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High School Students to Design Ads for Local Businesses

Students in Fort Lee High School’s Academy of Finance learned about creating compelling advertisements Monday as part of the now annual “Design an Ad Program,” which continues throughout the month.

Now in its fourth year, the “Design an Ad Program” kicked off Monday morning at , offering a class of 9th through 12th grade Academy of Finance (AOF) students the opportunity to gain real-life, hands-on experience in media and marketing by teaming up with local businesses to see an advertising project through from concept to completion.

Students in high school teacher Brian McCarthy’s Intro to Business class received basic instruction on creating compelling and effective ads Monday and met with their assigned businesses, or “clients,” to get a feel for the type of message they want to convey in the online advertisement the students will ultimately create for them.

AOF board member and business performance advisor Margaret Maclay started the program with AOF program director Linda Farrell a few years ago.

“The whole purpose of the program is to expose the students to the real business world, as opposed to a classroom setting,” Maclay said.

McCarthy told his students Monday they would be building on some of what they’ve already learned this year, having produced “quick ads” in the past.

“But this time we’re actually going to make some real content,” McCarthy said. “You are going to be working with local members of the Fort Lee business community so it’s going to be relevant.”

Maclay then provided a brief lesson on the components that make up an effective advertisement and listed the order in which consumers tend to notice those elements: the visual, the caption, the headline, the sub-head, the copy and the signature or “call to action.”

“You want to focus on the order of the things that are most important in the ad,” Maclay said. “You want to keep them short and simple and use very compelling words to draw in the reader.”

She also told the AOF students to mention the benefits, or “WIIFM,” meaning “What’s in it for me?”

“Because the person reading is going to look at it from their perspective,” she said. “What are they going to get out of responding to this? You want to make sure there’s a call to action: call me, contact me, go online, do something.”

After a brief introduction by the owners or representatives of each of the five participating business or organizations—Diane Homer of Kidsville News, Michael Lettieri of Cartridge World, Leo Ranieri of Massage at Work, Ranee Weinstein of the Fort Lee Chamber of Commerce representing the Chamber's involvement in the taking place in Fort Lee in August and Maclay representing Women Inspiring Women—the students were divided into teams and assigned a client, receiving instruction from them as to what they were looking for in an ad and what they’d like to promote or emphasize.

The ad teams will now go to work—over the course of the next couple of weeks, they will meet with their clients twice more—ultimately producing an advertisement they can use.

On May 14, the student ad teams will present their initial designs to their clients for review, and on May 21 their clients will select a final ad.

“It’s a real collaboration between students learning about business and local community businesses,” Maclay said during . “And the ads in the past have really been quite good. I think everybody was quite surprised. They were something they could actually use.”

Patch will follow the progress of this year’s Design an Ad Program and post the student-designed ads after their May 25 deadline.

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