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A photo of "Our research bears fruit" ad on bus shelter outside of McDonald's.

New U ad campaign in full swing

By Rick Moore

From eNews, September 16, 2004

If you're in the vicinity of the iconic two-story McDonald's in Dinkytown at 4th Street and 15th Avenue, take a gander at the message on the bus shelter just outside its doors. There, you'll find a six-foot-tall, maroon-and-gold ad with a headline citing one of the University's claims to fame: "Our research bears fruit." The text underneath explains the claim. Sometimes, our research can make your mouth water. Take the Honeycrisp apple, developed at the University of Minnesota and enjoyed the world over for being tangy, sweet, and juicy--with flavor and texture that last deep into the winter. We think it's one of our tastiest inventions yet.... Only at the U.

You may not trade in your Big Mac for a Honeycrisp right then, but if you walk (or ride) away with the idea that the U is unique because of its research contributions to the state, then you're getting the message.

"We wanted a slogan that, in very few words, got to the fact that the University, as the state's only land-grant, research university, is fundamentally different than other higher education institutions," says Anderson.

The University is in the early stages of a new marketing campaign focused around the ad's tagline: "Only at the U." Those words--illustrated by a host of concrete examples--are meant to capture what sets the University apart from the region's other colleges and universities, says Amy Anderson, the University's marketing director. "We wanted a slogan that, in very few words, got to the fact that the University, as the state's only land-grant, research university, is fundamentally different than other higher education institutions," she says.

Anderson has discovered, through extensive polling, that the public has a very positive impression of the University, in general, but doesn't fully understand the U's unique contributions to Minnesota through research, public service, and economic stimulus. People's level of enthusiasm and support for the U "rises incrementally the more they learn about what we are doing," she says. That's especially important at a time when the University is faced with an austere fiscal climate and hopes to increase its support around the state.

The campaign is featuring print ads in publications such as Minnesota magazine, Mpls-St. Paul, Law & Politics, and Twin Cities Business Monthly; ads on bus shelters and at the airport; and 60-second radio ads on WCCO-AM and KSTP-AM.

One of the principal target audiences for the campaign is Twin Cities metro area business and opinion leaders, since they have "a great deal of influence right now on how the U is perceived and valued in the public eye," says Anderson. But the ads will also be prominent around campus; in fact, most of the bus shelter ads are within a short distance of the U. Faculty, staff, and students "can be our best ambassadors," Anderson says, so it's important to reach them as well as the general public. "We developed the slogan with the hope that people would be excited about being a part of the larger campaign. Several University units already have plans to incorporate 'Only at the U'--with their own examples--into their paid advertising."

"I want to be seeing these messages for the next two or three years," adds Anderson. "We have a wealth of examples to help define and differentiate what makes the U such a special place."