don Drapers of the world – you’re about to be replaced by a tenth grader.

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