Faculty faces light up city amid new ad campaign

By Campus Editor

Wenhwa Ts’ao, an associate professor in the Cinema Art + Science Department, was surprised to see her face plastered around the city after friends started tagging her on Facebook with photos of her on bus stops, kiosks and billboards.

Ts’ao is one of 11 faculty members featured in a city-wide marketing campaign launched in early August by the Communications & Marketing Department as a way to increase the college’s profile and brand its identity.

“It’s kind of nice,” Ts’ao said. “The college said they couldn’t guarantee that the photo would be used, but that was back in May, and now everything is out on the street.”

The advertisements, which feature prominent and distinguished faculty members, are displayed at bus stops, on buses and on billboards, according to Anne-Marie St. Germaine, interim vice president of Communications & Marketing.

“Any branding initiative is a reflection of a given institution’s mission, vision and values,” St. Germaine said. “We want to let a number of constituencies know about Columbia, what we’re doing and what we hope to accomplish in the future for our students.”

As reported Oct. 28, 2013 by The Chronicle, the college began its first research-based image campaign at the beginning of the 2013-2014 academic year. The current advertisements are a continuation of that initiative, according to St. Germaine.

She said the college has been working with the Chicago marketing firm Penn Schoen Berland to conduct research on what kinds of advertisements will be most beneficial to the college.

“Columbia is not like every other college,” St. Germaine said. “We have this core liberal arts education as a foundation and then the study of creative practice in various fields, which can be of great value in many disciplines beyond the arts and media.”

The college declined to provide the cost of the campaign or any other financial data related to it, citing a college policy that prohibits the disclosure of financial information.

Several advertisements have also been added to campus buildings such as the 33 E. Congress Parkway Building and the 600 S. Michigan Ave. Building.

St. Germaine said the campaign will run through the end of September, when the city-wide advertisements will come down. However, she said the internal advertisements on campus will remain in place because the college does not pay for those spaces.

Brenda Berman, senior director of marketing in the Office of Institutional Marketing, said the college is extending the faculty-based campaigns through print advertisements that will run in issues of Chicago Magazine and Chicago Life. Faculty members were chosen based on recommendations from department chairs and school deans, she said, adding that the Communications & Marketing Department looked for diversity among the candidates.

“We were looking for faculty across Columbia, across different disciplines who were both outstanding in their fields as creative practitioners, were known as excellent teachers and who went above and beyond to help their students,” Berman said.

Shanita Akintonde, an associate professor of advertising and public relations, said she thinks the advertisements positively portray the college and successfully brand it as a unique institution. She said she was excited to see the advertisements because she has never seen Columbia market the college in such an appealing way.

Akintonde said because there is a direct correlation between faculty and student engagement, the advertisements have a broader impact than just cultivating brand identity. She said featuring faculty members not only helps recruit additional faculty applicants but also appeals to prospective students.

“Because of the relationship between the college experience and the quality of learning, their overall experience outcomes can be directly related to their engagement in the classroom, which faculty are at the helm of in a large part,” Akintonde said.

Ts’ao is featured in several of the advertisements and is pictured in the window of the 33 E. Congress Parkway Building. She said the advertisements allow Columbia to brand itself as an institution that selects qualified faculty who are dedicated to its students and have a commitment to the college.

 “I’m hoping it will generate some curiosity and interest so students will do research about why this specific faculty member was selected to be in an advertisement, and through that research they will know their accomplishments,” Ts’ao said. “These are the faculty who are leading the education in our college, and students are in good hands when they come here.”

Sam Weller, associate chair and professor in the Creative Writing Department, is also pictured in the window advertisements of the 33 E. Congress Parkway Building. He said he is proud to contribute to the college’s identity and is humbled to be chosen because of the magnitude of accomplished faculty at the college.

“I’m well aware of the many well-deserving faculty members who could and should all have billboards,” Weller said. “There are so many incredible people who contribute to the school, and I feel a little bit bashful to be featured because I know how many incredibly accomplished people there are.”

Weller, who is beginning his 10th year at the college, said the general public is not always aware of the institution’s scholarly creative practice and the advertisements are helping accomplish that goal of raising the college’s profile.

“It’s saying this is who we are: an institution of accomplishment, creativity and passion, and that’s why I got involved,” Weller said.