Connelly Partners Tackles Lack of Diversity in Ad Agencies By Teaching An Advertising Elective At A Boston High School

Agency seeks to work with marketers to expand the program throughout the US

BOSTON (May 15, 2018) – The advertising industry is known to have a lack of diversity in its ranks, and advertising agency Connelly Partners decided to effect change little by little, starting in their own neighborhood in Boston’s South End.

The agency just concluded its second year of teaching a hands-on advertising class at Cathedral High School (CHS), ending with a presentation to the Museum of Fine Arts from the advertising students on how to attract teenagers to visit the museum.

Marketing students at CHS spent twice a week during the first part of the school year learning from various guest lecturers from the agency (averaging 20 employees all year) each from different marketing disciplines/departments. During the second half of the year, the students became their own small marketing firm/ad agency. They worked in discipline-specific groups, conducted their own research, wrote, designed and launched and channel-specific strategies while their CP mentors guided them through the process.

The program thus far has been mostly comprised of a dozen sophomores and juniors each year. This year, 3 out of 10 kids raised their hands when asked if they would want to pursue a career in advertising, according to Scott Madden, one of the instructors and a Senior Partner at Connelly Partners

According to data by the American Association of Advertising Agencies conducted in 2016 and reported in industry trade Adweek: “74 percent of 4A’s members surveyed feel agencies are either mediocre or worse when it comes to hiring a diverse group of employees.”

Connelly Partners worked with Oscar Santos, the Head of School at Cathedral High School to develop a curriculum and structure to a ‘practitioners-taught’ course. Agency founder and president Steve Connelly formed a relationship with the school in 2009, when he moonlighted as a varsity basketball coach at the school for three years.

“There are ad industry-wide initiatives to improve the lack of color in the business, but we felt we could be more effective starting in our own neighborhood,” said Connelly. “In order to attract diverse people and perspectives, young talent needs to know what an advertising agency does and try the different aspects of the business on for size.”

“Cathedral strives to provide students with purposeful learning and skills that extend beyond the classroom,” said Oscar Santos, Ed.D. and Head of School
 at Cathedral High School. “Our advertising elective with Connelly Partners has given them the access to incredible learning opportunities and mentors.”

With two years of teaching under their belt, Connelly Partners is ready to help marketers use their program as a guide to spark marketers throughout the country to work with their local schools to launch their own advertising course.

About Connelly Partners
Connelly Partners is a full-service brand and digital marketing agency that uses empathy to develop relationships and unique connections with consumers. Clients include, American Express Travel, A&E Networks, American Tourister, BJ’s Wholesale Clubs, Babson College, British Virgin Islands Tourism Board, CIE Tours, Four Seasons Hotels and Resorts, Gorton’s Seafood, Kayem Foods, Massachusetts State Lottery, Samsonite, among others. The agency’s loft space in the South End of Boston is filled with over 150 employees accomplished in strategic planning, creative and content generation, media planning and buying, digital strategy/execution, public relations, social media, search, branded entertainment, integrated production and analytics. Connelly Partners has been recognized for its workplace culture by Advertising Age, Boston Business Journal, Boston Globe and BostInno, among others. Visit for more information.

About Cathedral High School
Cathedral 7-12 High School is an urban, independent, Catholic, coeducational, college preparatory school serving boys and girls from grades 7 through 12 in Boston’s historic South End. For more than 90 years, Cathedral High has provided a first-rate education to students of all walks of life and backgrounds from greater Boston. Founded in 1926 and rooted in gospel values, Cathedral prepares students well for college and life. For 13 consecutive years, every single senior has graduated high school and earned admission to college. More than just getting into college, Cathedral scholars continue to excel and continue to receive support and guidance from the school through college graduation. Guided by an independent board of trustees since 2004, Cathedral is a philanthropy-based school and offers philanthropy-based assistance to every student. A Cathedral education is based upon three pillars: personalized learning, college readiness, and leadership & service.