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Feature

We are all search engines campaign.

Ads from the "We are all search engines" campaign each feature a question.

Driven to Discover

New initiative to highlight U's search for answers

By Rick Moore

Brief, Sept. 27, 2006

The University of Minnesota has been uncovering the answers to some of life's most persistent questions for 155 years. That's why it's one of the top public research universities in the nation.

A new way has been developed to communicate--and to "brand"--that spirit of inquiry. Beginning Sept. 24, the phrase "Driven to Discover," and the intent it conveys, will be woven through University communications, from student recruiting material to President Bruininks's speeches.

What makes the ad campaign so innovative?
One-of-a-kind TV advertisements, known as Search TV, will debut the week of Oct. 2. These 60-second spots begin with a person asking a "single greatest question." At the end of the question, a search bar pops up and promises results in 15 seconds. Next, an actual local TV news promotion airs with the branded search bar appearing over it. After the promo ends, a University of Minnesota professor who is conducting research on the question will appear with an answer.

Who are the people in the ads?
Most of the people in the ads are real Minnesotans, representing all walks of life and various regions of the state, asking an intriguing question.

How are faculty members identified to answer the questions?
As questions are identified, University Relations staff members work with the campuses, colleges, and research and outreach centers to identify faculty members who are experts in related fields.

How much does it cost?
The initiative is a $2 million investment over two years, approved and supported by the Board of Regents, funded with U resources plus contributions from the U alumni association and foundation for the advertising. It's designed to change the way we communicate about the U. You'll probably see some print and TV ads over the next few weeks, and you will definitely see Driven to Discover in U publications, signs, sidewalks, banners, posters and other materials as we incorporate it into the way we do business.

Are all the U campuses involved?
Driven to Discover will be part of the University vocabulary for years to come. The "We are all search engines" campaign is reaching 83 percent of the state through print, TV and radio advertising. All colleges, campuses, departments, centers, institutes and other U entities are encouraged to adopt Driven to Discover and adapt it to their needs. A toolkit will be available soon.

Why does the U need a brand? Turns out that while most people in Minnesota understand the U's high-quality undergraduate and graduate education and statewide public service, the fact that the U is a first-class research university left a lot of people puzzled. The message has just not gotten through that University researchers have changed life for the better for people all over the world--and continue to do so every single day. If the U expects to become one of the world's top three public research universities, people in Minnesota and beyond have to understand what it does.

Minneapolis's Olson Agency developed the "Driven to Discover" brand and then built an advertising campaign around it called "We are all search engines."

"We are all search engines" is based on the notion that the thirst for knowledge unites all people. And that the University shares that innate sense of curiosity and urge to find the answers. "We are all search engines" has a unique look (see photo) and message for billboards, print ads, and television and radio spots. A computer's search bar is superimposed over a photo of a person asking a question--What is my dog thinking? What's the meaning of life? How real is global warming?--for example.

The answer, given by University experts, appears on the print ads, and, in televison and radio spots, is given after a short break. On every ad will be the U's home page address (www.umn.edu) from which people can link to the "We are all search engines" site. People can go there to submit their own question and see what other people are curious about. The most compelling query will be answered each week and featured on the site.

"'Driven to Discover,'" the spirit underlying the marketing campaign, is more than a slogan--it's an expression of the U's essence," says Linda Thrane, vice president for university relations. "This is about what we do and who we are. The campaign will paint for the public a fuller picture of the University."

Students discover new reading material

As part of the Driven to Discover campaign, a series of graphics or "clings" has appeared on sidewalks all around the Twin Cities campus, from Northrop Mall and the Washington Avenue pedestrian bridge to Rarig Center and the St. Paul Student Center. As students walk from class to class, they're stumbling upon new ways to learn--in this case, more than a dozen big questions printed on a search engine bar in the middle of walkways. Fifteen paces later, they get the answers.

While some students in a hurry to get to class haven't had the time to digest all of the questions and answers, others have been driven to pause for a moment to ponder questions such as, "Can dance change the world?" (The answer is at the end of this story.)

Overall, they seemed impressed by the opportunity to discover while they walked.

"They're interesting. There's some facts that I didn't know," said Alex Nguyen. He specifically noticed the questions about dance changing the world and one about what white people think about being white, "but I didn't read the whole thing because I was late to class. When I have time, I'll stop and read them all."

As for the U's Driven to Discover campaign, Nguyen said, "It's pretty good. Students need to know more about the U and what it's about."

While sophomore John Kieffer thinks some of the answers are too long for his walking pace, he thinks the sidewalk clings are "a really good idea, and something to look at as you're walking by."

Rachel Lashinski stops to check out an answer to a question from the U's new Driven to Discover campaign.
Rachel Lashinski stops to check out an answer to a question from the U's new Driven to Discover campaign.

Freshman nursing student Rachel Lashinski shared the same sentiment. "It's kind of neat--little pieces of information you didn't know [about] as you're going along," Lashinski said. She noticed the large, new Driven to Discover banner on Johnston Hall "right away," and was especially intrigued by the dance question, since she noticed it on her way to an Introduction to Dance class.

While Lashinski was digesting another answer, she was joined by Douglas McDaniel, a junior majoring in history and African-American studies. McDaniel is aware of the University's goal to become one of the top three research universities in the world, and figures the campaign supports that well. "Though some of that, I think, they take so seriously," he said. "It's an American tendency to rank things."

What did he think about the sidewalk questions and answers? "As you're walking along, they give you a chance to ponder. Life without thought isn't very useful," McDaniel added. "We're on campus. That's our job, right--constantly working towards new thoughts and ideas?"

Can dance change the world? Here's the result for that search.

U of M dance professor Carl Flink thinks so. Flink believes dance can reflect what's going on in the mind and heart--and people whose minds are in tune with their bodies can become pivotal forces for change in our society. So maybe a two-step is one way to take a stand.

To read more about Driven to Discover, see the campaign overview.