Tag Archives: advertising


Establishing Our Identity From Here

Original Advertising Approach Helps USF Gain Citywide Recognition and Preach Academic Excellence

     “Wicked Smart Without the Wicked Part.” “See Ethical Issues Clearly, Even With the Fog.” “Academics More Challenging Than Finding a Parking Spot in North Beach.” These are a few headlines from USF’s Higher Standard Advertising Campaign, a project that has spread catchy, clever slogans throughout San Francisco. Upon first glance, the headlines might elicit a brief chuckle or smile. After seeing them for a second or third time, however, it becomes clearer that behind the sarcasm and humor are portrayals of rich traditions, moral awareness, and quirky situations familiar to many residents of the City by the Bay.And not everyone is a fan.

Since the campaign started nearly two years ago, some of the advertisements have been considered offensive. The headlines “Become Wildly Successful Without Becoming A Jerk No One Likes” and “Academic Standards Higher Than Haight-Ashbury in the 60’s” have been criticized by members both inside and out of the USF community, for insinuating and referencing ideals not traditionally associated with academia.

It seems, however, that that is the point.

The advertisements, as part of an ongoing campaign effort to increase USF’s exposure in San Francisco, had to stand out. In order to stand out, the creative team aimed to make headlines that would cause a stir.

“We had to have personality, and that campaign has a personality,” said Gregory Pabst, the program director of advertising at USF. “It’s a little edgy, and a lot of it is really funny, but it’s also truthful, and that’s what makes it work.”

Headlines such as “There is No Moral Compass App” and “Run a Multinational Corporation and Still go to Heaven” represent a distinct departure from other college advertisements, but David Macmillan, USF’s vice president for communications and marketing, sees this as essential to the makings of a successful campaign.

“Institutions like us tend to be conservative in marketing, and not want to take chances, not want to take risks, not want to offend anybody,” Macmillan said. “You’re not going to get anybody’s attention that way. [The advertising agency’s] proposal was to make the headlines the ads. So no pictures of smiling students in their caps and gowns, and all that you typically see from universities.”

The first flight of the Higher Standard Campaign started in April 2012 in order to establish USF’s identity and distinguish the school from other local universities, like UCSF and SFSU.

“There was widespread concern at the university, that even in our own city, people didn’t know we were here, and didn’t know what a strong university we have here,” Macmillan said.

To address this issue, a committee chaired by Macmillan proposed to USF president, the Reverend Stephen A. Privett, plans to develop a new logo and tagline for the university.

In August 2011, “Change the World From Here” replaced “Educating Hearts and Minds to Change the World,” and the Office of Communications and Marketing was established. Soon after, the committee partnered with Presidio-based advertising company Hub Strategy to create the controversial headlines.

Another key aspect of the campaign is to bring focus to USF’s academic excellence and strong morals, inspiring such headlines as ‘Academic Standards Higher Than Haight-Ashbury in the 60’s,’ according to Macmillan.

Despite controversy over the headlines even amongst students, the Higher Standard Campaign has included USF students in the creation and discussion of the advertisements throughout the campaign. In spring 2012, a competition was held among advertising majors to see who could think of the best advertisement for the school. Senior Aaron Hong, who was a sophomore at the time, received second place in the challenge with a headline that read: “All the Ideals of Change and Passion Minus the Tie-Dye and Go-Go Boots.”

Students have had sufficient time to develop opinions about the advertisements since they hit the streets in 2012.

“I know it’s a pretty big [campaign], because ever since I started [going to USF], they’re the only ads I’ve been seeing around the city,” Hong said. “So obviously I think it’s a pretty good push.”

After noticing the advertisements on buses and around campus, junior nursing major Lized Purificacion reacted to their bold, in-your-face nature. “It’s like we’re on top,” Purificacion said. “Like ‘Hey, it’s us. It’s USF. Whoa.’ Kind of like…not the word arrogant, but close to that.”

For now, the city streets are decorated with newer headlines such as “Expanding Minds (Legally) Since 1855” and “Integrity. Responsibility. Money. (Pick Three)” that are slowly replacing the headlines from the older flights. As the campaign has grown, the ads have continued to draw from the culture of the Haight, stereotypes about the perks of a college education, and aspects of the Jesuit tradition in order to create catchy, yet thematically relevant slogans.

Currently, Macmillan and his team are conducting a survey to assess people’s reactions to the advertisements by showing pictures of the headlines and asking for opinions. As far as the future of the advertisements, the results of the survey will play a role in dictating the creative crew’s decisions going forward, and according to Macmillan, a proposal is in the works that will ask the university to fund the campaign’s third year.

SFSU? UCSF? No. USF. Dammit.

On April 2, USF launched the Higher Standard Campaign, its latest advertising strategy to promote the recognition of the University’s values in the city of San Francisco.

The campaign’s 14 headlines have appeared on bus stops, billboards, and buildings all throughout San Francisco, as well as on the print and online editions of the San Francisco Business Times and San Francisco Chronicle. Some of the headlines include, “ Separating the word “evil” from “genius” since 1855” and ‘University of the Best City Ever.” The ads include the university’s full name, logo and tagline: Change the World from Here. The campaign also includes advertising swag such as t-shirts, bracelets, and stickers.
The Office of Communications and Marketing (OCM) developed the campaign in partnership with Hub Strategy, an advertising agency in San Francisco. The OCM aims to increase the visibility and strengthen the reputation of the university through media and public relations, social media, publications, web services and marketing. Aside from the campaign, the OCM was in charge of the launch of USF’s new logo and tagline: Change the World from Here.

David Macmillan, vice president of the Office of Communications and Marketing, led and executed the campaign in colllaboration with Hub Strategy.“There is so much advertising clutter in downtown, and the agency had a different approach where they succeeded in getting the message we wanted across,” he said.
Macmillan want to help clear up the confusion between schools in San Francisco. “We wanted to differentiate and set ourselves apart. What sets us apart from other universities in the city is our values,” he said. “Academic excellence is not enough at USF because it is a Jesuit university.”

Dan Erwin, project manager of the Office of Communications and Marketing, encouraged students from the advertising department to get involved through collaboration with advertising professor Greg Pabst.
“It is important to get involved in the campaign on-campus, and not just off campus,” Erwin said.

Students in Pabst’s advertising class developed their own headlines for the campaign. The department chose the top three headlines to advertise all over campus, through digital signage and the San Francisco Foghorn.
Contest winners included Kirsten Macfadyen, a sophomore advertising student, whose slogan, “Occupying San Francisco since 1855,” was inspired by the recent Occupy movements.

“I don’t think it necessarily represents USF. However, I think it connects USF to this Occupy movement. That makes USF relevant,” she said. “In a weird way we’re saying, ‘Well you guys are just now occupying San Francisco, but we’ve been here since 1855, trying to make a change.’”

Macfayden views the Higher Standard Campaign as an original, modern way to represent the university.
“It’s catchy! A lot of the catch phrases are really funny and witty. I think when people think of USF, sometimes they think of an old boring Catholic school and I think this campaign lifts that stereotype and allows people to see that we have character,” she said.

Gabriella Kirkland, a junior english student, said that the campaign takes the Jesuit values of the university and makes them accessible for the student body and outside community.

“USF is made up of an innovative, intelligent, diverse, and creative student body. I believe that this campaign represents this student body incredibly well,” she said.

To gain students’ feedback on the campaign, students in the fine arts department will also install campaign advertisements and a space for fellow Dons to contribute their thoughts on the C.S.I’s perimeter fence. This will be done with help from Eric Hongisto, associate professor and director of fine arts, and Father Tom Lucas S.J., professor of art and architecture.

Mia Aguillon, a junior advertising major and the student intern on the Higher Standard Campaign, worked very closely with Erwin and Macmillan in developing strategies to integrate the campus community. One of Aguillon’s biggest tasks was incorporating students to develop a successful campaign launch.

“Since I am an undergraduate student here at USF, I have some insight on how to communicate the new campaign with other students, and try to get them to interact with their school’s new advertising endeavor.”
The campaign’s intended audience is not prospective students, a common misconception of people on campus, Aguillon said.

According to the Higher Standard Campaign website, the primary target audience is San Francisco’s opinion leaders, including executives and managers in the business, civic, and nonprofit sectors whose ideas and behavior serve as a model to others. The campaign will be concentrated in downtown to attract their attention.

Overall, Aguillon thinks that the campaign represents the University’s values and feels that the campaign has succeeded in serving its purpose to build the visibility of the university.
“I think that the campaign is a great way to build a stronger sense of unity amongst the community, because now people can go out in San Francisco and identify with the ads that they are seeing and be proud of the school that they go to,” she said.

The ads will remain posted only during the academic year, through May, and between September and October.

For more information about the Higher Standard Campaign, visit hwww.usfca.edu/higherstandard.

USF is Gaining Recognition, but Losing Values

By this point I imagine everyone has noticed our new ad-campaign. The catchy green and white slogans scattered around the city are difficult to miss. This highly visible “Higher Standard Advertising Campaign” attempts to spread USF’s “commitment to academic excellence, a culture of service, and a passion for social justice, as well as its deep ties to the city of San Francisco.” As students we are supposed to be proud of the new advertisements that are scattered around the city; instead I find myself disappointed, for one of the few times in the last four years, in how our University is representing itself.

The three “differentiating” factors of USF are supposedly academic rigor, commitment to social justice and “the longstanding links to San Francisco’s innovative spirit.” However when our ads claim, “Academic standards higher than Haight Ashbury in the 60s”, this link to San Francisco’s innovative spirit is broken.
Haight-Ashbury was a Mecca for the counter-culture of the 1960’s. It had significant faults, but it was an original, provocative, and re-configured society. Priding itself on being inclusive and embracing different ways of thinking, the movement attempted to envision new ways of organizing political, economic and social structures—ways that were more equitable. The Haight-Ashbury model played a large role in shaping community services and activist communities here in San Francisco today (communities the University regards itself as being connected to).

I was further disheartened to see “Learn to run a multinational corporation and still go to heaven” made the cut as an appropriate slogan. Multinational corporations are notorious for seeking the lowest tax burden, the cheapest labor, and the loosest environmental standards. These corporations in instances have revenues that exceed some countries’ GDP’s. Criticism of these multinational corporations is ubiquitous; it has been discussed in almost every class I have at USF from sociology, performing arts, politics, to math and rhetoric. Nevertheless, our new campaign promotes the idea that USF students support multinational corporations. Instead of being critical of them, we want to run them and still be guaranteed our spot in heaven.

Isn’t our education supposed to be about expanding outside the classroom? About questioning the integrity and social responsibility of corporations? This campaign may make our University’s name more recognizable, but at a cost. It is disappointing to see that our advertising and marketing department has co-opted our ideology as a University to promote aspects of this school that do not align with our values and mission.