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Swift Kicks for Maine's College Bound

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NEW YORK Maine is attempting to raise its college graduation rate with a campaign targeting seventh and eighth graders that will debut during local broadcasts of the Super Bowl on Sunday. Portland, Maine-based independent Via handles the initiative.

In one spot, a boy sits in his bedroom playing a videogame. As his mother yells that she hopes he's doing his homework, he responds in the affirmative and continues to play. A talking donkey appears and castigates him for lying. "College is coming, you've got to get it together," the donkey says. When the youth resists, the donkey kicks him with its hind legs. The kid goes flying and lands in a chair with an algebra book in his lap and a pair of underpants on his head.

"Make the choice to go to college. Then get yourself ready," a narrator says.

"When you start to talk about reaching eighth graders, you can be serious and emotive or you can be funny. We found that when you are fun and lighthearted, and even a little silly, they pay attention," said Jason Wright, client strategist at Via. "We wanted something that said, 'You need a good kick in the ass' without actually saying that."

The spot attempts to drive traffic to kickstartmaine.com, where visitors are encouraged to take a college finder quiz in exchange for a free T-shirt. In
addition, a Kick Start show has been created for The CW television network, and there will be Web banners on youth-oriented sites.

"In Maine, we have a particular challenge in getting students to go on to college. If you take 100 freshman entering high school, only 25 will earn a degree in six years," said Kay Rand, campaign manager at Kick Start, which is funded by a grant from the National Governors' Association. "Something happens in seventh or eighth grade to slow down their momentum, whether it's poor grades, a lack of parental involvement, or financial resources. We asked Via to create a campaign to help keep that momentum going."