York’s advertising campaign voted best in North America

York University has won three prestigious international awards – including an overall Grand Gold Award for the best university advertising campaign in all of North America, beating such top-ranked runners-up as New York University and University of California at Berkeley. In addition to the Grand Gold Award, York received a national CASE Gold Award for its subway domination campaign launch event and a CASE Silver Award for the University’s 2004-2005 admissions/recruitment book Enter Here.


“It is always an honour to be acknowledged by one’s peers, especially in light of such formidable competition,” said Richard Fisher, York’s chief communications officer. “Reputation campaigns are among the most difficult to do well – the challenge was also to emphasize how York’s interdisciplinary approach is so different from most other universities.”

The annual awards for education advancement are sponsored by the US-based Council for Advancement and Support of Education (CASE). York’s original and innovative advertising campaign was singled out by CASE judges for effectively heightening awareness of the University’s brand identity and unique strengths.

“The brand campaign is unique because it gets to the core of the kind of education offered by York,” explained Fisher. “We don’t have the resources to do 10 different campaigns for 10 different targets, so a branding campaign for the University has to work not just for prospective students, it has to work just as well for government officials, researchers, alumni and other groups.”

The campaign was launched in May 2004 and included six print advertisements, domination from an advertising perspective of a major subway station, and a direct-mail effort. The campaign was prepared by the doug agency of Toronto and provided the springboard for the University’s public relations activities, including the promotion of the $3.4-billion economic impact of York on the Greater Toronto Area and the need for the extension of the subway line through York. The ad campaign focused on York being an interdisciplinary university where traditional academic boundaries are broken down.

“We wanted to get away from the traditional ‘ivy-covered’ university advertising and concentrate on York’s unique approach to education,” said Doug Robinson, principal of the doug agency.

Click here to view the advertisements.

In addition to the Grand Gold Award, York also received a national CASE Gold Award in the best community/public relations program category for its public relations “subway domination” advertising campaign launch event. The fully integrated subway station domination campaign in May 2004 featured wall-to-wall advertising in the St. George subway station in Toronto, showcasing York’s new campaign for a one-month period on all platform levels and advertising locations.

Right: The St. George subway station was the stage for showcasing York’s campaign

On the day of the launch, morning subway commuters were greeted by York students handing out branded giveaways and information about the University. A news conference, featuring York alumni and the student alumni group York is U, was held later that day to announce the campaign. (See the May 4, 2004 issue of YFile for the full story.)

“The public relations program garnered unprecedented positive media coverage and publicity for York,” said Fisher.

In the admissions category, York received its third award, a CASE Silver Award for its 2004-2005 admissions/recruitment book Enter Here. Highlighting the transformative nature of pursuing a university education, Enter Here provided a comprehensive and graphically pleasing introduction to York for prospective students interested to redefine the possible at Canada’s leading interdisciplinary research and teaching university. The book offered prospective students a complete guide to “everything York” including sections on student life, athletics and residence. Enter Here provided students with a description of the different options available for their chosen route of study in a concise format that then offered the options for how to achieve their goals.

Headquartered in Washington, DC, CASE is the professional organization for advancement professionals. CASE annually recognizes excellence in the field of educational advancement through its Accolade awards program. Awards are given to institutions in different geographic areas and internationally for success and innovation in student recruitment strategy, alumni relations, fundraising, government relations, public and media relations, and publications.