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“Talk to your kids about art school”

A new ad campaign for the College for Creative Studies in Detroit lightheartedly gives its academic programs the D.A.R.E. treatment. Stay off the art, kids.

1 in 5 teenagers will experiment with art

I found this in your room. We need to talk

Doodling is a gateway to illustration

How long have you been Photoshopping?

Your son has been sculpting again

Know the warning signs of art

Your mother and I raised you better than this

I’m not sure if/where these ads are running, but I’ve seen them kicking around online for a few days and I think they’re terrific. (Update: Copywriter Joel Wescott tells me they’re running in the local metro paper and stills at the local movie theater. There’s also a radio spot.) I’m not even sure I want to critique this, since it’s a hell of a lot better than anything I’ve done lately.

Overall, this is a pitch-perfect satire of anti-drug PSAs, down to the over-dramatic, obviously posed photos of gravely serious family situations. It’s also done in a way that elevates and glorifies art school. By laughing at anyone who considers art education unwise, impractical or even reckless, the ads remind us of what a reasonable choice it really is. Of the seven ads in the series, the only one that falls flat to me is “Your mother and I raised you to do better than this.” It doesn’t fit because the dad isn’t expressing displeasure that his kid is doing art—he seems to be mad that the art isn’t good enough. This doesn’t match the rest of the ads, and could have been fixed by applying the same copy to an image where the son has actually created something impressive. Other than off note, this is really nice work. Go to art school and make ads like this.

* * * *

Who created this campaign?

Advertising Agency: Team Detroit, Dearborn, Mich.
Chief Creative Officer: Toby Barlow
Creative Director: Gary Pascoe
Art Director: Vic Quattrin
Junior Art Directors: Michael Eugene Burdick, Brandi Keeler
Copywriter: Joel Wescott
Account executives: Tim Galvin and Ashley Budchuck

Who signed off on it?

I’m guessing CCS president Richard L. Rogers. Update, via comment below: And closer to the campaign, probably Marcus Popiolek, the college’s director of marketing and communication. Update 2, via Wescott: Also, Kate Lees and Megan Mesack at CCS.

Credits and images via Scaryideas.com and Tek1Now.

— By Daryl Lang. Filed under Advertising, Copywriting


  1. Robin Johnston says:

    Couldn’t agree more. Even though I live in Michigan and my 14 year old daughter wants to go to CCS, I only heard about this campaign in a tweet by D&AD in London. It is a brilliantly simple piece of communication, beautifully executed.
    In fact, I was so impressed that I called CCS to congratulate them on it. While Richard Rogers may have signed off on it, the credit on the client side needs to go to Marcus Popiolek and his folks in marketing at CCS.
    I agree the “we raised you better than this” has a different tone to it, but otherwise it’s just lovely work.
    Well done to all concerned.

  2. Lige says:

    Great ads. I always thought of art schools as of something disgraceful, kinda public masturbation.

  3. Dean Wilson says:

    I teach art in Michigan and I want one of these ads as a poster for my room!!!!

  4. bob quail says:

    Creativuty-art, writing etc-is the difference betwen living and exsisting-1,000 years from now no one remember who was in congress-but they will know who springstien, Dyland , hemingway , monet, picaso, etc are-take that GW BUSH-I wish Barbara Bush had stayed a virgin-no child left behind is a joke and the Iraq war will be the start of our end-peace, love, humor and creativity

  5. dave ruppert says:

    Great poster (1 in 5 teenagers . . . ). Any chance to get on for an office wall?

  6. Sr. Montenegro says:

    I should think in this case it is important to credit the photographer. He or she played a huge role in the success of these images. Sad that there’s no mention.

  7. Seth says:

    These ads can be taken the other way. You are gonna end up owing $160,000 for four years of art education that you won’t be able to pay back. Your credit will be ruined, You might spend so much time working other jobs to pay your debt back that you won’t be able to make art. Art isn’t a sham, art school is. Move to an urban center, go to galleries, use the internet, meet artists and do your research. A fraction of the cost of an art school education will take you further if applied to studio rent, supplies, and travel. This message has been brought to you by an artist who studied painting at a state public university on a full scholarship. If I had come out in debt, I wouldnt be able to make my own work and I wouldnt have started a gallery to show other artists work.

    • Victoria says:

      Thank you for the tips, Seth. As a artist and a high school senior looking for a college to go to, your advice has really helped. I noticed that I already seemed to be thinking along those lines, and I’m really glad I’ve been looking for good public universities instead of private art colleges.

      On an off note, I think it probably helps that both my parents went to college and they’re still paying off their loans. (Though they’re also both teachers and I won’t go down THAT road…)

    • Nicole says:

      Unfortunately…what Seth says is a very ugly truth…pretty much the story of my life, except that my day job is still allowing me to make art. When I went there, there weren’t 4yr graphic design programs in the area, it was all fine arts. Potential students, just make sure you do your research and know what you’re getting into! If you have a trust fund waiting for you…ignore this message.

    • Successful Art Student says:

      I went to CSS. I paid off my loans and in good time. I got a job in 2 shorts months from my graduation and have had a very successful career for over a decade since then. My credit is doing just fine. A positive mental attitude goes a long way.

    • Natasha Guimond says:

      Many of the students at CCS receive financial aid and scholarships. I am a Junior right now and I owe less than $15,000.

      Artists can be artists no matter where they go, but you cannot deny the network available to you if you’re a CCS student. ALSO, it greatly depends on what you’re studying. For instance, Painting is way more subjective than Transportation Design. Since you didn’t go to an art school, you obviously have no understanding at how amazing an opportunity it is, and how much you will benefit from it in the future.

      Good for you for being so successful as an artist from a state university. Seriously. You are one of very few.

      I am proud to be part of CCS, and do not think it’s a sham in any sense. I’m currently in the Advertising program, and I’ve chosen to minor in Live-Action film.

      Please do not discourage anyone from achieving their dreams from one of the top art and design schools in the nation, just because you think you’re too cool for art school!

  8. Noot says:

    As an art school graduate living as a professional artist, this ad campaign makes me laugh. I love it! They hit the nail right in the head. If you don’t get it, you’re not the target audience so move along now, and go study accounting or something.

  9. Bullseye! THis is refreshing and I think will be effective in getting people to think. However, I also believe some young parents do react this way to their children being artists or just being creative, thinking in new ways. Many young adults in the U.S. may be surprised yet perplexed as to why parents are giving those messages in the ads.

  10. Tim says:

    Love these ads. Think they acomplish their goal. Somewhat concerned at comments at that they belittle they the intentions of the original good intentions of the ads in the first place.

  11. Jarrod says:

    I think the concept is OK. What I am missing is the same thing I was missing as a 16-17 yr old, deciding whether art school might be right for me–any acknowledgement about APPLIED art… graphic design, industrial design, fashion design.

    I know you can study these things at CCS. As strange and slightly embarrassing as it is to admit, I had no concept of these things at 16/17. Because I couldn’t envision a life/career centered around fine art, I chose not to go to art school.

  12. JW says:

    It looks a lot like this campaign, which was done a couple years ago in Milwaukee:


  13. Manfred says:

    I really want these as posters to hang around the school.

  14. Realistically says:

    Honestly, I have friends in the industry, and realistically if you want a career in the arts field, DO NOT GO TO COLLEGE.

    A portfolio in this case is much more important and valuable (also cheaper for that matter). Time is better spent by self-teaching and create something. For the tuition you’d be spending, the value extracted is hardly worth the price

  15. Sachin says:

    As a designer and an art school graduate, I’m a full supporter of these ads. Its quite possible to become and artist or a designer without a degree, but I don’t think you’ll become nearly as well rounded.

    Art school provides the environment where you’re surrounded by helpful peers, instructors and resources that aren’t as available if you’re on your own. Its also a great place to make friends and build networking.

  16. What these do well is start a conversation about a career in the creative industry. I had the same conversation with my parents many years ago, enrolled at CCS and graduated at the top of my class. 3 advertising agencies and 5 promotions later, I’m ready for anything the industry can throw at me.

  17. Dan says:

    I saw this a couple of weeks ago and, like most everyone else, I laughed and applauded the effort. In thinking about it, I now wonder if it will have any impact at all.

    First, it’s built on a project and a strategy that has failed. Teenagers are using drugs at an ever increasing rate. Maybe it should “Just say NO to Art!”

    Second, it’s clever, but it does it work? “Clever” can result in Clio awards for copyrighters, but it does is result in increased awareness and customer conviction? (The “Got Milk” campaign — the milk moustache bit — cost billions and it didn’t really raise milk consumption at a significant level. And now people are wondering how effective that Old Spice campaign really was.)

    And does an ad campaign that puts all of its eggs in that “being clever” basket or that compares art to drugs, even sarcastically or ironically, really help strengthen the importance of the arts and arts education in our society?

    Okay, I know that I’m over-thinking this….

  18. solchongpark says:

    i saw an ad on the subway the other day for student loan management that not only attacked private education but sold their services as a way to pave the path to a cheap state/city education – “By laughing at anyone who considers art education unwise, impractical or even reckless, the ads remind us of what a reasonable choice it really is.” this blogger is missing the point. This ad inadvertently points out the tension in our higher ed system right now – talk to your kids about art school. A lot of folks in America are having this discussion right now, and it’s about how to pay the bills.

  19. zach says:

    I can’t believe how many people in this thread believe that this is a serious campaign. sarcasm, anyone?

    also: I received my BFA from parsons NYC two decades ago, and now have my work in the permanent collections of fourteen museums worldwide, including two divisions of the smithsonian and the victoria and albert (no, I am not making this up). art school was the best four years of my life, and I would not have been successful without the education, the friendly competition and the connections it brought me. it may be possible to be successful without an arts degree, but do not underestimate the potential value of an education from a good art school (or the potential damage and waste of time from settling for a lesser art school) – if students are serious about their careers, they should do their reasearch, identify the best art school for their area of study, and then choose the best school they can reasonably afford – and if they’re not serious, they should choose an easier field.

  20. D Ann T says:

    My daughter attended two colleges before graduating from Ringling School of Art & Design. What she learned from the first two was they weren’t where she needed to be to excel. After a rewarding and successful career as an illustrator, she went to St. Martin in London, England, for her graphic design masters, and now enjoys her career as an accomplished graphic designer in NYC. I never once dissuaded her from going for a career in which she could thrive; what a travesty it would have been if I’d insisted she become a nurse or school teacher! Parents, believe in your children. Encourage their abilities! Happiness outranks drudgery any day of the week.

    • Nanz says:

      Hey – there is nothing wrong with being a School Teacher! After completing a successful career as a designer and attaining 2 masters degrees (one in Art and one in Ed) I have returned to the classroom as an Art Teacher!

      I teach production/applied Arts and these ads are exactly what our society needs to wake up from it’s sports & war coma!

      • Lee says:

        Amen! I worked in commercial are and later taught, mostly at the high school level. I found that working with kids was very rewarding and wouldn’t trade the experience.

  21. Franz says:

    Yes, this artistic talent should be stopped straightaway. If your child is experiencing artistic inclinations, he needs to see a therapist. His sensitivity needs to be addressed, because he can’t function as a normal human being in society being especially sensitive. Exposure to art will only foster this sensitivity, allowing him to explore his talents even more, and soon he won’t be able to forget about art. Prevention is key here. Better safe than sorry. You don’t want a child who wants to be an artist, realizes he is different from everyone else, realizes that art isn’t rewarded as a career in society, that art is an expensive and wasteful pursuit, it isn’t useful to society, that only the rich can engage in it, that people will think he is selfish, arrogant and elitist. Stop it now before his artistic side develops into a life of crushing mental illness. Stop it now because humans are meant to follow the status quo, having his own ideas means something is wrong with him.

  22. Lynn Wiliams says:

    My grandson is going to art school. Enuf said.

  23. Tim Palese says:

    If anybody feels there is no work for Graphic Designers, Illustrators, Industrial Designers and Artists in general just go to any store. Better yet look at all the web ads we encounter. Somebody had to create that stuff graphics and package design, pics etc. The reality is however IF an Artist is really good they can and will find work. The common misconception is it’s easy, always fun and anybody can do it. I’ve been a professional Illustrator for over 20 yrs and have always worked right out of yes, Art School. I always tell interested students pursue Art if you are either independently wealthy, or really passionate and serious about it. with the advent of the pc anybody can make something look ok, but only a true professional will do better than ok. Exceptional is the goal.

  24. Tim Black says:

    I first got hooked on violin building when I bought an old cello on ebay to fix up. I thought it was harmless, but 5 years later I’ve built 14 instruments. The violin police have yet to find me to force an intervention.
    How low can I go? I am reparing a string bass right now.

  25. E Brittain says:

    These pictures are powerful. Great concept; we need more like them.

    We are trying to introduce kids to art at an early age (20 months to 3 years old).

    Please like us on Facebook to help spread the word:

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