Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Selling higher education with library sex

University and college marketing are a challenge. When you approach the subject, you tend to either focus on the benefits (graduates getting jobs, making a difference) or you focus on creative a more emotively attractive brand for youth.

This recruitment ad for the French-language Université de Moncton is definitely the latter:

According to the CBC, student reactions to the video are mixed.

Simon Paulin told them, "​I can understand how they are trying to bring popularity to it because young people think about it a lot. But still I don't think they should focus on that. It's not really professional, cause we're here to learn."

Another, Sebastien Mallet, said "I thought that's awesome. I really enjoyed it. I think that's what young students want to see. There is some controversy over the little kiss in the library, but its not the point of the publicity."

Oddly, the only woman interviewed was from the faculty (she hated it).

It's certainly not a particularly academic approach, but the strategy is clearly to position the university as one that belongs to francophones in the Maritimes. ("À l'Université de Moncton, notre langue c'est le français. Et nous en sommes fiers." means "At the University of Moncton, our language is French. And we're proud of [it].")

Francophone Maritimers, the Acadians, have a unique, tragic, and inspirational history in Canada. Unlike Quebec, which was incorporated into Canada (following English conquest) with its language, Civil Law and religion more-or-less intact, the Acadians were forced to either pledge loyalty to their English conquerors or flee. Many went south to Louisiana (to become Cajuns) while others resettled in the sparsely-populated edges of the eastern colony. Today, however, their communities thrive in New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, and Prince Edward Island. New Brunswick is Canada's only officialy bilingual province.

Acadian pride makes sense as a brand foundation for U Moncton, especially since Maritimers have been moving away to make a living in Canada's western oil patch for a generation. Now that oil prices are down, young Maritimers might be more apt to pursue a life closer to home.

Yes, with all the talk about campus rape perhaps focussing on sex is questionable for university advertising. But perhaps this ad, going so far as to make a pun on the shared word for "language" and "tongue," is purposely distancing itself from the conservative, English-dominated, universities in New Brunswick and its neighbouring Atlantic provinces.

Besides, that kiss looked pretty consensual.

I'd like to hear some feedback from French-speaking readers on this. Too commercial? Too sexy? Or people taking things too seriously?


  1. First things first, I grew up in Quebec as a first-generation Canadian to parents for whom French is not their mother tongue. While I do speak French, it is not my mother tongue. So, there's your the context for my comment.

    Looking at the still frame showing the kiss, I was initially inclined to be a little frustrated by this campaign. But upon seeing the 30-second video, and noting how little emphasis is placed on the kiss relative to the rest of the content, and how far into the video it shows up, I find I have no issue with it. It's pretty reasonable for the university to acknowledge the fact that what students do at university involves meeting people they're attracted to and getting involved in some way or another with those people. It isn't the first or last thing students do, which is accurately reflected.

    If anything, it's more frustrating to see how little ethnic diversity is portrayed throughout the video, how the gender roles are stereotyped (male hockey player, female fan), how heteronormativity is, well, the norm, and how "perfect" the physical features of the students is, etc.

    Let's scratch a little deeper than the surface with this one.

    1. Thanks for your comment! The lack of diversity is not that unexpected for Moncton, given its demographics, especially if they used local talent. The stereotyped gender roles, however, are less easily explained.

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