Kids Get Schooled About Community College

  • Apr 20, 2010

There can be a certain stigma attached to attending a community college. That's why Onondaga Community College (OCC) decided not only to revamp the image of its educational institution, but also to cast a kinder light on community colleges as a whole. They developed an integrated campaign that challenges people to “Rethink College.”

It conveyed this message using everything from prime-time TV spots to hip T-shirt giveaways. The goal of each ad medium was to drive people to the microsite www.rethinkcollege.org. Here people are invited to meet actual students and professors by clicking on videos and reading blog entries.

The two-year campaign kicked off with a 60-second TV ad. It aired in and around Syracuse, NY, for a month and then was followed by a 30-second ad during shows including Glee and Vampire Diaries. Billboards and social networking outreach supported the effort, as did OCC's first-ever sponsored T-shirt giveaway via a mobile text trivia contest.

T-shirt caps off incentive program for text messaging contest

Part of the TV buy was a series of 15-Second ads that featured trivia questions about OCC. Consumers could text the answer. “We wanted to give them something they would use,” says marketing director Aaron Hugo. “We picked long-sleeve shirts. We didn't overdo it with design. We tucked the logo on the sleeve. If it's cool they will wear it and get the message out there.”

A pop quiz on www.rethinkcollege.org, which also dangles a free shirt, asked which famous actor got their start at a community college: Tom Hanks, Queen Latifah or Morgan Freeman. It is actually a trick question, as all three attended community college.

In the first three months, www.rethinkCollege.org pulled in 8,000 visitors and 11,000 page views. Hugo says the campaign is resonating because, “It gives a raw, unfiltered 100 at college life. It allows the students and professors to sell the college in their words. Yes, there is a cost factor (namely, OCC is much cheaper than neighboring college Syracuse University), but we wanted to lead with the fact that the academics are strong.”