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Lakehead University Magazine Spring/Summer 2008

Do Something

Awareness Campaign 2007-2008

By Eleanor Abaya

Breaking News

Do Something Awareness Campaign Wins Gold

Lakehead University has won the Canadian Council for the Advancement of Education (CCAE) Gold Award for its Do Something advertising campaign in the 2008 Prix d'Excellence Awards. The Do Something campaign surpassed all advertising entries from member universities and colleges across Canada in a competition judged by a panel comprising representatives from member organizations. Last year's YaleShmale won a Bronze.

In October we were approached by Strategy magazine, a publication that caters to the marketing, advertising, public relations, and direct mail industry. The magazine wanted to feature Lakehead University's Do Something ad campaign as the creative of the month in its November issue. Strategy invited two advertising agency creative directors to critique the campaign with respect to its overall strategy, creative approach, ability to convey its message in a fresh and unhackneyed manner, as well as its success in achieving the campaign's objectives.

Both creative directors had specific likes and dislikes about the campaign's executional details, as might be expected. Fundamentally, however, the campaign strategy was seen as a welcome departure from the plethora of trite higher education advertising flooding the GTA, many of which show -smiling faces signifying campus diversity,- or school buildings, or slices of campus life.

Therein lies the challenge of creativity in this genre. Universities by their very nature are in the business of marketing a similar set of attributes centered around the concept of Quality - quality of education/faculty, quality of research projects/researchers, quality of experience with faculty/staff, quality of campus life, and quality/quantity of scholarships and bursaries. To a great extent, the quality of alumni and opportunities for varsity athletics also come into play. All of these attributes help determine how potential students perceive and/or experience a particular university brand. And in the case of older universities with a lot of heritage, these attributes are seen as an intrinsic part of the brand until direct experience proves otherwise.

However, unlike branded products such as packaged goods and durables, it is far more challenging to convey Quality in the ultimate 'products' of a university - its students and graduates. First the 'production cycle' takes at least four years, and second there are countless variables that go into the production cycle. Standardization of best practices and procedures does not always achieve the same result when dealing with human beings as a 'product.'

As a fairly young institution in a region with a diminishing population, Lakehead's challenge is to be part of the short list for the decision process among Ontario's prospective students by continuing to invest itself with the brand attributes associated with Quality, but in a way that is different from what other universities do.

The Do Something campaign intentionally markets Lakehead indirectly as a Quality institution.

The campaign was conceived to align Lakehead with the concept of social responsibility. Leveraging the notoriety the institution has enjoyed with last year's YaleShmale ad campaign and the WiFi issue (See the article "Lakehead Says No to WiFi" on page 14), the campaign takes Lakehead to a higher plane; it appeals to young people at a time of their lives when idealism is expected and changing the world seems possible. Through association, the inference is that Lakehead is a socially aware institution - one that through its various programs and initiatives will help the student find ways to effect personal or community transformation. How could an institution concerned with changing the world for better not be a quality institution?

Do Something was launched in September with a microsite, a postering blitz in Toronto, and T-shirt giveaways at the Ontario University Fair for qualified prospects. This was supported by a transit campaign in the GTA, Calgary, Edmonton, and Winnipeg. The microsite features various elements such as a Quiz, Send a Postcard, Did You Know, and Website Links to organizations that deal directly with the social issues being covered. The latter is important because Lakehead does not claim it has all the answers; rather, Lakehead's goal is to generate dialogue and possible solutions. The microsite also takes the audience to a subsidiary page on the Lakehead website that offers a list of programs and initiatives that demonstrate Lakehead's efforts in various areas to Do Something. A direct mail campaign was also launched - addressed to the principal - to over 600 high schools across Ontario. The direct mail campaign's objective was not only to bring the name Lakehead University to the forefront of the consciousness of these high schools but also to encourage its students to participate in a contest to win a mini-library of books that can help change the world. In addition, a short video on various ways Lakehead students are helping reduce, reuse, and recycle was developed to coincide with an on-campus conference on food security and sustainability, and the video is still getting hits on YouTube.

While it is too early to tell what effect the campaign will have on applications for 2008-09, stakeholder reaction to the campaign has been utterly positive and supportive. Prospective students think the campaign is clever and earnest without being coy. Current students love it, faculty and staff sing its praises, and alumni have indicated their support. One notable exception is a Dean who refused to wear our T-shirt at the Ontario University Fair with the explanation that - Lakehead has not really demonstrated that it has 'done something' to be able to stand up to the campaign. Many faculty members and students would disagree as shown by the long list of initiatives on the Lakehead University website (click here).

As we go to press, we are already in the planning stages for our next awareness campaign. It is too early to tell whether Do Something will continue to work as a longer term strategy or whether we need to develop something fresh to continue to pique interest. It is likely, however, that we will continue to leverage this approach in combination with other strategies.

Response as of April 1

Microsite Hits: 14,991
Contest Entries: 195

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