College Scholarship Contest

Launched in May, the contest invites parents to submit raw footage similar to that of the Treasurer's new Bright Start television advertising campaign currently running throughout the state during morning news broadcasts.

In one existing ad, a very young boy and girl are told by their mother that it's time to go to bed. The girl starts crying and the boy remains fixated on his dad, who is videotaping the breakdown. The spot ends with this message on the screen: "Bedtime is hard. College savings doesn't have to be."

The home video contest entries should depict similar challenging moments that parents raising children face on a daily basis and include a suggested slogan in this format: "(Fill in the blank) is hard. College savings doesn't have to be."

"Parenting can be hard, but saving for college has never been easier," Giannoulias said. "With Bright Start, it takes just about 15 minutes to enroll online and set up direct deposit from your checking account. We're trying to make saving for college the easiest thing you do as a parent."

The State Treasurer's Office recently partnered with Chicago advertising firm Two x Four to develop a new Bright Start advertising campaign, funded by program manager OFI Private Investments, Inc., a subsidiary of OppenheimerFunds, Inc. Two x Four used raw home video footage for the television portion of the Bright Start advertising campaign in an effort to better identify with parents. The contest is an innovative way to get parents to put their thoughts about college savings into action, Giannoulias said.

"Just as a 401k is a smart and easy way to save to retirement, Bright Start is a smart and easy way to save for college," Giannoulias said.

Bright Start offers Illinois residents a tax-free way to save and earn money. Contributions are income tax deductible and both earnings and qualified higher education withdrawals are tax free. In April, Morningstar Inc. ranked Bright Start among the top five 529 college savings plans nationwide. The Bright Start commercial contest runs through September 30, 2008. Video entries must be 30 seconds to two minutes in duration and be saved in standard Windows Media Video (WMV) or QuickTime Format. The limit is one entry per person. A winner will be selected by the Treasurer's Office and notified by mail, e-mail or telephone by Oct. 31, 2008. To enter, you must be 18 years old, a resident of Illinois and eligible to be an account owner under the rules governing the Bright Start College Savings Program. Family members and employees of the Treasurer's Office, OppenheimerFunds and Two x Four are not eligible to participate.

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