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Dentsu Elementary Advertising School CSR Program
—Communication basics through ad production—


The Elementary Advertising School program was launched in 2006 by Masahiro Makiguchi (currently managing director of Creative Planning Division 1), who had the following to say about the field of advertising: “It seems that advertising agencies tend to lack a sense of awareness and responsibility regarding the literacy of advertising audiences.”
Hence, the program began in 2006 as a curriculum to enable elementary school students to learn the basics of communication through the process of ad production.
To date, the curriculum has been used in Japan by 281 schools, as well as overseas with, all told, approximately 36,000 students having participated (as of March 2017).
The program, Advertising Elementary School, uses the word “elementary” in its name to emphasize that it covers the learning of advertising-related work from the most basic level. Besides having been used in elementary schools, the curriculum has been used in classes at junior high schools, high schools and universities. Overall, institutions other than elementary schools account for around 20% of the program classes.
The syllabus has won numerous awards in Japan, including the Kids Design Award (Jury Chairperson’s Special Award and Corporate Social Contribution Award, 2008), the Good Design Award (Social Contribution Program Design Category, 2011) and an Excellence Award at the Japan Mécénat Awards (Children’s Creative Award, 2014).

Dentsu Elementary Advertising School CSR Program

The CM Dog, which features the letters C and M used in the design of its nose and mouth, proved very popular with children. In Japan, television commercials are known by the acronym CM.

Schools Adopt Elementary Advertising School Syllabus

The materials were developed by Dentsu in partnership with Tokyo Gakugei University over a period of three years. The materials are designed to foster the basics of communication—generation of ideas, decision-making, creative expression and group problem-solving. These basics are achieved by turning ideas that the children wish to communicate into a 15-second TV commercial-type skit.
The curriculum comprises three learning units that allow students to progress from one level to the next—“Introduction to Television Commercials,” “Self-exploration TV Commercial” and “Public Service TV Commercial.”
A lovable character called the CM Dog is the navigator in a DVD included in the curriculum materials. The children’s TV commercial-style skits are presented using a large TV frame and a clapperboard. These and other devices are featured throughout the curriculum to attract the interest of students by adopting a learning approach that is quite different from that of their everyday classes.
Lesson scenarios, PowerPoint presentations, worksheets and other materials are included, lowering the hurdle for teachers wishing to quickly introduce the program into their lessons.
Since schools use their own teachers for the program, these teachers often have found that they discover aspects and potential of their students that previously may not have been obvious. Thus the materials have been highly appraised by teachers, among whom some 60% have chosen to continue using them.
In 2020, the Japanese Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology will implement a major reform of the education system, including university entrance examinations. The aim of the reform is to nurture the qualities and skills necessary for younger generations to adequately cope with the rapidly changing requirements of society, as well as to enhance learning-evaluation methods.
Driven by these objectives, over the past few years active, dialogue-based deep learning has generated significant interest. The advertising school program—which focuses on both problems with no single correct answer, and collaboration with individuals whose thinking may differ from one’s own—is again attracting interest, following many years of practical application.

Dentsu Employee Involvement

Two members—one fulltime—from Dentsu’s Corporate Philanthropy Department act as the secretariat for this advertising program, handling inquiries from schools on such issues as learning materials, lesson management and content.
In response to requests from schools, Dentsu employees provide lesson support as advisors approximately 10 times a year. At present, around 17 employees in the Business Development Unit who are registered as program support staff, undertake production of program materials and act as advisors. By explaining in ways that even children can understand, employees’ roles in the program can create the impetus for reexamining the starting point of their own work. Hence, there seems to be a positive impact on the advisors, too.
Each year since 2010, we have held a Summer Vacation Special for Dentsu Group employees’ children, which allows them to participate in the advertising school curriculum.
In July 2017, 150 students from grades three through six took part. Comments received from Dentsu Group employees include, “My child has begun to take an interest in my work,” and “I once again felt that this program, which leverages Dentsu’s skills, is very worthwhile.”

Dentsu Elementary Advertising School CSR Program

Participants at the Summer Vacation Special, held for children of Dentsu employees, approach their task with determination.

Program Results

In Japan, young people’s self-esteem is on a downward trend and is quite low compared with that of youth in other countries. Surveys show that self-acceptance is felt by fewer than 50% of respondents.
In joint research conducted by Dentsu and Tokyo Gakugei University, survey results derived from children who have participated in the program show improved self-acceptance.
Teachers who have used the curriculum often comment that, “Students who have become isolated due to lack of success in interpersonal relations with their classmates report bolstered self-confidence and improvement in relationships after participating in the advertising program.”
That is because the students experience the enjoyment of expressing their ideas freely, and gain a broader outlook by learning to accept opinions that differ from their own. They also feel a sense of accomplishment when what they wish to communicate to others is understood. Hence, the children are willing to take the initiative in the learning process.
Rather than focus on raising the quality of TV commercial-style skits—which are the final output of the lessons—focus is placed on the growth achieved by children during the time they produce the skit.
Further, since the program is designed to draw out the potential of the children participating, it is increasingly being used for people with communication difficulties.
Since 2016, Dentsu Solari, a special-purpose subsidiary that provides employment for people with intellectual disabilities, has been using the program. Support staff at the subsidiary have reported that program participation has led to improved teamwork.

Dentsu Elementary Advertising School CSR Program

Students present a skit to promote scallops, a regional delicacy in Tohoku.

Dentsu Elementary Advertising School CSR Program

Dentsu Solari staff members listen to an explanation given by a program advisor.

In 2012, we received the following request from a school in an area affected by the Great East Japan Earthquake and Tsunami.
It said, in part: “We want to make a TV commercial with the theme of children supporting locally produced goods, and local folk entertainment produced by people who have not been defeated by the disaster but are trying their hardest to revive their communities. We want you to assist in this project.”
This opportunity led to the creation of a program designed to showcase the appeal of local regions. It is now being used in areas other than those affected by natural disasters.

The Program’s Future

Dentsu, with its advanced communication skills, wishes to apply these to the education of future generations. For us, as one of the nation’s leading companies, helping to solve communication issues among children is of considerable significance.
Often, company employees comment that the Advertising Elementary School program is well suited to Dentsu’s capabilities. And not to be forgotten, in addition to having the gratifying theme of nurturing future generations, the project puts smiles on the faces of the children, teachers and other program participants.
Recognizing the importance of communication in all social activities, we plan to continue working to broaden the reach of this program, so as many children as possible learn that communicating with others can be fun and exciting.
Statistics have revealed that, in Japan, more than 690,000 people are either unable to work or have become socially isolated and reclusive owing to various social factors (Cabinet Office, Japan, 2010). Among the reasons cited for people becoming socially withdrawn are inability to fit in at school or the workplace, and to manage interpersonal relationships.
NGOs and other groups that provide support for young people unable to work have produced analyses that suggest these individuals lack the necessary communication skills.
Over the medium- to long-term, we aim to broaden this project to include programs specially designed to help people with communication issues to overcome their difficulties.

Dentsu Elementary Advertising School CSR Program

Mari Sakanaka

Corporate Philanthropy Department
Dentsu Inc.



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