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Diversity Groups Criticize “Penn State Lives Here” Campaign

We all know the new “Penn State Lives Here” campaign is a little hokey and certainly unoriginal, but what hasn’t been discussed much are the more serious problems behind the marketing ploy. Last Friday, a focus group was held in Old Main with the creators of the campaign to discuss whether or not the slogan accurately represents diversity in the Penn State community.

The discussion began with a presentation by Jeff Hunt of PulsePoint Group, a communications and marketing management consulting firm that came up with “Penn State Lives Here,” explaining that the rationale behind the new marketing campaign was that Penn State had lacked a cohesive brand. Per Hunt, the “Penn State Lives Here” campaign fixes that problem by representing both Penn State’s presence across the globe and the “DNA level expression” of Penn State, in that attending Penn State makes you a better person. “Thou didst mold us, Dear Old State,” eh?

Hunt’s presentation of how Penn State came to live here was followed by showings of two 30-second video clips, one 2-minute video clip, and several potential print ads of the campaign. The interesting part came at the end when participants were given the opportunity to voice their opinions on the campaign to the culprits themselves.

Discussion participants were primarily concerned with the fact that the marketing campaign’s print ads only included white Penn Staters. Some students expressed concerns that some of these ads portrayed students as “white saviors” to the people they were helping in third world countries.

Critics of the campaign also pointed out that the print ads and videos failed to show any people with disabilities, of obviously different religions, or of the LGBTA community. To remedy this deficiency in the ads, some suggested showing same sex couples holding hands, individuals speaking in the videos with foreign accents, and individuals in wheelchairs. A student suggested running ads in Spanish on Spanish television networks in areas where parents of prospective students may be of Latin American descent.

One student suggested that the videos showcase Penn State’s Homecoming parade, which represents many diverse clubs at Penn State.

In response to these suggestions, Hunt explained that they were not given much time to shoot footage for the marketing videos and that much of the footage used came from WPSU archives. Though he stated multiple times that the print ads were only rough drafts and had room for improvement, he added that not all the suggestions could be satisfied.

“You can’t do 50 things in an ad,” Hunt said.

Another representative of PulsePoint seemed reluctant to change parts of the video ad because of the time and effort the team has already put in, but recognized its failing to include individuals with disabilities in the ads.

“We missed the mark,” the representative admitted.

About the Author

Yuka Narisako

Yuka legally immigrated to the United States via airplane in 1996 from the small island nation of Japan. Since then she has migrated throughout the country and now identifies herself as a senior majoring in Architectural Engineering. The Shandygaff is her Happy Place, though she was once kicked out of the establishment after breaking her shoe and screaming “I LOVE DAY DRINKING. I’M HAVING FUN.” Yuka is overly enthusiastic about life in general, but especially Ja Rule, Halloween, and the puffy black vest she purchased from the Gap. You can reach her at [email protected], or through Twitter @yukahontass.


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