Landing the first human on Mars; improving the lives of millions of cancer patients; evolving the Charter of Rights to better reflect our multicultural society – this fall, York University is celebrating the high aims of its students as part of an ambitious new brand campaign highlighting just how far a York degree can take graduates. With a long list of prestigious alumni who’ve already made significant contributions to the world, York has confidence its current students will achieve their visions.
Targeted at high school students considering their postsecondary options, the campaign is the result of a comprehensive brand positioning review and builds awareness of the diverse, forward-thinking and outstanding programs offered at York.
York’s brand refresh has been in the works for several months, created to keep in step with the University’s rapid evolution over the past 52 years and its ambitions over the coming years. Current and prospective students, faculty, staff, parents and alumni were consulted on the core of York’s brand essence, and their input has culminated in a stunning campaign that reflects the best York has to offer.
“York has been evolving, both in terms of academic programs and infrastructure,” says York President and Vice-Chancellor Mamdouh Shoukri. “With that evolution, it was time to go back and ask ourselves, ‘who are we?’, ‘what do we stand for?’, and ‘what are our aspirations?’ We have an outstanding academy and an incredibly talented student body, and we want to proudly inspire others to join us.”
The brand positioning work and campaign were led and developed by York’s Communications & Public Affairs Division in conjunction with doug & serge, the University’s agency of record. The campaign development involved interviewing a wide range of York students and asking them about their goals and how they hope their York education and on-campus experience will help them positively impact the world in the future. Over the next year, 21 students from across 10 of York’s faculties will share their visions via a robust mix of advertising channels, including a unique partnership with MuchMusic to award one lucky contestant a year of free tuition through a Twitter contest that asks applicants to create their own #thisismytime moment. Current students also have a chance to win a year’s free tuition by sharing their personal visions on an online Vision Exchange.
“Before embarking on a campaign, we first had to ensure that all the components of our brand were clear and that we had a unified voice,” says Susan Webb, executive director of communications & public affairs and a York grad herself. “We asked, at the core of the University, what is our DNA, and then how do we embrace and celebrate that? Through the voices of our students, with a very creative idea of ‘forward-projecting’ testimonials, we bring our brand to life.”
The campaign creative was led by agency Chief Creative Director Doug Robinson and Associate Creative Director Jason Buback at doug & serge. Doug asked Jason to be part of the effort, knowing his talents would be put towards his alma mater. Making it truly a York family affair, fellow alumnus and renowned photographer Ron Baxter Smith was chosen to shoot the campaign’s dramatic portraits.
“As a York alumnus, I really, really wanted to work on this campaign,” says Buback. “York has changed the way I look at the world. I see things differently now, everything from song lyrics to foreign policy. I was honoured to be part of this campaign and to celebrate the impact York has on its students, and the impact these students have on the world.”