Build it (in the mall) and they shall come (to the school): Unitec brings the campus to life with ‘Open Home’

Unitec has done a good job of bringing academia to life in recent years, with its reality-advertising campaign Change Starts Here, GPS-enabled buses that turned Auckland into a media platform for ‘We make the people who make it’ and, most recently, the personalised Umag. And it’s once again taking the school to where the potential students are: the mall. 

A collaboration between Special Group, Open and Westfield Brandspace, which works with brands and agencies to create special builds and sells some in-mall media not controlled by its other outdoor suppliers, Open’s Matt O’Sullivan says the brief was to draw attention to Unitec’s northern campus.

“It’s a bit of a best kept secret. It’s not as big [as the Mt Albert campus]and it doesn’t have as much of a street presence,” he says. So, to appeal to the young, school leaver audience and raise the profile of the campus in the community, Special Group came up with the idea of putting a partly constructed 6.6 metre, four-bedroom house into the Westfield Albany mall to showcase what a house under construction looks like (it was built by trades staff at the Northern campus in Albany and each of the rooms features a different subject area: carpentry, electrotechnology, computing and IT, and interior design). 

“You can’t just go in and put up some lights or panels and think you’re changing the status quo. So we thought the house was the best approach. It’s a little bit more disruptive compared to some of our other campaigns for Unitec, which were more about discovery; surprise and delight. They were a bit more subtle, but you can’t miss this.” 

Jane Poole, national manager of Westfield Brandspace, says when the agencies presented the idea to build a house in the shopping centre, “we said ‘why not'”. 

“Students and prospective students are regular visitors to the centre and this is a great way to engage with them about course possibilities,” she says. “The collaboration between Brandspace and Unitec, together with the agencies, made this a reality and delivered an innovative and impactful experiential campaign.”

The home will be in the mall until 15 February and themed competitions for each subject area are being held every Saturday and Sunday from 10am-4pm, with a number of $500 Westfield vouchers up for grabs (on Saturday 25 January, Peter Wolfkamp, the foreman from The Block NZ and a Unitec graduate himself, competed in the Carpentry Olympics). 

O’Sullivan says the typical approach with in-mall advertising is to use static or, increasingly, electronic media and kiosks. But he says there is a trend towards more elaborate, attention-grabbing experiential campaigns that aim to benefit from this captive audience (Cadbury’s chocolate fountain in the UK is a good example and Persil’s series of new branded indoor playgrounds also stands out). 

“There’s so much other stuff going on in there as well, so you have to do something that makes them say ‘what the hell’s that?'” 

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