"A Majority of One" at Wilkes U

August 3, 2008

Wilkes U billboards

Wilkes University, in Pennsylvania, took a unique and daring approach to undergrad recruitment marketing in Fall 2006. Instead of the traditional "three and a tree" photos, Wilkes' $120,000 campaign features billboards, mall posters, cable TV ads and MySpace profiles -- all apparently targetting 6 specific applicants. Headlines include: "Kate Murtaugh, Whitehall Homecoming Queen: You'll certainly receive the royal treatment at Wilkes University," and "Meagan Smith: We'll help you become a journalist.  Lesson one: Get used to thousands of people reading your name." The personal attention Wilkes offers its applicants is certainly clear.  The campaign was covered by The Chronicle of Higher Education (Subscription Required), MSNBC, and others -- and of course was profiled in the Wilkes Beacon.

2007's campaign was even more aggressive, with MTV commercials and pizza box ads like: "Justin Chung of Council Rock South.  As a weightlifter, you never push your limits without a spotter to help.  Wilkes University feels the same way about your education. (We just use less talc.)"  One Wilkes applicant reports that the campaign has made him feel famous, and that the girls like it.  Wilkes prides itself on offering personal attention to its 23,000 students.  The Philadelphia Inquirer | Sample TV spot (Quicktime)

Wilkes U Ads

So far the campaign has won several awards including: the Council for the Advancement and Support of Education District II gold and silver awards for advertising; the International Association of Business Communicators Harrisburg Chapter awards for Comprehensive Communication in a Marketing/Communication Campaign, Electronic Advertising for MySpace.com ads, Special Purpose Pieces/Displays or Exhibits for ads in mall kiosks, Special Purpose Pieces/Outdoor Billboards; and awards from the College and University Public Relations Association of Pennsylvania for PR-Promotion - Marketing Campaigns.

Do you think this level of personalization would "fly" in the Canadian market? What would be the hurdles at your institution? Comment below!