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New APSU ad campaign targets teens

October 2, 2001

As a target market, today's high schoolers are as different from their predecessors as the iMac is from the Corona electric.

This ever-so-sophisticated generation has grown up in a world saturated with advertising. Studies show that, as a result, they loathe hyperbole and are turned off by exaggeration. College ads and recruitment materials that promise perfection-i.e. perfect students lounging on perfect grass-are an instant turnoff.

What do high schoolers like? Honesty. Realism. At the same time, they want ads that are entertaining-preferably humorous. They're accustomed to campaigns that wrap product benefits in highly creative packaging.

With those facts in mind, the staff in Austin Peay's Public Relations and Marketing office created a highly targeted campaign to reach those teens who are deciding now where they'll go to college next fall. The campaign is called "Get Real."

"Our strategy is to sell Austin Peay's benefits with ads that are unique, energetic and unpretentious," says Debbie Denton, marketing manager.

The campaign-which consists of ads in high school newspapers, billboards in Clarksville, Nashville and Hopkinsville, TV ads on Fox 17, UPN-30, WB, MTV and ESPN, plus radio spots on 102.5 (The Party)-showcases what the University has to offer: courses taught by real professors, not graduate students; small classes where students can form real relationships, and ample leadership opportunities that enable students to graduate with the confidence to take on the real world.

"Differentiating ourselves was key," Denton says. "We wanted the campaign to accomplish more than name recognition. We wanted to set Austin Peay apart from competitors, to tell prospects 'You'll find something unique here.'"

Radio spots began airing in September. Billboards will go up approximately Oct. 5. The TV spot will begin airing Oct. 15.

Expect to be surprised, particularly by the TV ads, Denton says. "They're a deliberate move away from the typical college ad, because studies demonstrate teens are bored silly by most college recruitment ads. The 'Get Real' ads may not appeal to those of us over 35. They aren't intended to. You have to look at them with the eyes of a teenager."

The campaign, like others, was a team effort, Denton says. "The Admissions staff gave us valuable input about our target demographic. Charlotte Carlin created the billboard design, and Bill Persinger created the print ads.

"I did the market research and wrote the copy. Then we everyone worked with a Nashville agency to develop, produce and revise the TV ad. We're pleased with how the campaign came together. Its real measure, however, will be if it generates more interest in and additional FTE for the University."