If you were going to spend tens of thousands of dollars on a higher education, would you want the end result to be known as a "D+" education?
And therein lies the problem some have with Drake University's new marketing campaign.
Touting the ways it can help students "be transformed by an experience that puts opportunity into action and gives purpose to your passion," the Des Moines, Iowa-based school has elected to dub its added pedagogic value the "D+ Advantage" campaign. The tagline for the promo campaign: "Your passion + our experience."
Of course, as many Drake faculty, students and alumni have pointed out, D+ is universally synonymous with sub-par academic performance. As Ad Week's Tim Nudd noted, the campaign "seems to position Drake as a school whose standards barely exceed total failure."
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However, Drake officials are standing by the D+ campaign -- which college officials crafted with outside PR contractors. Defenders of the ad blitz described it as "edgy and intriguing" in a letter to faculty and staff this week. The letter explained that the campaign "was designed to catch the attention of high school students who are bombarded with college and university materials to the point that they are often in information overload and unable to differentiate among the many institutions that have contacted them." The letter didn't explain just why an educational institution would want to attract a corps of students lacking the ability to distinguish among institutions of higher learning, but that presumably is the research domain of an equally edgy focus-group team.
One thing seems clear: When you see the outsize D-plus logo on the Drake homepage above, it's hard to quarrel with the basic analysis laid out by the Awl's Katjusa Cisar: "The marketing team that dreamed up Drake University's latest campaign, 'The D+ Advantage,' got so carried away by an apparent allusion to positively charged molecules that it thought it could either ignore or, alternately, capitalize on one obvious fact: the logo is the grade for pathetically under-average schoolwork, a D-plus."
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