Dolan’s Class Project: A Study in Generosity

One nice thing about a career in advertising: No two days are the same. Especially when you have a client like the Dolan Automotive Group, owners of Reno Toyota, Lexus of Reno and Reno Mazda Kia.

As many northern Nevada residents know, the Dolans are up for anything when it comes to their monthly promotions. For those of us at Foundry, that means some pretty strange shopping excursions. One day your assignment is to find the perfect shade of red beard for Ryan Dolan’s leprechaun costume. The next your job is to see if you can borrow a spare arm and leg from a department store dummy. And you had no idea why Tom and Ryan needed that romantic table set for two with just one dish of spaghetti. You quickly learn it’s best not to ask questions.

This year, the most rewarding promotion has been Dolan’s $50,000 Class Project 2011. It was an undeniable success. The idea was simple enough: Northern Nevada K-12 public school teachers were encouraged to submit a proposal on behalf of their students for a chance to win $2,500 to fund a classroom project. Entries were featured on Facebook and the fans were asked to vote for the most deserving of projects. The $50,000 donation would be split among twenty classrooms equally.

For the Facebook analysts out there, it earned Dolan Automotive Group more than 7,000 new fans and more than 3 million impressions. Not to mention “likes”, comments and tags were through the roof. They received 101 entries from teachers and more than 27,000 votes were cast. It was a win-win. Times twenty.

We at Bauserman (now Foundry) were excited to visit the top 2 or 3 winners’ classrooms to present giant checks, with members of the media present to capture it all. However, Ryan Dolan had other plans. “I’m going to all 20 classrooms,” he informed us. So off we went. From Wooster High School, a mere .55 miles down the road from Reno Toyota, to Sutro Elementary School in Dayton and Silver Stage Middle School in Silver Springs.

Watching Ryan speak to the students in our area over the past few weeks has been an incredible experience. The Dolans wanted to make sure this money went directly to the teachers and classrooms. Soon students in our area will be using iPads and new laptops, building a community garden, visiting senior centers and much more with the funds from this promotion.

Ryan poses with Silver Stage Middle School winners.

Kellie Jonas submitted a Class Project on behalf of her ACE High School students, and their votes earned them a place in the top twenty. After we visited their class, they wrote letters of appreciation to Dolan Automotive Group. “My students have learned many valuable lessons during this contest,” Kellie wrote. “We’ve recently discussed the power of generosity, and the impact that gifts like this can make on our entire community…This award seems to have reenergized my students, and for that I am incredibly grateful.”

Suddenly, “promotion” seems like the wrong word. It’s a great feeling when an idea for a commercial or a quest for Facebook fans becomes something more. We’re thankful to have clients with such big hearts. And it doesn’t hurt that they’re willing to glue on a fake beard, put on suspenders and do an Irish jig.