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CN’s recess rescue plans take off

Recess is more than just fun and games - it's also about kids getting exercise and partaking in unstructured learning. The problem is, recess is facing a very serious threat in public schools across the U.S., which is why Cartoon Network is mobilizing kids and educators in an effort to save it. CN teamed up with the national Parent Teachers Association (PTA) for the Rescuing Recess program as part of its umbrella Get Animated campaign.
August 1, 2006

Recess is more than just fun and games – it’s also about kids getting exercise and partaking in unstructured learning. The problem is, recess is facing a very serious threat in public schools across the U.S., which is why Cartoon Network is mobilizing kids and educators in an effort to save it. CN teamed up with the national Parent Teachers Association (PTA) for the Rescuing Recess program as part of its umbrella Get Animated campaign.

With nearly 40% of U.S. schools considering the elimination of recess (if they haven’t already), executive VP and GM Jim Samples, says CN can establish an emotional connection with its audience and go to bat for it.

The effort, which kicked off in March, has so far included a PTA survey validating the need for recess, on-air PSAs, a letter writing campaign, recess kits (including game instructions and volunteer recruitment info) and US$310,000 in grants to local schools. Individual grants of US$5,000 were awarded to those institutions that handed in the most letters in June, while a single US$50,000 grant was awarded to the PTA in Florida, the state with the highest participation numbers. Website rescuingrecess.com also provides would-be participants with access to information and tools to get started.

Samples points out that from a marketing perspective, one of the benefits of this campaign is its measurability. ‘The press response has been phenomenal. That was a number-one [goal] because we think it’s less likely schools will make this decision with so many people talking about how bad the situation is,’ he says.

So far, CN has achieved 900-plus media hits and more than 104 million impressions nationwide, including coverage on CNN, and local affiliates of NBC, CBS, ABC and Fox, as well as in newspapers such as the Boston Globe, Washington Post and Chicago Sun-Times.

In total, more than 100,000 hand-written letters were collected this spring and are currently being mailed to school boards across the U.S. ‘Now that we have the letters, they are being directed specifically to decision makers,’ Samples says. ‘So they will not have only heard [the message] from the press, but also specifically from kids.’

The net’s currently gearing up to launch a second phase of the program in September (at press time details were under wraps). Then in 2007, CN, which set aside US$1.3 million for the campaign, plans to commission a research study to measure the connection between taking school-time breaks and classroom achievement. And a new PSA campaign to showcase schools that are rescuing recess is also in the offing.

‘One of the things we all agreed on [in coming up with the idea] is that we should look for actionable messages,’ says Samples. ‘We also didn’t want to be preachy, as that wouldn’t have been consistent with our branding.’ Besides, why preach when you can persuade?

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