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NOLS (National Outdoor Leadership School) is "The Leader In Wilderness Education" offering gap years, semesters away and summer break expeditions to remote destinations across six continents. The goal was to increase enrollment in 30+ day courses by helping college-bound students and their parents understand the greatest risk in life is not preparing for exposure to inevitable adversity. NOLS courses are so technically advanced that instructors from Outward Bound and REI Adventures also enroll in order to become certified expert survival guides.
Creative Solution: NOLS is NOT for everyone. So it was reasoned that it was worth the risk to challenge college-age young adults to start challenging themselves more in order to develop both a thicker mental and physical skin.
Copywriting: More social commentary in nature than ad writing, the copy is classic long form in the form of open letters to parents and potential students. Like NOLS courses, they challenge people’s perceptions of the norm, encouraging them to step, hike and climb outside their comfort zones. The long copy format is aimed at intellectual and outdoor enthusiast audiences who enjoy an interesting read (subscribers to The New York Times, Outside Magazine, Harvard Alumni magazine and Banff Mountain Film Festival magazine).
Art Direction: The campaign’s art direction viscerally reflects the ruggedness of NOLS expeditions themselves. Open letters are printed on weathered topographical maps complemented by actual, unretouched action photography. The aesthetics are further brought to life with various imagery breaking the boundaries of the ads, reinforcing the copy’s theme of pushing past limits and comfort zones in order to personally evolve and professionally grow.
Results: The ad campaign led to a significant increase in website visits and enrollments. The small, non-profit client was so pleased with the work's effectiveness, they extended their initial half million dollar 2019 media buy into the first quarter of 2020.