Saturday, January 26, 2013

Million$ More For Advertising  

From April 2007 through December 2011 the administration paid $6.4 million to Olson & Co. for the Driven to Discover/Because advertising campaign.  In May 2012 the administration obtained the approval of the Regents to pay up to an additional $10.5 million to Olson & Co. to:
provide branding and marketing expertise and strategy, design and production of print, web, and audio-visual marketing materials, and procurement of media placements for advertising materials (radio, TV, web, and/or print ads) for University Relations.
The administration promoted this additional multi-million dollar expenditure on this basis:
Survey research from across the state indicates the marketing efforts in support of the Driven to Discover brand are having a significant impact.  Positive public perceptions about the University have shifted upwards and the public is understanding and valuing the University as a leading research institution.
Yet the facts do not support the decision to continue to pour millions of dollars into advertising.  The campaign has not produced support at the state legislature.  State appropriations have declined from $651 million in fiscal year 2010 to $623 million in fiscal year 2011 to $572 million in fiscal year 2012.  See p. 14 of the 2012 U of M annual financial report.
What about the effect of advertising on donors?  The administration told the Regents:  "When the campaign was not in the market in 2009, perception of the University and awareness of its impact declined."  See p. 31 of the May 10, 2012 report.
But gifts and pledges from donors were greater in 2009 than in 2010, 2011 or 2012.  See the historical overview at p. 4 (right hand column) of the 2012 Report on Giving.
The state of the economy is a significant factor in determining the level of giving in any given year.  So are the decisions of very wealthy families to leave a legacy and the decisions of corporate donors to support a program.  Such sophisticated donors do not base their decisions on television commercials.  Their decisions are the result of personal contacts over the years--as the then president of the U of M Foundation acknowledged in 2011.  See section 2 of University Inc. Part II.  
Yet it appears that a survey showing an "upward shift in public perception" trumps reality and the historical record.  So the administration continues to enrich an advertising agency at the expense of educating our children.   

Michael W. McNabb
University of Minnesota B.A. 1971; J.D. 1974
University of Minnesota Alumni Association life member

No comments: