Strategic America has received a 2016 Bronze Telly Award for its public service announcement produced for the Iowa Governor’s STEM Advisory Council. Telly Awards are given nationally to recognize excellence in film and video productions, online video content, and television programs and commercials.

The Iowa STEM Council has partnered with Strategic America for creative messaging and public relations since late 2013. In 2015, they presented SA a new challenge: Elementary school students were naturally curious about STEM subjects, but in the critical middle school years, their interest waned. What could we say to Iowa’s young teens to help them see more value in STEM subjects?

SA’s creative concepting led to the idea of casting children as their own future selves. Four Iowa youth were cast in STEM-related jobs they might hold in the year 2035, and the script was crafted to imagine what they might achieve 20 years in the future. In one scene, an agronomist talks about his improved environmental practices; in another, a factory supervisor explains how modern farm equipment helps feed the world. By casting teenagers as workers in their 30s, SA gave the young audience a glimpse of a secure, promising future.

“It was important for us to speak to the older children respectfully,” said Greg Welch, associate creative director at SA. “When we talked to our target before the project, we felt like they craved that kind of honesty. So rather than try to hold their attention with flashy effects, we let our cast talk in the present tense about things that could legitimately be accomplished in the next ten to twenty years—like better medical care, or powering more homes with renewable fuels. That kind of optimism about the future is exciting, and we think it will lead to increased interest in STEM subjects.”

To reinforce the need for education and connect the present the future, the spot opens and closes with the children at school as their young selves. “The future is coming,” said Welch, “but for now, it’s time to go to class.”

The agency partnered with John Deere, MidAmerican Energy, and Broadlawns Medical Center, who graciously allowed filming in their facilities. Video production was expertly handled by Luminary Creative, a Des Moines production company.