Since my last roundup of “COVIDeos”, colleges and universities have started to release proper commercials, ads and marketing campaigns in this time of pandemic. Messaging started cautious, essentially PSAs encouraging social distancing and staying at home, but turned to encouragement for students grappling with exams, and then recruitment messages for spring/summer and fall courses.
Early in the COVID19 crisis, many advertisers reinforced public health messages to practice social distancing, and particularly to stay home. Higher ed did likewise. Here are some particularly good examples, out of hundreds of silent campus and lonely mascot videos.
Grand Valley State University asks, “Where have all the Lakers gone?” and explains that they’ve gone inside, to keep others safe. “These spaces miss your energy, your voice, your effect… The world is healthier and safer, because Lakers know when to be seen, and when to be felt.”
Strayer University blends snapshots, social media posts, and casual clips with the Edward Sharpe & The Magnetic Zeros’ song “Home” in a series of social distancing reminders that end with the message, “Take it from an online university. Great things can happen when you stay home.”
Many PSE videos were directed at current students, struggling with the migration to online delivery or anxiously prepping for exams in unusual circumstances. These messages of solidarity gradually evolved into tributes to frontline healthcare workers, who were often institutional alumni too.
The University of South Florida says “There is something stronger than this challenge. Stronger than a virus. Stronger than fear. It’s the collective spirit of… #ONEUSF”
Another uplifting musical video comes from SAIT, reminding the campus community “We’re better together, even when we’re apart.”
(Check out SAIT’s “Better Together” landing page for more examples.)
Humber College released a 3-min video to celebrate Nursing Week (in mid-May), featuring quick clips from Humber faculty and alums, at home or at work on the front lines, applauding and banging pots (and kettle drums):
The University of Toronto released a 2-min video narrated by president Meric Gertler that also celebrates the ways the institution remains connected to its community, and supporting COVID19 efforts in a range of ways. “Our campuses are almost empty… it may seem as if we’re on hold, just waiting… but look closer.” “Throughout our history, UofT staff, faculty, students and alumni have stepped up when things got tough. And right now, things ARE tough. But we welcome a challenge. We see it as an opportunity to apply what we’ve learned and make a difference for the better.”
McGill University produced a message of solidarity from campus leaders, faculty, staff, students and alumni building on the new “Made by McGill” brand, “Made Together.”
The University of Victoria shared a “Kind Mail” video of support and solidarity for students heading into final exams, emphasizing that “None of this is easy… None of this is really what you signed up for… We know you will have the tenacity and the gumption to get through this!”
The University of Calgary released a similar video for Giving Day (Apr 23), “Together We’ll Get Through This.”
Sault College urged its community “Keep Being Amazing… Let’s Stay Together” in this 1.5 min spot filled with snapshots of socially distancing staff and faculty holding signs of encouragement for students.
Pearson Canada Higher Education released a 1-min spot “In Solidarity” that is very well produced, and features empty campus buildings at Niagara College, Ontario Tech, Fanshawe College, MacEwan University, Okanagan College, Carleton University, UPEI, uToronto, Kwantlen, Douglas College, Holland College, Simon Fraser University, uWinnipeg, uManitoba, Wilfrid Laurier U, and others. “We were challenged by a force that silenced our classrooms, our hallways, our campuses, but it has not silenced our human curiosity, our thirst for truth and meaning. It has not silenced our voices of solidarity, our calls of encouragement and support. We’ve stood by each other, lending our hands to those losing grip, helping each other adapt and persist, because even though we may be separated, nothing can stop our desire to love and to learn.”
No-one felt the loss of campus life more acutely than varsity athletes, many of whom were unable to play in championships that were cancelled by public health orders.
Red Deer College honours “the athletes that didn’t finish their 2020 season” by turning the “Lights On for Athletics” across campus:
uVic’s tribute to the Soccer Vikes was particularly amusing, as (thanks to some clever editing) they practise soccer together, apart.
After the initial pause in marketing messages, caused by the shock of campus closures and the health emergency, marketers gradually reactivated their campaigns, often sending very similar-sounding messages about solidarity and how they remain “here for you.” It has been observed with wry sarcasm that many pandemic ads have a LOT in common:
Thankfully, colleges and universities found ways to break out of the stereotypes. Of course, by and large they were limited to working with existing or stock video, but that didn’t stop them from conveying enthusiasm, optimism and energy.
Red River College launched a new campaign, “We’re All In,” to convey how “we’re still here for Manitoba. We’re here for our students. We’re here for local industries.”
BCIT‘s mid-May 30-sec commercial says “The world has always moved in unexpected ways… You can try waiting for it to stop, or you can jump in and start shaping your future. You can still dream. You can still learn. You can still succeed.” Somehow, BCIT’s slogan seems more appropriate now than ever: “Education for a Complex World.”
The University of Waterloo launched this upbeat, wordless 1-min video on social media, showcasing faculty, staff, students and alumni engaged on Zoom, 3D printing PPE, forming a community despite social distancing. “When the world feels uncertain, we stay true to who we are… Waterloo was built for change. And we’re ready. Bring on Spring term!”
For online institutions, like Athabasca University, the pandemic lockdown does little to disrupt academic operations, and provides the perfect opportunity to speak to people isolating at home. “Even though we’re apart, we’re connected… It’s just something I never really thought I could do from a distance… There are some long-distance relationships that give you everything, so you can live your life and learn at the very same time.”
Or, as the University of Phoenix emphasizes, you’re “online, but never on your own.”
BCIT reminds students that although the campus is “still,” we are “still learning, still creating, and still believing. You can, too. Plan your future and pursue your goals.”
(For the full playlist of more than 600 higher ed videos about the COVID19 crisis, see our YouTube playlist.)
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