Marketing Magazine

August 5, 2002

Board teaches vocational values

By Danny Kucharsky

MONTREAL: A cartoon character without facial features has helped a Quebec school board post a tenfold increase in requests for information for its vocational education programs

Bonhomme” tries out a trade in animated spot
Bonhomme” tries out a trade in animated spot

A new TV ad from a non-traditional campaign for the English Montreal School Board (EMSB) runs for two-weeks until Aug.11.

The campaign made its debut last year, and the EMSB–the province’s largest English school board–saw weekly results for information jump from 30 in the year before to 300 in the weeks during and after the campaign. Last year’s digital animation TV ad showed the non-gender-specific character dubbed the “bonhomme” by it’s creators, trying out several of the 24 vocational programs on tap.

This year’s effort shows the “bonhomme” on a chessboard and blocked from moving by the various pieces, before being saved by the vocational program and levitating off the board. A voiceover asks “In the game of life, are your career moves being blocked?” The ad ends with the tag line “Choose your programme, choose your life.”

In addition, a radio ad features a door-to-door salesman selling dance lessons who is constantly having the door slammed in his face. “Unappreciated in your job?,” asks the voiceover.

“You’ve got to make it fun,” says Warren Perley, president of Ponctuation Grafix, the Montreal graphic design shop that created the campaign. Too many vocational education campaigns go for the unimaginative tactic of showing students in a classroom sitting behind a computer, he says. With digital animation, however, the sky’s the limit for TV ads.

Aimed at 18-to 25-year olds, the TV as appears on local outlets CFCF-12, Telelatino and Global’s ethnic and community channel CJNT, as well as on the NBC affiliate WPTZ. The radio ad on the FM station Mix 96 rounds out the $65,000 TV and Radio buy. As well, an eight-page insert appears in some circulation zones of The Gazette.

Pamphlets describing the vocational programs also include the cartoon character and are written in breezy language, with humorous quotes on their cover pages. For example, the quote, “The more they over think the plumbing, the easier it is to stop up the drain,” from chief engineer Scotty in Star Trek III, appears on the pamphlet for the computer support program. The accounting program pamphlet has Time Magazine founder Henry Lance saying; “It’s easier to teach a poet to read a balance sheet than it is to teach an accountant to write.”

The campaign “helps bring our programs to light,” says Harriet Cohen, an education consultant at the EMSB. “We just wanted something different.”