Although my beloved Cats did not make a bowl game this year, I still tuned in to most of the games while I was at home. Bowl game season is one of my favorite times of the year, from scenic locations and flashy bands to incredible plays and commercials. Yes, I said commercials. One of the best parts of every college football game is seeing the participating universities’ commercials.
You could attribute it to my desire to pursue a career in marketing, but I have a large interest in how universities represent themselves in television ads. Each school has thirty seconds to draw me and hundreds of thousands of other television viewers and pique our interest in that school. And for teenagers that are engaged in the college search, a great commercial could lead to them seeking information about that university and potentially filing an application for admission.
I’ve seen Northwestern’s two commercials countless times since they were produced in 2011. Both commercials feature our mascot, Willie the Wildcat. In one commercial, titled “A Cat Like Me”, a voiceover performed by former Daily staffer and ESPN host Michael Wilbon announces, “At Northwestern, we’re Wildcats in every way.” The alma mater plays as various students, athletes and faculty members perform their activities with Wildcat accessories, such as a professor lecturing with a cat tail and a ballerina dancing with cat whiskers. In a similar commercial titled “Always a Wildcat,” a rousing acapella rendition of the fight song accompanies Willie the Wildcat as he moves into Northwestern. Willie is shown having the quintessential college experience — attending classes, walking around our gorgeous campus and even participating in athletic events.
My first reaction to the airing of these commercials my freshman year was, “Aww, how cute!” I loved the arrangements of our school songs, the featuring of our adorable mascot and the general pride that occurs when you see your university’s commercial on live television. But as I paid attention to other ads, I realized NU is more than a school with a cute mascot, beautiful school songs and a gorgeous campus. It is a school with brilliant students and faculty whose accomplishments inspire me everyday. This is the side of NU we should be showcasing in our commercials.
A great example of this is the Michigan State University ad campaign called “Spartans Will.” I actually first viewed a “Spartans Will” ad at O’Hare International Airport when a dazzling poster caught my eye. The campaign features the worldwide research in which Michigan State Spartans engage, from educating farmers in Rwanda to exploring better treatment for Parkinson’s disease.
The “Spartans Will” television ad flashes the names of cities and countries across the screen along with video clips of projects that MSU students and faculty completed in these locations. The final slide ends with the tagline “Take the Journey.” The worldwide impact of Michigan State’s research featured in this ad truly inspired me. “Spartans Will” is so powerful that I instantly conjured up the name and image almost half a year later.
I’m not quite sure what exactly a new Northwestern ad would look like creatively. But I know that it should feature student accomplishments like “Spartans Will” does. When I saw the Michigan State ads, I was impressed by the impact of Michigan State’s research, and I know that Northwestern can compete when it comes to notable research.
I have a friend who worked on developing a prosthetic limb in her freshman engineering design class and several who reported on Capitol Hill for their journalism residencies. Numerous past Northwestern students have won Rhodes Scholarships and a Northwestern Design for America team even developed a teddy bear that teaches diabetic children how to take care of themselves.
If we feature these amazing student accomplishments, we can inspire the teenagers who are out there to apply to be a Wildcat and make their impact like so many of our previous and current students have. We should make a commercial that shows them that Northwestern is the place to do just that.