U of M lauded for trailblazing ad campaign

Branding effort wins awards, creates buzz


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It's often difficult to quantify the impact of advertising efforts but the University of Manitoba will give it a try.

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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 24/02/2012 (3994 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

It’s often difficult to quantify the impact of advertising efforts but the University of Manitoba will give it a try.

How does $4 million and a trophy case full of awards sound?

The school’s “Trailblazer” campaign, which has been featured prominently around town on billboards and bus shacks, brought home eight pieces of hardware, including two gold medals, from an awards ceremony sponsored by the Council for the Advancement and Support of Education (CASE) in Seattle last week.

Trailblazer uses the provincial attributes least likely to be found in a promotional brochure — cold weather, a flat prairie and a remote locale — as selling points for the province’s largest post-secondary institution.

“The results were fabulous. That’s a lot of awards to get,” said John Kearsey, the U of M’s vice-president of external relations.

“In the past, we’ve won one, two or three. To win eight sends a message that we’ll be benchmarked against other universities internationally. This is big stuff for us.”

Kearsey said enrolment is up at the school and he’s sure Trailblazer played a significant role. How much of it is tied directly to the campaign is anybody’s guess, but the evidence is more concrete on the fundraising side.

“We’re $4 million ahead of where we were last year,” he said. “There has been a definite buzz around the university, both externally and internally, about who we are. People have identified with the campaign and the brand story. Let’s celebrate about who we are and where we are and not apologize for that.”

Peter George, president and CEO of McKim Cringan George, the Winnipeg-based advertising company that worked on the campaign, said it was originally designed to be just a series of print advertisements for a national audience. It proved to be so successful, however, that it was rolled out more broadly.

“(Trailblazer) has taken over the U of M brand in a lot of ways. It’s so meaningful to them and their target audience. It’s been very cool that way,” he said.

One of the gold medals was for a unique social media contest in which students were asked to send in YouTube videos of themselves expressing why they were trailblazers, mavericks, explorers, challengers or rebels. The other awards ranged from branding and image development to posters to photo illustrations.

The CASE awards recognize the work done by universities in communications, marketing, philanthropy and relations with alumni, government and the community. The Trailblazer campaign was up against the promotional work from more than 100 universities in Western Canada and the northwestern U.S.

There are still more trails to be blazed. Kearsey said the U of M’s visionary researchers, faculty members and alumni will be featured in a follow-up program.

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