SXSW 2024

“The Paper Ceiling:” A Case Study in Transforming Culture


In September 2022, a groundbreaking PSA campaign introduced the language of “tearing the paper ceiling” into national conversation, giving a name to the invisible barrier that holds back STARs: workers Skilled Through Alternative Routes rather than a bachelor’s degree. We’ve driven incredible awareness: 4 in 10 employers report familiarity with the phrase as of June 2023, and it’s been referenced as a business “buzzword” in outlets like Fortune, Bloomberg and Newsweek. In this short time, we’ve effectively seeded this concept in culture and created more momentum to transform hiring practices.

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  1. How we simplified a complex workforce concept by creating a term - "the paper ceiling" - to define a common enemy
  2. How we mobilized our dual audiences - employers and employees - to help us spread awareness of the paper ceiling
  3. How we developed an impactful media strategy to reach our audiences



Mary Zost, Campaign Director, Ad Council

Meta Information:

  • Event: SXSW
  • Format: Panel
  • Track: Advertising & Brand Experience
  • Track 2
  • Level: Beginner

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