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‘Ambition Can’t Wait’ at Drexel

Nicole Deroux, a junior marketing major in the LeBow College of Business, appears in a finished ad in the "Ambition Can't Wait" campaign.

November 16, 2016

You’ll probably start to see Drexel advertisements popping up on buses and digital billboards around the city — and the images might make you stop and stare. And that’s a good thing.

“We wanted something that would stop people in their tracks and cause them to take a second look,” said Lori Doyle, senior vice president of Drexel’s Office of University Communications. “The strategy is to grab people’s attention with an ad that is arresting, provocative and creates buzz. The ad will drive them to a microsite that highlights Drexel’s value proposition with stories about students’ co-op experiences, research and international opportunities, information about the career success of our alumni and all of the things that make the Drexel experience so special.”

The campaign is meant to raise awareness of the Drexel brand and is centered around the idea behind its tagline: “Ambition Can’t Wait.” The images and copy for the ads demonstrate how Drexel’s academics and cooperative education program make for an ideal fit for hardworking and determined students eager to gain professional experience and make a difference in the world.

“The key with ‘Ambition Can’t Wait’ is that it’s not just about how our students or our alumni or our faculty and staff have ambition and have goals — it’s that Drexel Dragons want to do it right now,” said James Katsaounis, associate vice president of University Communications.

The six different advertisements show students — five of whom are actual Drexel students — suspended in the air and radiating an ethereal white light as well as representations of objects relating to their field of study (such as DNA strands and chemical compounds for the science and engineering ad or books and globes for the humanities and social sciences ad, for example).

“We wanted to portray the energy and passion that the University radiates and encourages,” said Craig Kampes, assistant vice president of Communications and Marketing in Drexel’s Division of Enrollment Management & Student Success.

The overall effect is bold, buzz-worthy and fearless — just like the copy used in the ads. One sample quote: “Ordinary students take tests. At Drexel, you will test the world.”

The campaign was developed by members of the Office of University Communications and Enrollment Management & Student Success in partnership  with Ogilvy & Mather, a New York City-based advertising agency.

A behind-the-scenes shot of Jonathan Cedrone '15 jumping on a trampoline for a photo to be used in the "Ambition Can't Wait" campaign.
A behind-the-scenes shot of Jonathan Cedrone '15 jumping on a trampoline for a photo to be used in the "Ambition Can't Wait" campaign.

The goal was to develop a campaign to raise awareness of Drexel’s brand in the region and across the country.  Over the last several years, Drexel  has been absent from the marketplace as Drexel University Online and individual colleges and schools have increasingly turned to targeted digital marketing to reach potential students.  While other colleges and universities have increased their advertising, Drexel ads had disappeared from the region. The ad campaign will complement the digital marketing and earned media efforts already underway.

The advertisements will run in Philadelphia as well as key markets located outside of the region. The target audience of the campaign is parents, influencers and guidance counselors who could send prospective students to Drexel. That’s just one benefit, though — the campaign will also hopefully inspire pride among Drexel faculty, staff, alumni, students and families.

An “out of home” marketing strategy developed by the Philadelphia-based LevLane advertising agency will be employed to reach that target demographic that’s typically on the move and working and consuming content on the go. Locally, the advertisements will be seen on digital billboards throughout the city and in the Philadelphia Airport and 30th Street Station as well as on the side of SEPTA buses in Philadelphia. Audio commercials will also be streamed on Sirius XM and Pandora, which have national audiences. The ads will also run online and on social media, particularly on Facebook and LinkedIn.

Print campaigns will run in The Philadelphia Inquirer and The Wall Street Journal to be seen and read by influencers throughout the region and across the country. The Wall Street Journal ad, in particular, will feature a unique component not just to the campaign, but for most college and university ads: the “Ambition Can’t Wait” manifesto will be printed alongside ad imagery to further explain the spirit and inspiration behind the campaign. 

“We’re printing the manifesto because it’s like our reintroduction to market,” said Joesph Wilson, executive director of marketing and digital strategy in University Communications. “A lot of campaigns have manifestos, but they’re not typically run as part of the campaign. We chose to include ours because it really embodied everything we wanted to say.”

The imagery of the campaign also showcases the Drexel student experience and ambition — quite literally, since five of the students featured in the six different images are actual Drexel students. Valerie Ifill, the program director of Drexel’s dance program in the Westphal College of Media Arts & Design, recruited 20 undergraduate and recently graduated dancers to audition for the campaign. The students ultimately chosen and photographed were Nicole Deroux, a junior marketing major in the LeBow College of Business; Alicia Tom ‘16; Elise Mele ‘16; Taylor Ratcliffe-Lee, a senior dance major in the Westphal College of Media Arts & Design; and Jonathan Cedrone ‘15.

In late August, students traveled to Brooklyn and were paid to be photographed by world-class photographer Timothy Saccenti, who has shot campaigns for Nike and filmed videos for Depeche Mode, among many others. To get the shot — of ambition flowing out of students — the Drexel dancers jumped on trampolines and posed mid-air.

Once the images were completed, the finished ads were evaluated by focus groups of current and prospective students and parents, as well as influencers and co-op employers. After some tweaking, the final products are now ready to be introduced to the public starting this week.

“Overwhelmingly, the people in the focus groups said that they loved the tagline and the imagery, as well as the manifesto,” said Doyle. “We’re really hoping that this campaign will create some excitement and buzz and also generate some pride among our alumni and community.”

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