Students pictured on the field trip to Leo Burnett in downtown Chicago (courtesy of Leo Burnett Worldwide, Inc).

When 11-year-old Sherry Peoples attended the middle school Made For More field trip to the Leo Burnett Worldwide, Inc. advertising agency in downtown Chicago, it was the first time she had ever been introduced to advertising as a potential career.  “Learning the process that goes into making a commercial, planning a storyboard, pitching the idea, even being rejected over and over really opened my eyes!  I could totally see myself being in advertising when I grow up!”  Along with 25 other 6th-8th grade students from the Woodlawn neighborhood, Peoples was warmly welcomed by Leo Burnett.  The advertising agency is the third largest in the world, handling high-end contracts and representing many large corporations as well as celebrities.  

For the past year, Senior Art Director Tuan Huynh had been discussing with Donnell Williams, Made for More Co-director, the possibility of bringing the middle-schoolers for a tour.  “After hearing the value that Leo Burnett places on connecting with youth, we were finally able to make this happen in early January 2018,” Williams shared.  He and Co-Director Jazlyn Anderson place a high value on giving the youth opportunities that push them beyond their typical experiences in the Woodlawn community and open their eyes to possibilities in other parts of the city.

11-year-old Christian presents his idea with Peoples looking on from the background.

The group toured an amazing creative space where a diverse group of designers, artists, photographers, and marketers all work together to create advertising campaigns.  The students were able to sit in a boardroom and ask questions and hear all the various components that go into marketing and advertising.  “One of the best parts was the kids hearing affirmation from the Leo Burnett team about how much THEY have to offer as youth.  They are already marketers because they are so adept with social media.  It was really empowering,” said Anderson.  

Towards the end of the field trip, the youth were split into teams and given the task of developing and pitching a product but they couldn’t use print, radio, or television.  Williams noted that many of this generation are very used to using social media and this was an incredibly useful skill as they developed their product and marketing ideas.  Each group then presented their products and received feedback from the Leo Burnett team.  Student Aries Johnson presented with the same group as Peoples and remarked, “The whole process was so fun and so different from anything I’ve ever done before.  I really think it’s something I could do for a living.”  

Leo Burnett staff were so impressed with one of the groups’ presentations, they are reaching out to client Beyonce Knowles to pitch the idea a group of students developed.  The students were informed of this decision by Huynh on February 20th when he visited Sunshine Gospel Ministries in the Woodlawn neighborhood.  Johnson responded in disbelief that they may have an opportunity to actually present their idea on a large scale.  

The Made for More staff hope to continue to partner with Leo Burnett to provide the students with opportunities to learn and collaborate with their staff.  The creativity and arts focus that Leo Burnett infuses into the entire atmosphere of their office was a unique experience for the students.  Anderson shares, “We truly believe our kids were made for more.  They have such talent, creativity, and vision.  Facilitating experiences like this affirms the value we place on who they can be and the opportunities we want for them in their future!”