‘Reconnect’ campaign highlights benefits to York’s alumni

This week, York rolled out a new tactical advertising campaign aimed at the University’s alumni. The campaign focuses on generating awareness about the many benefits and perks associated with being an alumnus of Canada’s third largest university. The campaign, which debuted May 15, runs until mid-June.

The new campaign uses a two-part approach. A print advertising campaign in the new Summer 2006 issue of YorkU magazine is designed to get information about the function of York’s Alumni Office and its Perks affinity program to alumni who are already connected to the University. The second part of the campaign involves a blend of print, radio and Internet advertisements that speak to the elusive alumni with whom the University has lost touch. “We know there are a lot of people who aren’t connected and who don’t get the magazine,” said James Allan,  director, alumni. “They are people who have lost touch with the University. Perhaps the magazine goes to their parent’s house or to an address they had four years ago. We are hoping to try to find them in other ways.”

Around 80 per cent of York’s 190,000 alumni live in the Greater Toronto Area (GTA). The advertising campaign targets the GTA alumni and encourages lost alumni to get back in touch with the University. Why now? “The University is preparing for its 50th anniversary,” said Allan. “There will be lots of interesting events and opportunities for York’s alumni to get involved with the University. But there is no point in trying to get in touch with people that year, we need to do it earlier and keep them informed of the plans as they develop.”

Included with the print, radio and Internet ads is a contest and an invitation to participate in the Alumni Office’s Perks affinity program. “It is valuable to have our alumni confirm their contact details, which they can do by entering the contest. This is important for all alumni, even those who are in regular contact with the University,” said Allan.


Above and below: Print and Internet advertisments advertise benefits for York
alumni. The Internet ads feature a drop down form that alumni can use to update
their contact information.

The campaign complements York’s existing brand with two new broadcast spots and four variations of advertisements which will appear in a number of newspapers and as banner advertisements on targeted Internet sites. The alumni campaign is running concurrently with York’s new reputational campaign which is targeted to reputation influencers. (See the May 15 issue of YFile for the full story on York’s reputational campaign launch.)

Both campaigns expand York’s brand, and the alumni advertisements use humour to attract attention. By running the two campaigns together, Richard Fisher, York’s chief marketing & communications officer, said that both campaigns then work to spread the York message over a variety of media.


Alumni who respond to the advertisements will receive a quick response from York’s Alumni Office acknowledging their contact with the University. “We will send them an e-mail asking them to confirm their contact details and this will be followed by a welcome-back package which is sent by mail. The package contains the most recent issue of YorkU magazine, an alumni card, a pin and an information package on what we do,” said Allan. And, for those alumni who have maintained their contact with the University and who respond to the contest, Allan said they will get a letter thanking them for their entry and confirming their contact details.


The creative concepts for the campaign were developed in conjunction with York’s Marketing & Communications Division and the Toronto-based doug agency. It features two 30-second radio spots, and four variations of print and Internet advertisements. The radio advertisements began airing on Toronto radio stations on Monday, May 15. (Listen for them on CFNY, Q-107, CHUM-FM, CHFI and JACK-FM.) The Internet banner ads began appearing online Monday on Yahoo, Canoe Network, AOL, Canada.com, TheStar.com, The Weather Network, Sympatico MSN and GlobeandMail.com. The print advertisements are running in Metro, the daily commuter newspaper.


The radio ads are centred on a common theme and feature plays on the search for lost or missing alumni. The first ad parodies a TV crocodile hunter tracking a missing alumnus and the second ad features a humourous missing persons’ report. The listener is directed to the Alumni Web site. To hear the ads, click here for the tracker spot, and here for the missing persons spot.

The print and animated Internet advertisements highlight the advantages of being a York alumnus, including discounts of theatre tickets, car rentals, home and automobile insurance, and car rentals. As with the radio spots, all of the ads point to the York Alumni Web site. (Click here to view the print advertisements.)

“Alumni who are disconnected from York may not be aware of the recent transformations York has undergone or the new approach to alumni relations,” said Fisher. 

“We just held a very successful theatre event where over 150 alumni attended a special reception prior to the hit musical Hair,” said Allan. “As we start ramping up alumni activities and doing more things for York alumni, there are lots of great reasons to reconnect with the University.”