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Higher Ed in the News

Drake University's 'D+' ad campaign generates controversy

September 19, 2010

A "D+" campaign logo aimed at encouraging student recruitment at Drake University has backfired.

Ridicule from alumni, faculty, other advertisers

Drake University hoped a bold, blue "D+" on a direct-mail piece and its admissions website would grab the attention of high school kids receiving dozens of college recruitment materials.

University officials didn't anticipate their marketing idea getting ridiculed on advertising blogs and angering alumni who complained on Facebook that their degrees had been devalued.

Edgy marketing comes with risks

Drake officials asked for "edgy and out-of-the-box" when they hired Cedar Rapids, Iowa-based Stamats Communications, which specializes in higher-education marketing, to help craft a marketing campaign to high school students. The D+ was intended to introduce a more conventional campaign touting "The Drake Advantage."

Fifteen years ago, the term "branding" was virtually unheard of in higher education. It would be difficult these days to find a four-year school that hasn't gone through the institutional soul-searching and subsequent marketing. What Drake has learned is that pushing the marketing envelope carries risks and rewards.

Drake has heard enough

Drake has announced that the 'D+' symbol will remain on printed material sent to would-be students, but disappear from the website.

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Read more from CBS News and the Denver Post.