University launches million-dollar ad campaign

Ben Wolford & Jessica White

Kent State will launch its million-dollar advertising campaign on ESPN for the Golden Flashes’ football game against Penn State.

Kent State will launch its million-dollar advertising campaign on ESPN for the Golden Flashes’ football game against Penn State.

Click here to view the advertisements.

University officials said they chose this Saturday’s game as the venue for the release of their three 30-second commercials because of the anticipated audience.

“We thought, OK, we’re going to have probably the best loyal audience of any game,” said Iris Harvey, vice president of University Relations. “Also, a major out-of-state market for us is Pennsylvania and Pittsburgh.”

The commercials are high quality, produced by a Columbus-based company that makes ads for McDonald’s. Once the television spots are purchased, Harvey said the university will have spent roughly $1 million on the campaign.

Most of that cost will come from the price to air the ads. About a third was the cost to produce them.

“Every year we do advertising, so that’s nothing new. Marketing advertising is one of the ways we bring bright, young students to the university,” Harvey said. “Obviously, student tuition pays the bills around here.”

Each of the three commercials features a first-person narrative from a Kent State graduate, the most notable of whom is Mark Mothersbaugh, composer and founding member of the band Devo.

“If my music moved you, thank the place that moved me,” says Mothersbaugh in the commercial.

Another one tells the story of Diaz McDaniel, 24, a process engineer at Kent Displays, which develops liquid crystal display products.

“I was nervous at first,” he said about the filming. “But once we got started and I got my feet wet, it was great. A lot of fun.”

McDaniel graduated in 2008 with a master’s degree in technology. He said he was surprised but honored when he got the e-mail asking him to do the shoot.

“We’re developing cool new liquid crystal devices, like the Boogie Board tablet,” McDaniel says in the commercial. “It’s based on technology created at Kent State University.”

The commercials were designed to be testimonials that highlight individual success stories rather than listing Kent State’s merits, Harvey said.

“We wanted to connect emotionally with our target audience,” she said. “Nothing beats telling a good story; nothing beats touching the heart. And if you touch the heart the right way, that’ll last longer.”

The university plans to air the ads enough times that more than half of the target audience — college-aged adults and their parents — will see the ads about six times.

“We’ll do a posttest afterward to see if we’re reaching those numbers,” university spokesman Tom Neumann said.

The commercials will air throughout northern and central Ohio and Pittsburgh on shows such as “The Office,” “House,” “Glee” and others. They’ve purchased ad spots through October and have plans to buy more for the spring.

“It doesn’t have to sell them,” Harvey said. “It has to make them say, ‘You know, maybe we’ll go to an open house.’”

Kent State’s major regional competitor, the University of Akron, has already launched a major television advertising campaign and has aired its commercials locally during the Super Bowl for 12 consecutive years.

Akron’s most recent Super Bowl commercial is more focused on general qualities of the campus and the university’s programs.

Harvey said Kent State will not advertise in a local Super Bowl spot, which can cost hundreds of thousands of dollars.

Kent State officials will know whether the campaign has worked when the Fall 2011 admissions numbers come in. If enrollment is up, Harvey said, they’ll consider the campaign a success.

Although McDaniel hasn’t seen the final product, he said he’s sure it will look great.

“It’ll be neat to see,” he said. “It was a great opportunity. I sincerely hope it will attract students to the school.”

Contact Ben Wolford [email protected] and Jessica White [email protected]