Ads target bored graduates

5th September 2003 at 01:00
The jury is still out on the Teacher Training Agency's latest recruitment campaign. Karen Thornton reports.

The alarm sounds at 6.30am to the jolly "hi ho" of Snow White's seven dwarves. A man sits up in bed - and leaves his head on the pillow.

He gets up, doing his tie while watching a brainless (literally) breakfast programme presenter on the television, then joins hordes of other headless people on their way to their mindless office jobs.

It's the opening of the Teacher Training Agency's surreal and sometimes nightmarish new television advert, designed to convince over-qualified and under-employed graduates that a job in the classroom is much more challenging and creative.

"Use your head: teach" is the slogan for the pound;12 million-a-year campaign, which even features a headless chicken - or rather, a headless person in a chicken outfit outside a fast-food bar.

A spooky scene features a headless factory worker decapitating plastic dolls on a production line.

The closing images focus on a teacher engaging with a classroom of laughing schoolchildren over a Van de Graaff generator, ruefully rubbing his (quite good looking but slightly balding) head.

The advert replaces the "those who can, teach" campaign, which the TTA says has passed its peak impact.

The agency is now focusing on a more specific market - that of unfulfilled graduates stuck in routine jobs for which they are over-qualified.

People like this do not want to be trapped in the kind of workplace portrayed in David Brent's award-winning black TV comedy The Office, said Ralph Tabberer, the TTA's chief executive.

"We want to target graduates in their twenties and thirties who we know are working in jobs they regard as soulless and who have not yet considered teaching as a career option," he said.

"With comprehensive training and more effective support in schools, teachers can look forward to a stimulating and challenging career which is difficult to match."

The agency is hoping the new campaign, developed by McCann-Erickson of Manchester, and including posters, print adverts and a new website, will prove as successful as "those who can, teach".

That line generated 320,000 calls to the agency's telephone helpline in its first year. The new advert gets its first showing in English cinemas today.

But the headless theme has divided union commentators, especially those concerned about teacher redundancies.

John Bangs, head of education of the National Union of Teachers, said:

"It's bizarre. In an effort to be eye-catching, the TTA has lost its head."

John Dunford, general secretary of the Secondary Heads'

Association, added: "Some people are going to find this in poor taste."

But Eamonn O'Kane, general secretary of the National Association of Schoolmasters Union of Women Teachers, was sanguine. "It is not a bad slogan - I couldn't think of anything better. What's important is to recruit young, enthusiastic, able people into the profession."

Opinion 27

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