The United States Agency for International Development’s (USAID) YouLead project sponsored an innovative social media drama series, focusing on career guidance and skills development for Sri Lankan youth, which secured top awards in the Sri Lanka division of a global marketing effectiveness competition.

Effie Sri Lanka, a branch of Effie Worldwide, recognized the 10-part series “Ata Pass,” presented on Facebook, YouTube, and TikTok social media platforms in October 2022, at a ceremony held on November 28 in Colombo. The series featured Sri Lankan actors and received more than 6 million views. A complementary campaign directed youth to call centers set up by YouLead in Sinhala and Tamil generated more than 16,000 leads from youth seeking career testing and one-on-one professional career guidance.

“Ata Pass” won a total of four individual awards, including gold in the Data Driven Marketing category, silver in Non-Profit/Pro-Bono, silver in Social Good Non-Profit and bronze in Youth Marketing. In addition, YouLead received the night’s top two awards — Most Effective Brand of the Year and Most Effective Marketer of the Year – based on the judges’ overall votes.

The drama was also emphasized in a widely played video game. Eight renowned gaming influencers, each embodying one of the “Ata Pass” characters, collectively garnered over 100,000 views in a single 24-hour streaming period. Additionally, the game version secured finalist positions in two Effie categories.

“Ata Pass” was a countermeasure to vexing issues facing Sri Lankan youth. The census bureau estimates youth unemployment at 24 percent. Meanwhile at least 300,000 youth emigrated abroad for economic reasons in 2023 alone. Ata Pass aimed to address misconceptions regarding education and careers.

The series encouraged youth, empowering them with the right tools and resources to make informed, proactive choices about their own career paths.

“We are delighted that this innovative and creative campaign inspired so many youth to seek proper guidance on potential careers here,” said USAID Mission Director Gabriel Grau. “Many Sri Lankan youth see their opportunities in foreign countries, but “Ata Pass” provided them with the insight and understanding of the possibilities afforded to them by employing their talents in Sri Lanka.”

“Ata Pass” was conceptualized by the Audacity advertising firm and the campaign was implemented together with ADA Sri Lanka, K&D Media, and Isobar Sri Lanka. The awards come on the heels of four other awards for digital excellence given earlier in November to the Ata Pass/Grand Theft Auto campaign by the Sri Lanka Institute of Marketing.

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