'Here, We Do.' ad campaign brings DePaul brand to life

Brady Johnson
April 19, 2018

DePaul prepares graduates to work, succeed and contribute in the global community with an experiential education leveraging the rich resources of the city of Chicago. That unique experience is at the center of the university's new brand advertising campaign, Here, We Do., that launches on April 23, 2018.

"Here, We Do. differentiates DePaul from other institutions in an increasingly crowded and competitive marketing environment," explains David Kalsbeek, senior vice president of Enrollment Management and Marketing at DePaul. "This campaign is not typical of most colleges and universities. The compelling design stands out, cutting through the advertising clutter. The content is more provocative than traditional higher ed messaging, but isn't so edgy that it's inauthentic."

Here, We Do., developed by EMM's University Marketing team in collaboration with Chicago-based advertising agency Two by Four, is bold in its style and use of colors. The imagery accentuates DePaul's connection to the city and its diverse community of learners, while the messaging reinforces the essence of the university's brand.

"The core of who we are is that our students are urban educated and world-ready. Here, We Do. is a theme that brings that idea to life," Kalsbeek says. "'Here' evokes DePaul's connection to Chicago and the critical role this world-class city plays in the student experience. 'We' affirms that we are an inclusive community supporting students in pursuit of their hopes and dreams while collectively serving the greater good. 'Do' is all about the hands-on, experiential education our students, alumni and employers value."

First brand advertising campaign in seven years

While DePaul has maintained a consistent digital advertising presence, Here, We Do. is the university's first comprehensive brand awareness campaign since 2011. Market dynamics have forced University Marketing to shift an increasing proportion of its advertising budget from broad brand awareness into more targeted recruitment-oriented campaigns.

"Ideally, our advertising strategy would include highly visible awareness-building initiatives to complement prospect generation efforts," says Sarah Partin, associate vice president of University Marketing. "While our resources have remained consistent the past several years, advertising costs continue to rise. As a result, we've needed to prioritize spending on highly targeted, lead-generating programs, specifically in support of graduate enrollment goals. Here, We Do. gives us an opportunity to reset that balance and reinforce our distinctive position within the competitive landscape in the minds of target audiences beyond prospective students."

Campaign comes together quickly

The funding for the brand advertising came from a one-time, mid-year allocation from this year's projected operating margin, approved by the Board of Trustees in October 2017. That funding expires at the end of the fiscal year, compressing the development timeline. Fortunately, University Marketing had some built-in advantages to jump-start the creative process and realize valuable efficiencies.

"We already have a well-developed understanding of who we are as an institution because of our deliberate investment in brand research over the last decade," Kalsbeek says. "This campaign is grounded in those extensive findings, which allowed us to hit the ground running."

Furthermore, the university and Two by Four have an established partnership from producing the well-received Athletics ad campaign that launched last fall. The agency has an intimate familiarity with DePaul's brand and was able to use that knowledge to ramp up quickly.

University Marketing and Two by Four immediately began production of a 30-second television spot, which started airing in December 2017 during DePaul basketball games. The outdoor and digital executions were then developed over the first two months of 2018.

"It's really a remarkable timeline for producing a campaign of this magnitude from ideation through execution," Kalsbeek says.

Comprehensive media strategy ensures visibility

The first phase of this ad campaign will be in market for a run of 12 weeks. A critical component will be a heavy saturation of high-impact outdoor advertising. This will include extensive coverage in CTA stations and vehicles as well as Metra properties, and prominent billboards - both digital and static - and wallscapes throughout the city.

In addition, the television spot will run on the major networks as well as streaming services and online radio.  "We're combining proven vehicles with some more innovative approaches in our media mix," Partin says. "Someone might see a DePaul commercial while watching the evening news, or they might enjoy an hour of Pandora radio service interruption-free because they elected to watch our ad."  

Finally, the digital component will include homepage placements on several local news websites, social media ads on Facebook and Instagram, and display banners on targeted websites. The media plan projects the campaign will generate over 300 million impressions in the Chicago area.

"Our media strategy is to reach our target audiences multiple times by placing our ads where they work, commute, live and play," Partin says.

"Here, We Do." will extend into student recruitment

After the initial flight of brand advertising, University Marketing will begin integrating the campaign into recruitment-oriented efforts for the graduate and undergraduate markets. 

"One of the advantages of Here, We Do. is how effectively it serves as a foundation for new student recruitment," Kalsbeek says. "It's a theme from which we can build an effective strategy to showcase our academic programs, the student and career outcomes for those who complete them, and the features of DePaul our students, alumni and employers value."

To see more of Here, We Do., visit herewedo.depaul.edu.