ClownBike and Kids Steal the Show
By Becky Jane Newbold
One component of the small town dilemma is how to interest youth, once out of college, in coming back home to work, live and raise a family. Realistically, the bigger problem is how will the young people find work to support themselves.
A clever idea formulated by a Madison Avenue advertising guru, a Perry County businessman and a local teacher satisfied a Main Street initiative by employing the community’s youth; a brilliant marketing scheme that actually worked.
Enter ClownBike. With such a name and a motto some find mildly offensive,
“Affordable, Local Advertising That Doesn’t Suck,” Rich Carraro likely had locals cutting their eyes and evaluating this New Yorker closely. But through the use of amazing photo techniques, internet technology and a bit of travel to connect with seniors in the Jobs for Tennessee Graduates program at Perry County High School, Rich helped create masterpieces in the advertising world.
And all for a little town in rural Tennessee that just a couple of years ago suffered from higher unemployment rates than were seen in the 1920s era depression.
“These kids have taken more of an interest in their town. They have adopted an accountability for their town,” teacher Mikki Williams explained.
Linden Mayor Jim Azbill used grants funds for a Main Street program to create a marketing tool, designed by the county’s youth, that will eventually be used along the Interstate 40 corridor as a billboard. “This is professional work these students have done. Rich has been a God-send,” Williams continued.
Students learned teamwork, responsibility, accountability, deadlines and technology. Main Street business owners benefitted by having professional advertising developed for their companies. The community will have a marketing tool with a really unique appearance. Yes, it is local advertising that doesn’t suck.
Students claimed ownership of the county seat of Perry, which underwent a facelift during the past year to improve aging sidewalks and lighting. Some have even had their senior portraits made in the historic district since becoming involved in the project.
When Rich Carraro met Linden business owners Michael and Kathy Dumont in Colorado at a business meeting and the three began talking, the concept was born.
“I had never done anything like this before and to be honest, I was terrified. The first day when I met the students, I was not sure what it would be like, but they have been great,” Carraro says.
In the beginning, Rich formed an ad agency. He was the boss and he “hired” the students to contact clients, interview them and learn what goal each had for promoting their businesses. As the eight week long project continued, the students, working as Creative Teams, created mock-up sketches to present, via Skype, to Rich back in New York. When the concepts were approved by the clients, Rich returned to Linden for photo shoots, with some of the photos set up or taken by the students. During this time, roles switched, Rich explained.
“Now I am working for them. They have theoretically ‘hired’ me as their photographer and production guy,” he explains. Students learn tidbits of photo editing skills and, in the broader scope of the plan, see the big picture.
“I loved it,” student Bridget Cude said.
“I want to own my own business someday. This gave me insight into advertising,” Farrah Clark added.
“The poster is going to blow people away. It came out much better than I ever hoped. Great bunch of kids. If I was starting an ad agency in Linden, I’d hire them all,” Rich Carraro said.