Universities often compete with one another for the brightest students and the best athletes. This has led to an era of university branding, where each school tries to sell you their campus life and academic prestige. Understandably, controversy has arisen over the years about what constitutes appropriate content in these campaigns.
Most recently, a 30-second promotional video from the University of Moncton (U of M), which has received more than 180,000 views since being uploaded to YouTube in mid-January, has found itself under fire.
The University of Moncton’s controversial new advertisement
The president of the university’s Association of Professors and Librarians, Marie-Noëlle Ryan, has gone as far as to call the advertisement “pathetic,” suggesting that the video resembles a beer commercial. These harsh comments are all related to one specific scene, in which the camera cuts to two attractive students exchanging saliva between the stacks of the school’s library.
Personally, I am not bothered by the kiss, as it was not the clear focus of the ad, but rather an example of campus life. Selling the college lifestyle can be an integral part of good university marketing. Most students are looking for more than just degrees out of their college experience, and it is okay to acknowledge that. The video tried to strike a balance between working and playing, which is exactly what most of us in university do.
Ads that try to please everyone come across as boring and are ultimately forgettable.
When criticism surrounding the ad began to surface, Marc Angers, the university’s director of communications and marketing, defended the ad by saying that the research they conducted showed that post-secondary students considered lifestyle a factor when selecting an institution to attend in the fall. Despite its critics, Angers stands by the ad.
It should go without saying that no ad will ever please everyone. This fact, in turn, makes trying to regulate these campaigns useless. U of M wanted to grab our attention, and it worked. When given full creative control over the ad, the school was able to generate something that would get college applicants talking. Ads that try to please everyone are boring and ultimately forgettable.
By letting universities advertise themselves as they want, we allow for a one-of-kind ad that will speak more to the actual university, and the experience of attending it.
All in all, it seems university branding has become an integral part of the recruitment process. Despite all criticism, the University of Moncton should stand by their ad. Universities should always have the ability to market themselves as they wish. If some institutions want to create youthful ads that break norms, more power to them.