"Old School" Ads for Colleges

April 15th, 2010
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In my last post, I mentioned the University of Hawaii's new TV ads that cost $75,000 to produce and another $25,000 to air so far, according to a Star-Bulletin article. Have you seen the commercials yet? (If you haven't, there are links at the end of this post.)

Basically, they created four nice-looking image ads that feature interesting shots of students (or faculty?) doing all kinds of exciting things! They're scuba diving! Hiking through forests! They're in observatories on top of Mauna Kea! They're dressed up in awesome costumes for some reason! Um... is this really what most students experience at UH?

By contrast, the local private universities and for-profit colleges that advertise on TV and in the newspapers, pretty much stick to traditional old school marketing: here's what we offer, here are the benefits and advantages of enrolling in our college, and here's some typical students to give testimonials. All in 30 seconds or less.

Considering that college is perhaps the second biggest investment most people will make in their lifetime -- homes being first -- shouldn't their advertising present honest, useful information instead of flashy images that tell us nothing of practical value? Okay, I get that the UH is trying to spark interest... but where do you go for more info if you are interested?

In the case of UH, if you go to the website address at the end of commercial, you get to see an exciting... well, no. Their site is boring as can be. No videos posted about students or faculty. No virtual 360 photo tours. Nothing creative or different. It's blah.

One of our sponsors, Chaminade University, has been posting videos on YouTube for some time and has gotten thousands of views for their more popular majors, such as forensics. The "CSI Chaminade" piece was produced by my CCTV partner, Ron Darby. That one profiles Dr. Lee Goff, who has been a consultant to the hit show, CSI, and has even had his name mentioned on it.

What we've been trying to do on CCTV is show parents and prospective students true life experiences of both young and older people at their respective schools. Our stuff isn't slick or fancy. The students and graduates talk honestly about why they chose that college and what they got out of it. We interview faculty and administrators too, so audiences get to see what they're like. Since our sponsors paid for the segments, you could call it an infomercial -- but does that make the information part of the story any less valuable?

Anyhow, I bring this up because the UH director of communications told me they did not think our show fit their target market: local teenagers and their parents.

Hello? OC16 is the only station that carries high school sports and surfing shows for teens! I know for a fact that their parents are watching high school games and other OC16 programs of local interest. And you wonder why UH isn't doing better as far as attracting more support from local residents? Just saying, it all starts with understanding who your market is. Or at least what they're watching on TV. Sheesh.

Here's the Star-Bulletin link. Why hasn't the Advertiser covered this?

This is what UH spent $75,000 on to create four 30-second spots:

"One Day" ; "Exploration"; "Innovation"; "Experience the World"

And here's our Career Changers YouTube Channel link, where you can see 4-6 minute feature stories on Heald and Chaminade -- which each cost less than $2,000 to shoot, edit and air daily for an entire month.

You tell me, who got the better deal? If you want more CCTV ad info, just go to our site!

2 Responses to “"Old School" Ads for Colleges”

  1. Scott:

    I was involved in HPU's tv ads back in 2003 (graduate programs). They hired a film crew from Hollywood and I recruited most of the talent from the existing student body. The ads were fantastic and garnered a strong enrollment boost towards the mid-end of last decade. I've yet to see better ads from UH or Chaminade, but then again I've been away from Hawaii for 7 months now.


  2. Rich Figel:

    I've always thought HPU did a good job in their TV commercials of selling the international diversity aspect of that college. Their current print ad campaign is pretty heavily focused on promoting their MBA program it seems... I guess the thinking is that this is a good time to get that advanced degree in business if you're not going to be getting any raises at your current job in the near future.

    I just saw a different UH commercial run on Law & Order the other night that seemed to be a recut version of the ones that were posted by the Star-Bulletin. This one has some voiceover that says the UH will inspire students to be able to do the fun and exciting things they're showing in their commercial... which is a little better I suppose than just showing those images without any narrative.