How the 'U' markets itself on TV

BY KELLY FRASER

Published November 21, 2006

Film canisters and spare video equipment sat in a hallway of the University Hospital last month next to carts of freshly polished-off meal trays. A small film crew tried to blend into the hospital's Thursday morning routine.

Jonathan Duggan
Jonathan Duggan
<br><br><strong>General University Spot</strong>
Jonathan Duggan
Jonathan Duggan
A camera crew films a patient at the University Hospital last month for a commercial soliciting donations to the Michigan Difference campaign. (ALEX DZIADOSZ/Daily)<br><br><strong>A Tale of Two Spots</strong><br>The following are scenes from recent TV spo
Jonathan Duggan
(Screen shots courtesy of the University of Michigan.)

Director Peter Lang and a small production crew were spending four days filming in the hospital and around Ann Arbor. They have since used the footage for two new TV commercials to solicit donations to the Health System's $500-million portion of the Michigan Difference, which aims to raise $2.5 billion.

The new ads resemble the Health System's TV spot that aired first last year. They are set to a string arrangement of "The Victors."

The academic sector has echoed the same aesthetic in its promotions.

A new public service announcement - which also uses the fight song and shows English Prof. Thylias Moss, Crossing Borders volunteer Isabelle Carbonell and stem-cell scientist Sean Morrison - is remarkably like the Health System ads.

It uses a comparable narrative and similar typeface.

References to "The Victors" will be highly visible on campus over the next few years. The University hangs banners with the word "hail" alongside scenes from the spot during high-traffic events on campus like commencement and the beginning of each school year, said Lisa Rudgers, vice president for communications.

Stylistically, the new Health System ads will be similar to the first commercial, which Lang also directed. Each will focus on an interview with one patient and their families, said David Brudon, the Health System's marketing director.

The first Health System spot, which has already run during several football games, tells the story of a patient with a heart condition. The other ad is scheduled to debut in January.

The response to the first wave of commercials was unprecedented, Brudon said.

The response to the original Health System ad, which the system pays for out of its $3-million annual marketing budget, indicates that it resonated with a wide audience, Brudon said. He said he could not say exactly how much money the ads brought in.

Rudgers said the main distinction between the two campaigns is that the University's academic sector does not use paid commercials like the Health System does.

Rudgers said paid television advertising is appropriate for the Health System as a business, but would not be appropriate for the academic side of the University.

"We do not use paid TV advertising of any sort," Rudgers said.

The public service announcements that air during football games do not qualify as paid advertisements because the airtime is offered by the network, Rudgers said.

The Office of Undergraduate Admissions also has plans to build on the popularity of public service announcement and Health System ads to attract potential students.

Chris Lucier, associate director of admissions, said the office is developing more student and alumni profiles to include in its viewbooks and other materials for prospective students.

Lucier said that students in focus groups have given the office feedback that specific examples of what students have done at the University help them picture themselves at the University.

He said the office is still in the process of writing its next viewbooks but likely will slowly incorporate the themes of the current campaigns.