DART 2021 Student Art Contest

Target Audience: The annual DART Student Art Contest targeted North Texas students particularly those within and near DART's 13-city service area. As the contest is open to students in kindergarten through 12th grade, DART reached schoolchildren wherever they learn - public schools, private schools, charter schools and even homeschool environments. DART also reached out to youth organizations such as Boys & Girls Clubs. Secondarily, DART targeted parents, teachers and program coordinators -- all the people that positively impact school-age children - in the hopes of inspiring participation. The contest garnered 687 entries from across North Texas.

Strategy Objective:DART sought to amplify the efforts of essential workers who kept North Texas moving during the pandemic. This was reflected in the contest theme: "Everyday Heroes Ride DART." Students were invited to think of the everyday people who positively impacted their lives: teachers, bus and train operators, grocery store employees, healthcare workers and other front-line employees who served the community during a challenging time. Ordinary people did the extraordinary; in turn, ordinary kids honored them by creating extraordinary art. DART encouraged participation by making the submission process easy. Whereas in 2020, only high school students could submit artwork electronically, DART expanded this capability to include students at all grade levels – keeping children safe during the pandemic.

Situation Challenge: The pandemic presented unique challenges and constraints to DART's popular annual contest –traditionally a grassroots, hands-on event centered on live participation. DART pivoted to a virtual approach for all the program's components. This included making the contest landing page more interactive; accepting virtual entries in all categories; allowing for virtual judging; partnering with the Dallas Museum of Art on an online winners' gallery; and hosting the annual recognition ceremony virtually. DART also wanted the contest theme for 2021 to honor the community heroes that had been on the front lines during the pandemic. Despite its virtual nature, DART maintained a high level of engagement with participants, their schools and their families throughout the contest.

Results Impact: DART created a visually vibrant and exciting advertising campaign that appealed to all ages. Our efforts generated more than 52.6 million impressions. The organization's 41 posts on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram garnered 64,223 impressions and 1,659 engagements, while the call-for-entries video posted to DART's social platforms generated 5,367 impressions and 108 engagements. Earned media coverage garnered nearly 2.2 million impressions. 1,962 ad placements on DART assets (bus wraps/interiors/exteriors, rail interiors, and digital signage) provided a market value of $515,000, while generating 31.6 million impressions. Also, DART received 850 pro bono placements across print, online and television -- a market value of $208,000 -- that generated 18.8 million impressions.

Why Submit: The agency was innovative in its approach to hosting a contest with many moving parts. By pivoting to a virtual contest, we maintained the momentum of a popular and valuable event. Working with the Dallas Museum of Art, DART successfully transformed its usual in-person recognition event into a fully virtual recognition program held on April 23 -- a ceremony that netted 1,350 page views. The 2021 Student Art Contest positioned DART as a valued community member that will stop at nothing to engage the people we serve, whatever their age. During a challenging period, we promoted goodwill, reached out to future DART riders – and gave our communities' young people a chance to express themselves creatively at a time when they needed it most.