Firstly, to my doubting friends, I played no part in the conception of the aforementioned ads. And saying this gives me no satisfaction at all for I am talking about my alma mater. But a line has to be drawn netween blind loyalty and rational criticism for the sake of betterment.
Secondly, I am highly disappointed in the storyboarding of this ad. I shall also avoid unconstructive criticism of this ad here because that has already been rehashed many times on the blogosphere.
But I always believe that transparency is key and I anticipate certain sensitivities may be broached by this post. However, if we are to be a world-class business school, we should expect every action and policy of ours to be scrutinized in a fair and open manner befitting a globalized, frontier-less business environment our graduates will face once they leave the confines of the college campus. The Internet is the best example of an open, inclusive channel for undiscriminated communication of diverse opinions.
Let me also say that I think the online community, and most importantly, my own NUS Business School admin, deserves to hear from a NUS Business student's mouth (albeit digitally) instead of outsiders.
From Straits Time June 4, 2006 article,
This is not an excuse. We boast when we need to, but look at the context we were boasting with respect to: Wharton, University of Chicago and Sloan… My question: where's the justification?
To be fair, the commercial ranked high on the visibility factor. If the purpose was to get the name out and create the viral marketing effect, the commercial succeeded immensely. Recall rates must be immensely high for these commercials, not totally impossible if we really had primetime slots during TV ratings winners like Singapore Idol.
But to market well, the visibility is not the sole component. The rule that any publicity is good publicity DOES NOT apply to an incumbent, mature business school like NUS. Acting young and rejuvenating our staid, old image is fine. Pple will at least say we dare to change, although some will say this smacks of copycat behavior of SMU marketing. But gloating about our status and saying we r truly the best up there with the Ivy Leagues of Wharton in an effort to differentiate ourself was the wrong strategy. People know NUS is better than NTU and SMU in terms of world rankings. But to elevate our status artificially and inflating our status to "world-class" alongside world-renowned business schools is something that is better off as a buzzword on school prospectuses and not as taglines on mass-market TV commercials.
The messages sent out in our Suburban American commercial was wholly wrong. Through the role-playing of an American girl preferring to come to NUS Business School, we implicitly sent the message that local students should choose NUS because overseas students are doing so and they should learn from them, if not copy. This is derogatory. This form of persuasion is too blatant. Local viewers immediately see a brain-washing attempt here. Trivalizing the ad with "cute boys" was uproariously cheesy, and "chewing gum" makes me think this ad was actually targetted at overseas audiences as locals have already forgotten this foreign stereotype and connotation with Singapore.
Hence the question, why air this foreigner's perspective view of Singapore within Singapore. Wrong audience, dun ya think so?
I think this ad will better serve its purpose overseas, but even if shown overseas, it would have fallen flat on discerning audiences. Hey, college students-to-be ain't fools.
But if we apply the visibility factor above, this ad will succeed in increasing mindshare among foreign audiences and the viral marketing via word-of-mouth or the Youtube effect (which is already happening) would have been to the benefit (if somewhat dubious) of NUS.
Having said that, its still a tasteless ad.
As for the "Hometown Singaporean Boy and his Lil Brother" ad, "huh??" is the first response. Its a highly convoluted and confusing way to waste precious TV airtime when the only meaningful message was to tell viewers that "NUS is preferred by elites all over the world". What a wasteful way to spend our college tuition fees on an expensive TV ad. Again, visibility might be high here due to the strategic time slots of the TV ad placement, but the message fails to hit the sweet spot inside the viewers' mind.
It merely raises one question, why is the adult protagonist considered an "elite" in the first place and why "all over the world" when he's already in Singapore?
- Do not waste these commercials. NUS Business School should turn these commercials into teaching material for our marketing classes. Make them a valuable case study.
- Self-sustenance. Use these commercials to connect with our students. In lectures and tutorials, the instructor should be saying: " Alrite, students, we screwed up. But beyond your snide critique which is easy to do, CAN YOU DO BETTER?" Issue this as a personal challenge and make this a project. Get students to create new storyboards on how they can design and conceptualize better ads and put together a proper marketign campaign with right positioning statements for NUS Business School. I think this has magnetic appeal. We develop ads by students for (new) students. No second-guessing by marketers with no feel or connection to our generation. THe students will have an incentive to do better than their own dean who came up with the current concepts. Now, that would make me respect the courage of the staff and administration, not to mention reaffirm my faith in the pedagogical objectives of our teaching stuff as opposed to them covering up valuable teaching material.
- Implement Suggestions #1 & #2 next semester to maintain currency of content.
- Focus Groups. I believe I do not speak for myself, but for most Bizad students, that we can contribute much better to future Business School adverts. Such cringe-worthy commercials cannot possibly escape the criticism in behavioral marketing labs.
If NUS Business School students are truly world-class, lets see what the students can come up with.