Montreal View

UQAM ads win Tam-Tam an ADeveloping an advertising campaign aimed at recruiting students to a college or university?Montreal hot shop Tam-Tam offers an insight.This insight formed the core of the concept and creative strategy it used in preparing its most recent...

UQAM ads win Tam-Tam an A

Developing an advertising campaign aimed at recruiting students to a college or university?

Montreal hot shop Tam-Tam offers an insight.

This insight formed the core of the concept and creative strategy it used in preparing its most recent newspaper ads for the University of Quebec at Montreal (uqam.)

Marc Fortin, concepteur and writer responsible for the new campaign, says Tam-Tam saw that, in the past, uqam and other universities ‘had only used well-known people in their testimonial ads, graduates who were already well-established successes in their respective fields.’

‘We thought what might be more effective would be to feature younger people in our ads, people who had just graduated from university and who had obtained good jobs,’ Fortin says.

‘We didn’t want some guy who was 43 and some incredible success story. He is too far removed from their reality.’

Elevate prestige

The purpose of the campaign is to elevate the prestige of the university. uqam would like to alter the perception that it is a university which is home to a disproportionate number of ‘freaks and hippies.’

Julie Simon, Tam-Tam account executive, says there are a lot of ‘old prejudices out there vis-a-vis.

‘We want to show that uqam is a high quality institution and that so are its students and graduates,’ Simon says.

The photos in the ads are amazing. They are large and grainy, capturing real graduates in definitively candid situations. Photographed by Jean-Francois Gratton, the people look interesting and competent and very real.

Martin Beauvais, art director on the campaign who now works at Taxi Advertising, says he told Gratton ‘to visit the people where they worked, follow them around and shoot lots of film.

‘I wanted something really spontaneous, and we got it,’ Beauvais says.

The copy is cool and effective.

Part of the headline in each ad starts with ‘Ancienne de L’UQAM,’ or, ‘UQAM Alumnus.’ The second part of the headline refers to the person in the photograph: ‘jeune maitre’ (‘young lawyer’) or ‘jeune virtuose’ (‘young virtuoso.’)

‘Ancienne’ also means ‘old’ in French and it also can suggest history and tradition. It is the meaning of the word that Fortin wanted to juxtapose with the second part of the headline, ‘jeune.’

The headline is in reverse as is most of the ad.


Beneath the headline is a half-inch vertical, grey band that runs the width of the ad, identifying the person in the photo giving testimony: ‘Isabel Larose, 27 ans, avocate.’

A small white box of ad copy is positioned near the graduate’s face and gives a description of their recent history:

‘Two years ago, Mira finished her master’s in environmental sciences at uqam. In March 1992, l’hopital Notre Dame discovered her numerous talents and hired her to manage the hospital’s biomedical waste.’

Fortin says the words ‘two years ago’ sounds better than ’30 years ago’ to a 20-year-old. ‘The copy is brief, but it is really to the point,’ he says.

If the copy is brief, there is a long list of degrees and programs that the agency was obliged to incorporate into the design.

These long list-things are tricky business and the curse and bane of most art directors.

Beauvais wasn’t bothered.

‘They had a lot of information they wanted to communicate,’ he says. ‘It’s my job to organize it in the most esthetic way possible.’

Beauvais listed the degrees and the programs vertically down the length of the ad and separated the list from the photo and headline box with a white band. Ingenious design.

He says he designs by starting with the elements that are the least attractive or esthetic, typically logos and addresses, and, in this case, the list of programs.

Michael Judson is president of Judson Woods, an advertising and public relations company in Montreal.