I sometimes wonder if universities would be better off without their marketing departments. The number of times some institutions change their branding (especially the ones that seem to go from "Place University" to the "University of Place" and back every other week) is absurd and I suspect it has more to do with a marketing department trying to prove its existence than any real need.
But there are times when they can come up with material that has everyone talking about them. Before today I had never heard of Lakehead University. But its latest campaign is generating attention all over the world:
Graduating from an Ivy League university doesn't necessarily mean you're smart.
If you agree click here.
There's been a flurry of people denouncing Lakehead, but I can't help but feel that in some ways they've hit the nail right on the head. The quality of a university is so much more than its historic reputation or its membership of some arbitrary group (and remember the Ivy League is a sports tournament) and Lakehead has decided to tackle this straight on. Yes it's negative advertising (although most US politicians are amongst the last people to complain about that!) and yes I somehow doubt anyone contemplating Yale is going to suddenly decide to go to Lakehead instead, but it has received massive attention. Bush is hardly the most popular world leader and such an advert is going to make the target demographic more likely to consider Lakehead. Whilst there are clear limits, does anyone really think Yale's reputation is going to suffer because of this? Or that it's going to turn more people away from considering Lakehead (if they were never going to consider it anyway they won't factor in the advertising calculations) than it attracts more?
Academia is notoriously bitchy at times, especially when it spills over into the public arena. (just watch or read some of the exchanges between A.J.P. Taylor and Hugh Trevor-Roper for some of the best exchanges amongst historians, regardless of the merits of their actual arguments) and whilst I dislike basing campaigns around personalised abuse (and let's be honest - the advert is hardly playing the ball rather than the man) I have to admit a wry smile about all this. Maybe a University Challenge special could be arranged putting the raw institutional rivalries on the screen...