YNN making headway despite opposition

After years of bitter controversy, Youth News Network (YNN) says it's finally making headway....

After years of bitter controversy, Youth News Network (YNN) says it’s finally making headway.

By the start of the new school year this fall, YNN expects to have 30 Canadian high schools signed up to receive its broadcasts on a six-month test basis. It also hopes to have instituted changes designed to appease its most persistent critics.

Opponents of advertising in schools, however, appear unlikely to relent.

YNN’s offering consists of a 10-minute news and current affairs program, broadcast into high schools on a daily basis. The program is followed by two and a half minutes of paid advertising. To date, just three Canadian schools are wired to receive the broadcast.

Montreal-based Athena Educational Partners first began pushing the YNN concept – modeled on Channel One in the U.S. – approximately a decade ago. And, from the outset, the network has been the target of organized opposition from educators and parents.

The Canadian Association of Media Education Organizations (CAMEO), an alliance of close to 50 groups across the country, keeps tabs on YNN and orchestrates activities such as e-mail and letter-writing campaigns to counter its initiatives.

Efforts like these have proven quite successful at hobbling YNN’s progress. But Rod MacDonald, president of Athena, says he’s found a solution that may help to win over the network’s detractors.

YNN is proposing to drop commercial advertising from its in-school broadcasts and replace it with PSAs and sponsored social marketing messages.

"We’ve decided to develop a series of social advocacy themes on our own, for which we’re going to attempt to get corporate and provincial government sponsorship," MacDonald says.

Marketers of consumer goods and services, meanwhile, will have the opportunity to advertise on YNN’s online education portal – a new Web-based initiative that should be up and running by the start of the school year.

These moves, however, may not be enough to quell anti-YNN sentiment.

John Pungente, executive director of the Jesuit Communication Project in Toronto and president of CAMEO, says the members of his group have no objection to the idea of partnerships between private companies and schools.

What upsets CAMEO is the fact that the YNN broadcasts have no direct connection to the curriculum, and require schools to revamp their timetables so that students can view the programming. The organization also warns that schools have no way of knowing what political or philosophical biases may inform the material.

The YNN contract with schools stipulates that 80% of the students must watch the broadcast 90% of the time, Pungente says. "No one should have that kind of unlimited access to kids."

There are a number of commercial-free alternatives to YNN available, he adds – among them Cable in the Classroom, which offers a roster of specialty channels (including Discovery Channel, A&E and Bravo!) as well as news programming for teens from CNN, CBC Newsworld and YTV.

For his part, MacDonald says that the letters and e-mails he has received from students and teachers have been generally positive, and have included suggestions for further coverage of various topics.

YNN’s U.S. counterpart, Channel One, has been operating for 15 years. It now reaches approximately 12,000 American schools, where it is seen by more than eight million students each day. This kind of penetration enables it to charge upwards of US$200,000 for a 30-second spot.

Channel One has been the subject of controversy as well. Recently, for example, a coalition of advocacy groups urged U.S. President Bill Clinton to cancel a planned appearance on Channel One, which they accuse of infusing classrooms "with the degraded values of the commercial culture."

In Brief: The Garden picks CDs to take on daily creative leadership

Plus, Naked names two new leaders of its own and Digital Ethos comes to Canada.

The Garden promotes two creative directors

ACDs Lindsay Eady and Francheska Galloway-Davis have taken over responsibility for day-to-day creative leadership at The Garden after being promoted to creative director roles.

The pair will also help develop the agency’s creative talent, formalizing mentorship and leadership activities they have been doing since joining the agency four and three years ago, respectively. In addition to creating the agency’s internship program, the pair have worked on campaigns for Coinsquare, FitTrack and “The Coke Challenge” campaign for DanceSafe.

Eady and Galloway-Davis will continue to report to The Garden’s co-founder and chief creative officer Shane Ogilvie, who is stepping back from daily creative duties to a more high-level strategic role, allowing him to focus on client relationships and business growth.

Naked Creative Consultancy names new creative and strategy leadership

Toronto’s Naked Creative Consultancy has hired Yasmin Sahni as its new creative director. She is taking over creative leadership from David Kenyon, who has been in the role for 10 years and is moving into a new role as director of strategy, leading the discipline at the agency.

Sahni is coming off of three years as VP and ECD at GTB’s Toronto office, where she managed all the retail, social and service creative for Ford Canada. She previously managed both Vice Media and Vice’s in-house ad agency Virtue.

Peter Shier, president of Naked, says Sahni’s hiring adds to its creative bench and capabilities, as well as a track record of mentorship, a priority for the company. Meanwhile, Kenyon’s move to the strategy side, he says, makes sense because of his deep knowledge of its clients, which have included Ancestry and The Globe and Mail.

Digital Ethos opens a Toronto office

U.K. digital agency Digital Ethos is pursuing new growth opportunities in North America by opening a new office in Toronto.

Though it didn’t disclose them, the agency has begun serving a number of North American clients, and CEO/founder Luke Tobin says the “time was right to invest in a more formal and actual presence in the area.” whose services include design, SEO, pay-per-click, social media, influencer and PR,

This year, the agency’s growth has also allowed it to open an office in Hamburg, Germany, though it also has remote staff working in countries around the world.

Moray Hickes was the company’s first North American hire as VP of sales, tasked with business development in the region.