'Thank you for making me feel smart': will a new campaign to raise the status of teaching work?

Federal and state governments have just launched a A$10 million advertising campaign to “raise the status” of teachers in Australia and encourage people to consider a career in school education.

Called “Be That Teacher”, the campaign features emotive stories from eight real teachers who have positively affected their students’ lives and futures.

For example, Mr Wang, a maths teacher from Victoria talks about how a Year 10 student wrote him a note to say “thank you for making me feel smart for once”. Mrs Kentwell, a primary teacher from Queensland, spoke about holding the hand of a young blind student in a running race, while other students cheered him on.

The rewarding feeling you get from teaching is something I’ve never felt from any other job.

The campaign, by ad agency Clemenger BBDO, is running across social media, television, cinema, billboards and at bus stops and train stations until next April.

Why do we need it?

The campaign comes amid an ongoing teacher shortage crisis in Australia. Federal government modelling has predicted a shortfall of more than 4,000 teachers by 2025. Last month, the New South Wales government revealed a 42% drop in casual teacher numbers meant 10,000 lessons in the state were going without a teacher each day.

We also know the number of students enrolling in teaching degrees has dropped 12% in the past ten years. Of those who do enrol, only 50% finish the degree and 20% of those who graduate leave the profession within three years.

Australian studies have also told us teachers do not feel valued by the community, are abused and disrespected by parents, and receive poor media coverage.

Is this campaign the answer? Can advertising help solve Australia’s teacher shortage?

Read more: We won't solve the teacher shortage until we answer these 4 questions

Advertising can work

There is evidence to show advertising can work. A clever way to demonstrate advertising’s value is to examine what happens in its absence. Our 2023 study showed, on average, brands experience a decline in sales when they stop advertising for more than one year.

But there are no certainties with advertising. So what increases the chance of a successful campaign?

Advertising works primarily by creating and refreshing memories – in this case by establishing a link between “teaching” and “positive career option”. This heightens the chance teaching will come to someone’s mind when considering careers. The freshness of a memory (how recently they saw the ad) increases the chances they will think of teaching.

This means the campaign should run while the shortage persists, to increase the chance it will be in potential students’ minds and particularly during the lead-up to university preference cut-off dates over the summer.

Do the ads themselves work?

The campaign gets an A on several factors.

The videos are beautifully crafted, capturing attention by using human faces, voices and authentic storytelling. All these elements improve the chances of campaign success by evoking an emotional response, which heightens memory retention.

The “Who will you inspire?” tagline used in the campaign is also both emotive and memorable.

The branding needs more work

Beyond the ads, the Be That Teacher website contains information about pursuing a teaching career (how to do it, available scholarships and support). While the campaign can create a memory or pique someone’s interest, this information will help people decide if teaching is the career for them.

Here, the branding aspect (or identity) of the campaign needs more work. Be That Teacher is new to Australians and it needs to be more prominent in the videos and still images to stand out and capture attention.

Introducing the line “Be That Teacher” visually at the beginning of the ads and adding a verbal mention, rather than just at the end, heightens the chance it will be processed and remembered. This is crucial if the campaign is going to push people to the website.

Of course we also need more than ads

Recruitment and retention issues in education are not new. Teachers report feeling overworked, underpaid and overly burdened by administrative tasks.

These are all complex issues and clearly, advertising will not be the sole fix to the teacher shortage (nor are governments suggesting it will be).

But with teachers so essential to Australia’s future, every effort should be made to build and retain our teaching workforce. Good advertising like this campaign can help generate more interest in the profession and provide a gentle nudge towards improving the status of this vital career.

Read more: How do we retain teachers? Supporting them to work together could help

This article is republished from The Conversation is the world's leading publisher of research-based news and analysis. A unique collaboration between academics and journalists. It was written by: Virginia Beal, University of South Australia.

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Virginia Beal does not work for, consult, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organisation that would benefit from this article, and has disclosed no relevant affiliations beyond their academic appointment.