Drake's D+ Student Campaign: The Other Side of the Story
So, after the shitstorm that was the media field day with the Drake D+ campaign last week, we've had a chance to talk to the culprits who devised the campaign. Who are they? An Iowa City ad agency called Stamats who specializes in educational marketing. After clearing our heads of our long-weekend hangovers, we think they make a decent case for themselves:
So, what the hell were you thinking of when you came up with the D+ campaign for Drake?
How could we create an admissions campaign that was edgy and tongue-in-cheek, yet accurately captured the bold and confident institution that is Drake? How could we get our audience to stop, grab, open, and read our print pieces instead of stacking or trashing them? This campaign is intended for college-bound teenagers, a group that has been receiving 3,000 advertising messages per day pretty much since they were born. They are understandably cynical about advertising, so the hurdle in breaking through to them is very high. Drake is academically selective, so this specific target audience has a lot of choices when it comes to choosing a great college and are hotly pursued prospects for the region’s best universities. We had to get their attention and then get them to find out more about the advantages that Drake offers or the Drake Advantage. We wanted them to know that Drake not only offers a great education, they were hearing that from all of the recruitment efforts, but also the great overall experience that comes with Drake. The experience that is uniquely empowering and intentionally designed to be much more than the sum of its parts. We wanted to get them thinking about what a great college experience really means to them and show them how Drake University delivers the complete package.
Tell us how the concept pitch process went. We gotta believe there were some blank stairs when you showed them this one.
Remarkably well. Stamats came up with two very different, exciting concepts. Our partners at Drake immediately and unanimously got them both, which instantly elevated the conversation toward execution, channels, platforms and next steps. Both concepts resonated so well in fact, that we were torn as to which one to proceed with. The second choice concept has now been modified and adopted by the Drake advancement team toward an exciting initiative intended to spark and create a culture of ongoing philanthropy within the Drake community which you will learn more about soon. It is an exciting initiative to work on with Drake because they are passionate, smart, sophisticated, and bold.
We hear there was research to back this concept up. Give us some insights as to what this research told you. Were other concepts tested as well?
Yes. In a survey of nearly a thousand high school students across the Midwest and the nation, more than three-quarters of the respondents indicated the cover grabbed their attention and nearly 90 percent felt the concept was unique from other college and university materials they have seen. For background on the current landscape, for higher education recruitment to reach the target audience more than half the battle lies in getting them to look at your material, then getting them to open it. When asked if the Drake Advantage concept conveyed that “attending Drake would give me a distinct advantage that might not be available from other colleges and universities,” 75% of the participants responded affirmatively and more than two-thirds of the respondents indicated the concept differentiates Drake from other institutions being considered. Perhaps most importantly, more than 60 percent of those who completed the survey indicated that receiving a brochure based on the Drake Advantage concept would make them more likely to want additional information about Drake. Bingo.
You had to know you'd get some flack when this came out. Was that part of the plan? The old "any attention is good attention" concept?
We were pretty sure it would get attention, but our focus was whether it would get attention from our target audience. The important thing for us on this and any project, is whether it is helping the client achieve their specific and stated marketing objectives in the specific ways they intended it to. In this circumstance the answer is yes:
"Since the new undergraduate admission website was launched and the viewbook was delivered to prospective students, we have had a 63 percent increase in inquiries over the same two-month period last year, and a 22 percent increase in campus visits. Those are remarkable numbers that tell us that our campaign is working beyond expectation. The people for whom our message is intended "get it." Additionally, a one-month (August 2-September 2) comparison of website traffic to the undergraduate admission landing page between last year and this year shows that page views have more than doubled. When we shorten that time frame to adjust for the spike in traffic over the last few days due to media attention, the page views since last year have still doubled."
What kind of feedback have you gotten from the client? Heck, you gotta love working with a client with the 'nads to try something like this, huh?
Absolutely. They have been phenomenal—as passionate about our creative as we are (not an easy thing); as committed to it as we are; and as proud of the results it has been achieving as we are. From the president, to the admissions team, to our audience (prospective students) we have received nothing but positive feedback and overwhelming support so far. As a creative team, we couldn’t be more proud of this client!
You guys specialize in education marketing. Is this the most "out there" concept that ever made it past the concept stage?
See our response to your question about “attention” above. For us, “out there” is a subjective thing that varies from client to client based on who they are, the nature and character of the community that they are, and their specific marketing objectives. Obviously, our goal, always, is to produce creative that delivers the specific results our clients have asked us for. Of course, we almost always do end up trying to push our clients “out-er there” than where they were in terms of creative quality and courage—but not because that’s “good” or “bad” but for strategic reasons, and because it’s a creative approach that can better differentiate them from their competitors and produce the results they seek.