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Lakehead University Magazine Spring/Summer 2007

Awareness Building

Controversial Ad Campaign attracts Worldwide Attention

By Frances Harding

PosterAn awareness campaign positioning Lakehead University as a “smart” choice for students elicited more than 900 emails, letters, and phone calls when it was launched last August.

“Our challenge was to raise awareness and develop brand recognition among our target audience – students 16 years and older, and to break through the media clutter and fragmentation, an increasing challenge in today’s environment,” says Lakehead University’s Director of Communications Eleanor Abaya.

“We chose a non-traditional approach by developing a cheeky, slightly irreverent message that would grab people’s attention and lead them to our main message: Be smart. Choose a university that is right for you. Explore Lakehead.

“We won’t know the full effects of this campaign until next year – and beyond – when we trend our application figures; however, we do know that by November 2006 we had logged over 240,000 hits to our microsite, and close to 3,000 qualified entries to our SMART car contest.” The campaign was picked up by news agencies including,

BBC-London, Reuters, and Canadian Press, and articles were featured in The Globe and Mail, Toronto Star, National Post, The Chronicle of Higher Education, and Marketing Magazine. Strategy Magazine, a Canadian trade publication covering news in the advertising world, featured the campaign as “Outstanding Creative” in its August 2006 issue.

Smart CarIn terms of raising awareness, Lakehead surpassed its expectations. And the University received media coverage and worldwide buzz it simply could not afford to buy. There were hundreds of messages from around the world – from all over the U.S., of course, as well as London, England, Australia, Spain, Germany, Africa, and Asia. A number of people have enquired about enrolling. The audited media coverage report showed publicity coverage worth over $750,000.
Lakehead University President Fred Gilbert admits the campaign was provocative, engendering extreme reactions ranging from fully supportive to totally against.

But he stood by his decision to run it, saying, “With university recruitment efforts in Ontario becoming increasingly competitive, we needed to connect in the Greater Toronto Area in a more current way that resonates with today’s youth.”

According to the University Webmaster, Tove Tronslien, Lakehead received more than 600 emails in the first week of the campaign and she and Communications Officer Marla Tomlinson replied to each one.

One person asked how he could donate to Lakehead. Another wrote to say Monty Python’s John Cleese would be proud. Yet another wrote to say, “It is not the place of a publicly funded institution to portray the leader of an allied nation in a negative fashion….”

Says Tronslien: “I felt it was important that each person get an individual response and not just a standard message because Lakehead prides itself in being a University that ‘sees’ each person.”

What impressed her most was the depth of the emotion felt by those who sent messages. Many writers expressed strong opposition. Still others congratulated Lakehead saying the campaign showed “forward thinking, confidence, and reality.”
Read the full story in the September/October 2006 issue of Agora Online

Note: As this issue goes to press, Lakehead has seen a rise in applications from Ontario high school students of 15% over last year, and these students have chosen Lakehead as their first choice 16% more often than last year at the same time.

Maclean’s University Ranking: Why Lakehead Withdrew

Lakehead University had participated in Maclean’s popular annual ranking of Canadian universities every year since 1991. This year, however, Lakehead along with 26 other universities in Canada has withdrawn its participation. Why? For a number of reasons, says Director of Institutional Analysis/Government Relations Kerrie-Lee Clarke.

“Lakehead withdrew from the survey mainly because of concerns with the overall ranking methodology employed by Maclean’s and a lack of response to our concerns from Maclean’s. The ranking is based on subjectively weighted indicators that do not reflect the Lakehead University experience. As well, the reputation survey, which has a very poor response rate, is included in the rankings and has a high weight. However, the reputation survey is based on inputs from various respondent groups, such as heads of corporations who might never have heard of Lakehead, or might never have had any dealings with us. Thus, any inputs into reputation and image questions in this survey are not based on true knowledge of, or experience with, Lakehead University. Rather, inputs are based on perception or vicarious information.
Why we Celebrate our Value Added Ranking
“Lakehead University has never taken issue with the Value Added indicator which we see as a much more valuable indicator that really shows that the University is doing a good job,” says Clarke. “Value Added is not included in the Maclean’s ranking but is a separate side-bar indicator that Maclean’s publishes.

“The Value Added indicator is a true measure of how well students do (outputs). Included in this measure are entering marks (students’ marks when they are accepted); retention and graduation rates (how many students actually stay until they finish their degree, and Lakehead has a high retention rate); and how many students win awards in national competitions with other universities (a high percentage of our students win external awards).

“Lakehead University has been Number One in Value Added in four out of five years, and we are very proud of this fact. We have also consistently ranked slightly higher than the provincial average in terms of graduate employment within six months and within two years of graduation.”

Common University Data Ontario (CUDO)
Ontario's universities have collaborated to produce a common set of data that would assist the public in assessing and comparing key areas. CUDO is now available on the Lakehead University website (http://cudo.lakeheadu.ca) and can be accessed through the websites of the Council of Ontario Universities (www.cou.on.ca) and the Ontario Universities’ Applications Centre (www.ouac.on.ca).
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