Otago University focuses on freedom in latest recruitment drive

Academic advertising isn’t typically renowned for its creativity and often tends to focus on the facilities or the wonderous achievements of its students. The University of Otago certainly does a bit of that, but it’s also continuing to push the uniqueness of the southern student experience and, after a big research project to see if it was still on the right track with ‘Take your place in the World’, Zephyr has given the campaign a refresh. 

Zephyr has been working with University of Otago for around four years and partner Warwick Delmonte says the latest ad was, “wash my mouth out, a product of research really”. 

“The last one was a bit of a singalong and the research showed the campaign is still resonating in terms of likeability in comparison to the other univeristies, but we just needed to freshen things up a bit, as you do after four years.” 

While Unitec has tried to add a bit more chutzpah to academic advertising in recent years, Delmonte says it’s a tough area to work in, given it needs to please the various heads of department as well as attract young students. 

“There are a lot of eyes looking at it. Each department wants a spot in the sun, and fair enough. But you have to stand back a bit and Otago University is very good at doing that. They realise they have to put on some 17-18-year-old sneakers and lean a bit more towards the independence angle.”

Many of Otago’s students fly over other universities to live and learn in Dunedin and the research showed independence was still a very important attraction.   

“It’s basically like a first OE,” he says. ” … It’s about the environment as well as what’s behind the walls.”

That level of freedom has been known to get out of hand from time to time. And the University is actively trying to move away from those associations. Delmonte says focusing on the euphemistic ‘student culture’ is “low hanging fruit”. And, as he says, with regular stories in the media about various student antics, it’s “already very well known that it’s a shitload of fun down there, so in a way we don’t have to mention it”.

He says the university is still well oversubscribed when it comes to student enrolments. The attraction has not declined, he says, and the only thing stopping the university from increasing its numbers is a shortage of accommodation.

“So it’s a matter of raising the bar in terms of the quality of students the university attracts,” he says. 

As for the actors in the ad, “all of the students are students and all of the families are families, except for one dad.” Having real students is something the university insists on, and there’s never a shortage of volunteers.

“They’re very proud of their university,” he says. 

Zephyr worked with Barry Fawcett from Gorgeous Films Mahuia Bridgman-Cooper from Franklin Road was on musical duties (Delmonte wrote the lyrics and, as opposed to the last effort, this one has a more modern, Of Monsters and Men/Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros feel). ​

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