Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald

Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald

Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald


UW: Yank the commercial, embrace the students you have

They’re still running that commercial.

You know the one I’m talking about. You see it several times whenever you watch a UW-Madison sporting event on TV–the one with the two students in some campus library I have yet to identify in which the female student astonishes her male study companion with stories of UW’s academic life. This conversation includes such gems as, “My biochem teacher discovered a new pain reliever,” and “My animation project? I’m getting calls from the coast,” capped off by her trite answer to the man’s comment about an amazing semester: “Semester? That’s Tuesday.”

I urged UW to yank this commercial over a year ago when it first aired, yet it is still running. Since I cannot imagine why anyone would not take my advice on such a crucial matter (wink), I have to conclude that my flaw lay in not providing the script for an adequate alternative commercial. After seeing this garbage air a half-dozen times during the men’s basketball game a couple weeks ago, I decided the time is right for me to correct my earlier negligence.

The problem with the current commercial is not that it is necessarily untrue–UW is in fact a place of cutting-edge research and students get strong vocational training in certain fields. I simply feel any good advertisement for a college or university is most effective when it stresses elements that really make students proud to go there. It ought to stress who we are rather than who the administration might want us to be. UW does not need to change its image–it is this image, after all, which convinced many of us to come here.

In this light, the new commercial should open with a shot of a raucous crowd at Camp Randall–students falling over themselves and laughing during the traditional end-of-the-third-quarter rendition of “Jump Around.” The narrator, in a deep, genuine voice, states slowly, “Welcome … to the
University of Wisconsin.”

Next follows a quick five-second montage of Madison and several campus buildings. Then start the background music–something fun, like Cheap
Trick’s “In the Street,” the theme to “That ’70s Show.” The voice-over continues:

“As a student in Madison, you’re in for a good time in the company of friendly students with old-fashioned Midwestern values: good camaraderie, cheap beer and not taking oneself too seriously (show students playing touch football in front of the Natatorium, rolling around in the mud).

“Tuition is cheap for in-staters and Minnesotans, which leaves some money left over to enjoy the weekend nightlife. If you’ve grown up in a sheltered environment, the Madison student bars will open your eyes–once you turn 21, of course (show the scene at Brothers or Madhatters or any campus bar on a weekend night).

“Of course, amid all this fun you might actually learn something. We might have big lectures, but we also have many professors who aren’t so self-important they cannot condescend to make time for students (show one of the big names chatting with a student at the Union).

“We’re a big school, but that’s not a disadvantage. There’s anonymity if you want it; there’s a close-knit community if you want it. There are enough options and groups that you can find like-minded friends and enough diversity to give you exposure to ideas far from your own (show a student rally or a discussion section debate).

“This is UW. Take it or leave it …” (return to scene at Camp Randall, with students high-fiving after a touchdown). “We’ll take it” (fade to black, cut music).

OK, so maybe this commercial would not be any less lame than the one they are already airing. But at least it would be an accurate depiction of campus life and would portray many of the reasons people actually come here.

Prospective students don’t need academic braggadocio in commercials; they can look up the U.S. News ranking or any campus brochure to see what the programs are. But they can’t as easily get a feel for campus life, the reason for which people are proud to go to school in Madison and why they stick around.

I know such a commercial would never get made, probably because it would keep overprotective parents from letting their children apply here.

But at the same time, I cannot help but get the feeling UW administrators are pandering their commercials to the kind of students they want to get–overachieving, pretentious bookworms (an assertion backed by tighter admissions standards in the last year)–rather than reveling in the unique atmosphere and student body they already have.

I cannot speak for everyone, but I do not believe I am the only one to think this way. I chose this university for every reason listed in my commercial–friendly people who love to have fun and a city with plenty of opportunities to do it. College and the shift into adulthood is not always the easiest transition to make; at least at UW people can enjoy themselves doing it.

This is the selling point of UW. This is what we can offer that others cannot. It’s time for the administration to accept and embrace it rather than waste energy trying to change it.

Matt Lynch ([email protected]) is a junior majoring in English and political science.

Feedback Question: What do you think about the commercial?

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