Get Out Your No. 2 Pencils

Plenty of shops have tightened their belts of late, but at least one should get an A for economics. Rather than overextending in-house resources or recruiting professionals to craft its new ad campaign, Crew Cuts doled out a little homework to a class full of advertising hopefuls at the School of Visual Arts in New York. The proposition: Churn out a winning print ad by April 1, and get $1,000 and see the ad in print in advertising trade magazines.

The folks at Crew Cuts, a New York post-production editing company that has done work for BBDO, J. Walter Thompson, Ogilvy & Mather, The Richards Group and other national shops, admit the project is a money saver but say they’re not all about the Benjamins. “Instead of just throwing away money by paying another company to do our ads, we thought about how could we make this a symbiotic relationship,” says Ali Lambert, a producer at the editing house.

Fellow producer Melanie Klein, a former agency recruiter, dreamed up the idea. “I would visit the ad schools and I got to see kids with a lot of really good work,” she says. When the agencies didn’t have any positions to fill, Klein would call on some of the better students for freelance assignments. “In a sense, we’re auditioning the kids,” she says.

Crew Cuts approached 13 students about the idea, and at least 10 plan to submit work, Lambert says. “We’re willing to have one winner or we’re willing to have 10,” she says. “If we get 10 great ads, it would be worth the $10,000.”

Should the unthinkable happen —none of the work is up to snuff—the shop may open up the contest to other classes or SVA alums.