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Every Lesson Shapes a Life

Every Lesson Shapes a Life

Michael Carnevale

Michael Carnevale

November 26, 2018

Follow this girl’s inspiring journey through the UK school system.

"Because we all have them, we forget what an enormous and special role teachers play in people's lives."

With a supporting cast of real teachers, the Department for Education (DfE) and Havas London teamed up to produce an emotional recruitment campaign. Lynsey Atkin, Creative Director at Havas London, tells us how the DfE aims to inspire people.

Most everyone recognizes the important role that teachers play in the lives of individuals and society. How does this message build on top of that understanding?

Well, this is awkward. And truly, I hate to start this by disagreeing with you, but part of the overall thinking behind this campaign was questioning whether everyone truly does recognize the important role that teachers play in society. Because we all have them, we forget what an enormous and special role teachers play in people’s lives. Somewhere along the way we started only seeing them in terms of exam success and Ofsted reports. So the strategy behind the campaign was about spotlighting the incredible role teachers play, not in terms of the job we end up with, and therefore what we become, but fundamentally in the person that we become. For those looking to join the teaching profession, there seemed no greater incentive than this.

What’s the storyline of this spot?

The spot follows the story of a young lady named Abi—beginning with her walking into school as a wide-eyed and slightly overwhelmed four-year-old, and ending with her as a young adult of 18 with the confidence to explore the world for herself. It is told through moments between Abi and several of the many teachers she will have during her school career; moments of encouragement, support, and challenge, a relatable mix of highs and lows, with a nod to the trickier teenage years we can perhaps remember ourselves.

How did the team come up with this idea?

I’m lucky enough to have a mum who taught reception for 35 years, so a phone call to her proved pretty insightful. She spoke of a motto that existed at her primary—“roots and wings”—which is the idea that teaching builds a series of roots that will eventually allow children to fly for themselves. It’s a mixed metaphor, admittedly, but this idea of presenting teaching in its entirety led to writing a script that showed many, many teachers in one student’s life, rather than what is traditionally presented in this category, which is a focus on the teacher as the protagonist. We’re trying to drive recruitment, and this approach hopefully allows many more people to see themselves as potentially being a piece of someone’s story.

"There are no better people at being teachers than teachers themselves."

Why did you decide to cast real teachers, as opposed to actors?

Between ourselves and our brilliant directors (ThirtyTwo @ Pulse), we knew how important it was that this spot be honest. So quite simply, there are no better people at being teachers than teachers themselves. The casting process was lengthy, all the teachers you see are teaching the subjects they genuinely teach, so it was a real jigsaw, but their performances left none of us in any doubt that it had been the right approach.

What’s been the reaction to this spot, so far?

It’s been overwhelmingly positive. Industry reaction aside, Twitter in particular has shown us real teachers and potential teachers—and even union heads—giving the spot many thumbs up. Which is no small feat when, by its nature, an advert for the government incites political undertone. It’s not often you get to put something into the world that gains the sort of positive traction that this spot seems to have, so our hopeful eyes will absolutely be on the recruitment figures next year.  

How will this story continue to evolve?

The campaign lives beyond TV, with a nationwide OOH campaign and more stories on social media and radio that continue to reinforce the importance of our teachers, and the lessons we take with us that make us the people we are.

"Because we all have them, we forget what an enormous and special role teachers play in people's lives."

With a supporting cast of real teachers, the Department for Education (DfE) and Havas London teamed up to produce an emotional recruitment campaign. Lynsey Atkin, Creative Director at Havas London, tells us how the DfE aims to inspire people.

Most everyone recognizes the important role that teachers play in the lives of individuals and society. How does this message build on top of that understanding?

Well, this is awkward. And truly, I hate to start this by disagreeing with you, but part of the overall thinking behind this campaign was questioning whether everyone truly does recognize the important role that teachers play in society. Because we all have them, we forget what an enormous and special role teachers play in people’s lives. Somewhere along the way we started only seeing them in terms of exam success and Ofsted reports. So the strategy behind the campaign was about spotlighting the incredible role teachers play, not in terms of the job we end up with, and therefore what we become, but fundamentally in the person that we become. For those looking to join the teaching profession, there seemed no greater incentive than this.

What’s the storyline of this spot?

The spot follows the story of a young lady named Abi—beginning with her walking into school as a wide-eyed and slightly overwhelmed four-year-old, and ending with her as a young adult of 18 with the confidence to explore the world for herself. It is told through moments between Abi and several of the many teachers she will have during her school career; moments of encouragement, support, and challenge, a relatable mix of highs and lows, with a nod to the trickier teenage years we can perhaps remember ourselves.

How did the team come up with this idea?

I’m lucky enough to have a mum who taught reception for 35 years, so a phone call to her proved pretty insightful. She spoke of a motto that existed at her primary—“roots and wings”—which is the idea that teaching builds a series of roots that will eventually allow children to fly for themselves. It’s a mixed metaphor, admittedly, but this idea of presenting teaching in its entirety led to writing a script that showed many, many teachers in one student’s life, rather than what is traditionally presented in this category, which is a focus on the teacher as the protagonist. We’re trying to drive recruitment, and this approach hopefully allows many more people to see themselves as potentially being a piece of someone’s story.

"There are no better people at being teachers than teachers themselves."

Why did you decide to cast real teachers, as opposed to actors?

Between ourselves and our brilliant directors (ThirtyTwo @ Pulse), we knew how important it was that this spot be honest. So quite simply, there are no better people at being teachers than teachers themselves. The casting process was lengthy, all the teachers you see are teaching the subjects they genuinely teach, so it was a real jigsaw, but their performances left none of us in any doubt that it had been the right approach.

What’s been the reaction to this spot, so far?

It’s been overwhelmingly positive. Industry reaction aside, Twitter in particular has shown us real teachers and potential teachers—and even union heads—giving the spot many thumbs up. Which is no small feat when, by its nature, an advert for the government incites political undertone. It’s not often you get to put something into the world that gains the sort of positive traction that this spot seems to have, so our hopeful eyes will absolutely be on the recruitment figures next year.  

How will this story continue to evolve?

The campaign lives beyond TV, with a nationwide OOH campaign and more stories on social media and radio that continue to reinforce the importance of our teachers, and the lessons we take with us that make us the people we are.

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