Trying to attract frustrated teachers? F that

Who: UpGrade, with AndSo for creative, design, and strategy.

What: “F The System,” the first part of a two-phase launch campaign for the new digital platform for tutors.

When & Where: The first phase targeting teachers interested in tutoring ran as out-of-home around universities with teaching programs, along with targeted Facebook and Instagram. Phase two targeting parents and students is in the works now, launching in May.

Why: UpGrade was launched by a husband-and-wife team of teachers who saw first-hand the many problems in the modern education—with frustration rising quickly for teachers, parents and their children.

AndSo’s research showed that while teachers really want to help kids, they feel extremely frustrated by the school system, said Jake Bogoch, partner and creative lead. “There are a million ways to make money in the world, they chose this way and they care deeply.”

Coming out of the pandemic, kids are behind where they are supposed to be, and teachers are encouraged to move kids along and not provide true evaluations, he said. Meanwhile, teachers also feel let down by their union and under-compensated at a time when inflation is shrinking purchasing power.

The goal of the first phase of the launch campaign was to attract new teachers willing to start tutoring kids via UpGrade. “In creating the campaign, what we did is we looked at a lot of cultural tension points for teachers,” said Bogoch.

How: This was an awareness campaign for an upstart brand created to challenge a broken system. But there also wasn’t a big media budget, meaning it had to be scrappy and able to tap into the frustration of teachers in an authentic way, with a voice that used some cheek and humour.

The “F The System” headlines grab attention, but can appear to have two meanings: an expletive expression of frustration, or as a failing mark for the system. “We used art direction to get out of jail, as though we’re grading the system,” said Bogoch. “But it was a sentiment we heard loud and clear from teachers.”

Beyond the headline about “the system,” secondary copy draws people in further by introducing the possibility of another option: “When schools fail, kids can still succeed,” and “You’ll be a teacher someday. Does tomorrow  work for you.” There’s also a call-to-action to visit the UpGrade website, including a QR code.

Any concerns about the F? “There was absolutely zero from the client whatsoever,” said Bogoch. “We gave ourselves three months of paid media and they hit their number in less than two weeks.” With the target of 125 teachers signed up, some of the media spend can go toward phase two of reaching parents and students.

And we quote: “We knew we were on the right track, but didn’t think it’d be adopted this fast… We exist for tutors and students that need more choice and more control within the education system. A line like ‘F the System’ is pretty much who we are.”— Michael Train, teacher and co-founder of UpGrade

David Brown