How to Create an Award-Winning Advertising Campaign: Crescent School

Chosen because Crescent School won Silver in the 2018 Brilliance Awards for Advertising. Crescent School’s Marketing and Communications team told InspirED the story behind this winning campaign.

Crescent School is a Grades 3 through 12 boys’ school in Toronto, Ontario. Their mission, Men of Character from Boys of Promise, recognizes that boys “with curious minds and humble hearts have the potential to discover their unique passion and purpose in life.”

Crescent School launched an advertising campaign a few years ago that is part of a larger brand awareness effort to attract prospective families. Other goals of the campaign include establishing Crescent School’s brand positioning in the broader marketplace, highlighting their key advantages, and reinforcing their value proposition for current families and faculty.

Research Uncovers Parents’ Priorities

Crescent School’s research indicated that the most important driver for parents selecting a school is the development of strong character, morals and values followed closely by academic excellence and superior post-secondary opportunities. In addition, the school has a superb understanding of boys, the needs of boy learners, and the development of character in boys supported by their four core values of respect, responsibility, honesty and compassion.

Knowing all this, Crescent’s messaging leads with character to align with prospective parents’ needs.

I love how the messaging with each image is so strongly associated with their mission, ‘Men of character from boys of promise.’ I truly believe that character is important to this school and they look at how to develop it in many areas.
— Brilliance Awards Judge's Comment

Find A Good Message And Stick With It

Crescent has been running the “A boy who… is a man who” campaign since Fall 2015. Each year, they refresh the campaign to feature different student ambassadors and different copy lines. The annual production schedule follows.

  • March: Concept development

  • April: Copy and scenarios finalized

  • May: Student ambassadors identified, student and parent permissions obtained, students photographed

  • June/July: Ads created

  • August: Ad materials sent to media and marketing channels including newspapers, consumer magazines, publications focused on private schools, bus boards, and direct mail, as well as signage around campus and school website.

  • September: Campaign launches

  • November: Campaign wrap, immediately prior to the enrollment application deadline 

Bus advertising

Hire a Skilled Agency

Crescent uses an agency of record, Sparkplug, to develop brand advertising and other critical marketing material. “There are several benefits of using our creative partners in this process,” says Lynda Torneck, Crescent School’s Director of Marketing and Communications. “First, the agency brings a unique talent in message distillation and crafting. Second, they are experts in graphic design and ad production, ensuring their ads retain the highest quality across all media (e.g. a quarter-page newspaper ad and a 12-foot bus board). Finally, by outsourcing this project, the Marketing & Communications Department can focus on other important school events and communication requirements that take place during the very busy spring term.” Crescent’s advertising budget, including photography, is approximately Cdn $40,000.00 (US $30,000.00). This covers concept development and ad material production but excludes the media buys.


Get a “Feel For” Results

Lynda says, “To paraphrase the legendary retailer John Wanamaker, ‘I know half of my advertising works, I just don’t know which half.’” The school knows that Crescent’s mission strongly resonates both within and beyond their immediate community and applicant interest in the school has grown tremendously over the past few years. “However,” Lynda says, “it’s difficult to trace this upward swing directly to our advertising.”

Advertising messaging aligns with website

How To Know Its Unique 

“Keep the message simple and ensure that it is ‘ownable’ by your school,” advises Lynda. “Ask yourself this question: Could another school easily put their logo on your ad? If the answer is yes, then your advertising is generic and will lack memorability and brand distinction.”

Finally, Lynda says, “We are very proud of our InspirED Brilliance Award and shared the news of our win with our staff, parents and Board.”

Crescent School Creative Team

Lynda Torneck, Director of Marketing and Communications, Crescent School

Betty-Ann Armstrong, Webmaster and Graphic Designer, Crescent School

Leigh Bowser, Marketing and Communications Specialist, Crescent School

Gayle Akler, President, Sparkplug Marketing and Communications

Stuart Solway, Chief Creative Officer, Sparkplug Marketing and Communications

Congratulations on your win, Crescent School. You are brilliant!

Want more brilliant ideas and brain food to make your job easier? Sign up here.

Get InspirED By More Case Studies