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This article was published 21/10/2011 (3217 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
The latest advertising campaign from the University of Manitoba uses cold weather, a flat Prairie and a remote locale as selling points for the province's largest post-secondary institution.
You were expecting something else?
Sweeping those kinds of unmistakable -- and long seen as negative -- attributes under the rug while promoting the number of faculties at the school and the courses they offer, a long-term strategy at the U of M, won't happen, according to John Kearsey, its vice-president of external relations.
"People kept telling me we weren't talking about the university in really bold language. So, we decided, 'Let's go bold with this. Let's brag about the university and its people as trailblazers, visionaries and innovators,' " he said. "Where we are shapes who we are."
Dubbed the Trailblazer campaign, it has just been launched on billboards, newspaper pages, websites and bus shelters with a goal of not only boosting recruitment at the U of M but also positioning the school as a training ground for the elite leaders of tomorrow.
One bus shelter at Confusion Corner features a young tuque-wearing woman with the tag line, "I am a trailblazer. Who are you?"
Kearsey said people are used to seeing tuques and scarves associated with Winnipeg, but they don't expect them to be juxtaposed with innovation.
Peter George, president and CEO of McKim Cringan George, the Winnipeg-based advertising company that worked on the campaign, made no apologies for trying to increase awareness for the world-class activities going on at the U of M, particularly in medical research, climate change and human rights.
"That's the key turning point for a lot of people these days based on what's going on in the city," George said, rhyming off the return of the Winnipeg Jets, the construction of major projects such as the Canadian Museum for Human Rights, the new Blue Bombers Stadium and the pending arrival of IKEA, as examples.
"The research we did showed people here are more likely to talk about mosquitoes and cold weather than economic opportunities or cultural events. Until recently, that is. We've always been hesitant to say, 'Hey, this is a great place,' " he said.
When McKim asked students, prospective students and their parents what they knew about the U of M, they received precious little in return -- that it's in the province of Manitoba and it's cold, flat and distant there. As incongruous as it might seem at first, George said those characteristics can be positives.
"We have to turn that into something that's proud, bold and challenging. It's about how that spirit, that pioneering and trailblazing attitude, takes a certain kind of person, a certain kind of drive and attitude to be successful. Because we are where we are, we grow people like that," he said.
"It's challenging (here). Do you have what it takes to be successful? Then this is where you should be."
Kearsey, a Newfoundland native who moved to Winnipeg a year ago, said he has seen a marked change in the city and its inhabitants in 12 short months. The U of M campaign plays off that.
"It works well with the enthusiasm that's in this province. As a community, we're jumping out in front, (saying) 'Look at us and what we can do when we do it together.' At the season opener for the Winnipeg Jets, people were going mad. But they weren't just cheering for a team, they were cheering for Manitoba. This is a new view about the province," he said.
The Trailblazing campaign is taking its message to social media for a unique contest.
Entrants are being asked to send in YouTube videos of themselves to a Facebook page expressing, in their own words, why they are trailblazers, mavericks, explorers, challengers or rebels. But the winners, instead of claiming prizes usually associated with a university, such as electronics or free beer, can win a trip up north to do arctic research aboard the Amundsen Ice Breaker with a team from the University of Manitoba, a trip to India to work in the field with a medical research team or a trip to New York or Ottawa to work with human-rights leaders.
The contest is open for another six weeks.
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