2016 Bronze Anvil Winner Highlight: Better Make Room Campaign Features Michele Obama in Push for Higher Education


Once the world leader in college graduates, the U.S. doesn’t even currently rank in the top ten.  Students are told bleak narratives that highlight college costs and the tentative job market, but not the many benefits of a higher education.

The Black Sheep Agency (BSA), a cause-driven brand strategy firm in Houston, determined to change the conversation, launched the Better Make Room campaign in collaboration with the White House and First Lady Michelle Obama.


First Lady Michelle Obama poses with chalk art for the public awareness campaign “Better Make Room” as part of her Reach Higher initiative, on the South Driveway of the White House, Oct. 19, 2015. (Official White House Photo by Amanda Lucidon)

The First Lady asked for a way to “make school COOL again,” and the BSA set out to build a creative engagement campaign that would connect with Generation Z.

But how can you make something cool again if it wasn’t seen that way in the first place? Rather than use athletes and celebrities to convey the message, BSA flipped the spotlight and focused on students themselves. They wanted to promote those pursuing higher education as celebrities themselves, and create a space for students where they could connect with each other and build their own community.

The campaign allowed student voices to pave the way forward, perpetuating the movement, leading with the statement, “Saying things out loud makes them happen.” Through a participation-focused, app-like website; a logo with customizable mix-and-match self expression opportunities; and live digital billboards that enabled people to tweet to Times Square, all campaign elements were focused on self expression and ownership.

BSA teamed up with platforms such as Vine and Awesomeness TV to gain participation from their top talent as an opportunity for community engagement. Each was given the key campaign messages and challenged to come up with the best way to reach their core audiences (which they did, resulting in over 50 million Vine loops).

For comedian and partner Jay Pharoah, this meant creating a “Go to College” rap video, featuring rhymes from none other than the First Lady. The meme “#FLOTUSBars” trended globally during the week it was released, inspiring a flurry of social and media attention.

The campaign garnered significant quantitative results, including 284+ million social media impressions, 700+ media impressions and more than 100,000 website views. Beyond that, BSA achieved cultural results and made history, encouraging the White House to do something, as Michelle Obama said in an East Room speech that had never been done before.

The campaign began to, and continues to, drive the conversation. And gave us the first First Lady to rap for a cause.

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