The mini Mad men of Canarsie

The mini Mad men of Canarsie
Photo by Stefano Giovannini

They go in kids, but they come out Mad men.

In addition to teaching kids their ABCs and 123s, a Canarsie school is offering its students a program in multi-media advertising, and graduates of the High School for Innovation in Advertising and Media leave prepared to study communications in college or even land an entry-level job on Madison Avenue, according to teacher Kyle Allen.

“They may not have the qualifications on paper, but for all intents and purposes, they’re capable of getting in at the ground level,” said Allen, who leads the Career and Technical Education department at the Canarsie high school.

The Rockaway Parkway Mad men academy between Avenues J and K became the first high school to offer advertising courses in 2008, and offers a curriculum that instructs students on how to design and implement marketing campaigns across a variety of media platforms, including print, film, and the internet, according to Allen.

“I show them how to take this from something on paper and turn it into a full-scale multi-media advertising campaign,” he said.

Allen, whose background is in communications and computer science, said he was tutored by advertising professionals who instructed him on the thinking, skills, and tools that they apply when formulating their own ad campaigns, and which informed the curriculum he helped develop for Canarsie’s advertising school.

Kids learn the tasks that advertising professionals — not unlike those on television’s Mad men — deal with every day, including contract writing, campaign pitches, and analyzing market and demographic data, Allen said.

Students also learn to edit video, and create their own television spots to sell various products they are assigned to promote.

In addition to the more traditional forms of media, the advertising high school has worked to incorporate the field’s recent innovations, and this year added a new course on how to use social media as a promotional platform, Allen explained.

“I try to change with the times,” he said.

As viewers’ attention shifts to the internet, even the traditional television spot is losing traction in today’s marketing wars, forcing advertisers to find new ways to reach consumers, according to technology instructor Jennifer Ward.

“People aren’t watching commercials as often, because they’re recording or watching TV on Netflix,” said Ward. “So we have to find ways to innovate.”

Even the school’s field trips are advertising-centric, and the kids often spend days at firms throughout the city, including R/GA and Deutsch, where professionals give them the grand tour and assign them their own ad campaigns to sharpen their Mad men instincts, according to Allen.

“They’re really helpful in enhancing what I do,” said Allen.

Reach reporter Colin Mixson at cmixs[email protected]glocal.com or by calling (718) 260-4505.
Closing the loop: Students at the High School for Innovation in Advertising and Media are busy working on their latest ad for Dove.
Photo by Stefano Giovannini

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