Well schooled in great advertising

Canada's oldest university-level business school is running what has to be one of the best print advertising campaigns in Northeastern North America.Ecole Hautes Etudes Commerciales de Montreal (HEC), is running an advertising campaign to recruit more students and to position itself...

Canada’s oldest university-level business school is running what has to be one of the best print advertising campaigns in Northeastern North America.

Ecole Hautes Etudes Commerciales de Montreal (HEC), is running an advertising campaign to recruit more students and to position itself more clearly among the business community.

The campaign consists of four print advertisements run in Montreal daily newspapers and weekly business publications.

Autonomous school

HEC is an autonomous school affiliated with the Universite de Montreal. It was founded in 1907.

The campaign is the creation of Cossette Communication-Marketing, Montreal, featuring the creative talents of art director Robert Dubarle and writer Lili Cote both of whom have since left the agency.

‘HEC is well known in the business community for its theoretical work,’ says Marie-Christine Levesque, a Cossette copywriter working on the account.

‘We wanted to tell people that our students learn important practical skills here as well as mastering theoretical material.’

The ads are excellent examples of the potential of newspaper advertising. No 1/8 of a page, weeny ads for these guys. They run a minimum of a half page in broadsheets and 2/3 of a page in tabloids.

Dominate

No matter where the ads run they dominate the page.

The ads run over four or five weeks during January, March, May and September.

‘Cossette advised us to run less ads but make them big,’ said Kathleen Grant, HEC’s director of public relations. Good advice.

The ads also dominate the pages on which they are run thanks to some great art direction. The headline is massive (120 point) and runs three tiers, the entire vertical depth of the ad.

Dubarle advised the client wisely. Try not to do too many things with the ad, he recommended. It’s difficult to try to promote the school while at the same time listing registration dates, programs and courses.

The client listened. Technical information is communicated in a series of small ads that have simple headlines like ‘MBA’.

Nice tableau

The budget, which no one would disclose, also permitted such a media plan. This left Dubarle and Co. with a nice tableau.

Even with a massive headline, the ads have an airy feel to them.

The large headline type looks like Bodoni regular. The balance of the ad is set in Bodoni medium. This heavier body copy font works because of loose leading (the space between the lines of type).

Visually-speaking, the ads are also unencumbered by phone numbers and addresses. They don’t even spell out the full name of the school.

The ad’s signature is its logo ‘HEC’ elegantly positioned above a two-word slogan. It’s understood that anyone interested in the school knows what the acronym means.

As visually stunning as the ads are, there is also some off-beat copywriting.

The headlines have double meanings and are unconventional in that they present the unexpected.

The photos display elegant, competent-looking, attractive people making potentially goofy remarks about themselves.

One ad has the headline: ‘J’ai pris du poids.’ Or in English: ‘I Gained Weight’.

‘This headline is funny and unusual,’ says Levesque. ‘Normally, the ad would read `I’ve Lost Weight’.

‘Here we have this proud beauty proclaiming that she has gained weight. But she is referring obviously to gaining intellectual weight’.

Another reads: ‘J’ai la tete ailleurs’ which loosely in English means ‘My Head Is In The Clouds’ or ‘My Head Is Somewhere Else’.

Not exactly a positive statement. But that’s the goal, says Levesque.

‘We want people to see the ad and wonder `what is this person saying?’ and then read the rest of it,’ she says.

The guy with his head in the clouds is referring to the global scope of what he is studying. ‘It’s a funny tonality to use in an ad,’ Levesque adds.

The campaign slogan is ‘L’espirit d’enterprise’ or loosely in English: ‘Enterprising Spirit’.

‘This is what we imbue students with, an enterprising spirit, a spirit to help them grow and succeed,’ says Grant.

The ads have a quasi-testimonial feel to them.

There is a photo of an attractive person aged between 30 and 40, flush left. The headline and the lead paragraph of copy, set in bold to differentiate it from the balance of the copy, reads as though they are spoken by the person in the photograph.

This is a deliberate effect, says HEC’s Grant.

‘We didn’t want to do a regular testimonial, everyone is doing them. I really wanted to do something different than what was out there.’

Grant is right. Testimonials in advertising for schools are like wet glasses in beer advertising.

Michael Judson is president of Montreal ad agency Publicite Judson Woods.