Global Citizen Year is a non-profit gap year program based in Oakland, CA. Each year, they recruit a diverse group of high school students to take an immersive year abroad before they head off to college. During this pivotal year, Global Citizen Year Fellows develop leadership skills and diverse perspectives that shape the course of their education and career.

Prior to the campaign, Media Cause did extensive market research into Global Citizen Year’s target audience: high school seniors, particularly those who can afford to pay the full cost of the program. We conducted audience research using a combination of 3rd party sources as well as firsthand surveys and interviews. With this data, we built in-depth personas that detailed the motivations and barriers for taking a gap year. These insights then informed both our creative approach and channel strategy for this campaign.

Based on the research, our goal was to develop a creative concept that spoke to the main motivations for taking a gap year, while addressing the fears that many students and their parents had about delaying college. The final ad concept, “Do Both” emphasized the fact that you don’t have to choose between college and a gap year – you can do both!

The Outcome

Our research was correct: Instagram Stories was an extremely effective channel for engaging Gen Z. By meeting students on their social media platform of choice with a message that spoke directly to their motivations and concerns, we were able to successfully reach high school seniors gearing up to make one of the most important decisions of their lives and deliver impressive results for Global Citizen Year.


Increase in High Pay Leads


Decrease in Ad Spend


Decrease in Acquisition Costs for High Pay Leads

College or Gap Year? Do Both!

From our market research and advertising audit, we aligned on using Instagram Stories as the primary channel for delivering the “Do Both” message to our Gen Z audience. Iterating off of the popular polling feature of IG Stories, our ad concept prompted students to choose between different options for their future. Find your dorm or find yourself? Should you pick college or take a gap year? The final frame of the carousel ad showed that they did not in fact have to choose – they could “Do Both” with Global Citizen Year.

Reaching Gen Z

How did our audience of high school seniors respond to our new ads? Performance increased significantly – particularly for the high income audience we wanted to capture. Overall, the CPA declined 36% from the prior year and 68% amongst high and full tuition students. Furthermore, the “Do Both” concept delivered 2x the percentage of high paying students.

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