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Ad Council boosts chronic absenteeism campaign with SMS tracker

The Ad Council and United States Army have teamed up for a new public service campaign that leverages SMS to help parents chart the impact of their children?s school absences on academic success.

The Absences Add Up campaign was designed to boost school attendance and combat chronic absenteeism. Parents who sign up for the Text2Track portion of the program will receive regular texts asking how much school their child has missed and information about the impact those absences could have on their child?s education.

?The main call to action is keeping track of your children?s absences,? said Priscilla Natkins, executive vice president and director of client services at the Ad Council, Washington. ?Using SMS just seemed like an obvious tool for parents to be able to do this.

?Most of our target audience ? lower-income parents ? have phones with that capability,? she said. ?They are receptive to this idea, and it seems like such an easy way to involve yourself with this effort.?

Text to track
The public service ads created for the campaign underscore the importance of regular school attendance in middle school in order for students to graduate high school.

The TV, radio, print, outdoor and digital ads are targeted at parents of middle school children and direct them to a campaign Web site,, where they can sign up for the Text2Track program.

Those who sign up for Text2Track will receive one text per week asking how many days of school their child missed that week.

At the end of every month, Boost Attendance will reply with a sum of the days missed and the impact those absences could have on their child's math and reading scores and likelihood of high school graduation.

The ads were created pro bono by ad agency Publicis Kaplan Thaler.

Stay in school
On the Web site, parents can also take advantage of an Attendance Calculator to find the correlation between their child?s attendance and academic achievement as well as find general information about how to keep their kids in school.

The site is available in English and Spanish.

Chronic absenteeism and missing 18 days or more of school for any reason can be an important warning sign that a student will fall behind and risk not graduating high school, according to the Ad Council.

Nationwide, as many as 7.5 million students miss nearly a month of school every year.

The campaign was developed to address key insights revealed by an Ad Council survey that showed many parents believe attendance really only matters in high school and that excused absences will not hurt a child?s academic performance.

Local NYC program
The Ad Council is also partnering with New York City to localize the TV and radio PSAs. The localized PSA will drive parents to a special URL,, where they will find borough-specific resources to address the problems keeping their children out of school, such as asthma, mental illness, bullying, housing or immigration issues and more.

?Using this Text2Track would be the easiest way for parents to get a real firm understanding of exactly how many days their kids are missing and then finding out what the impact is,? Ms. Natkins said.

?They need to stay on top of this, this is something that is not top of mind all the time,? she said.

?The absences add up, and they are not aware of how they add up. This device will help them crystallize exactly how many days their kids are missing.?

Final Take
Chantal Tode is associate editor on Mobile Marketer, New York