Where did the ‘amazing’ go and will it come back?

The Wendy Williamson Auditorium sports the university's new tagline, "UAA: Amazing Stories being written every day." (Photo by Keldon Irwin)
The Wendy Williamson Auditorium sports the university’s new tagline, “UAA: Amazing Stories being written every day.” (Photo by Keldon Irwin)

It has been five weeks since the introduction of the “Amazing Stories” campaign. The hype built up immensely through a week of festivities and promises of flashy commercials, great stories and a new chapter in UAA’s history.

It has been four weeks since the hype died down. Signs began falling off the walls, banners flew away in the wind (quickly recovered afterwards), commercials on YouTube had fewer than 500 viewers and some students still have no idea what the heck even happened.

The campaign was kicked off with the help of the Nerland Agency, an Alaskan advertising agency. They were chosen by UAA partially because the head of the agency, Karen King, is an active member on the College of Arts and Science’s advisory board.

Before the campaign started, the Nerland Agency interviewed 30 students to get an idea of what the campaign’s concept should be. But is 30 students really a fair representation of our university? They believed so, and went ahead with the idea.

The University spent $500,000 of a UAA undesignated general fund to kick the campaign into gear. The money was divided between many aspects of advertisement and promotion, including a statewide media buy (television, radio, print and online advertising), production of three new television commercials, production of three new radio commercials, more than 25 campus building and light pole banners, six Campus shuttle wraps, UAA anthem video, 1,500 t-shirts, large-scale video projection on the Wendy Williamson Auditorium’s exterior, Amazing Stories Sweepstakes game prizes, Amazing stories bagged popcorn, and agency creative development and execution.

With all of this effort, one would think more people would be more aware of the campaign. But in reality, few really do.

This leaves us to wonder if there is a “big ado” still to come, or if it was $500,000 in the pit.

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As described by the Feb. 21 Northern Light article “UAA launches ‘Amazing Stories’ branding campaign,” the brand is meant to create awareness about what UAA has to offer future students and amp Seawolf pride for current students.

However, the question still remains: What actually qualifies as an “amazing story”? There is an admittedly spunky commercial that explains the key elements of our brand: forward looking, networked, hands-on, remarkable and welcoming. While these are strong adjectives, they only describe what the school offers and neglect to explain what the “amazing story” concept should mean to students.

Do students have to go to the office of advancement and exclaim about our amazing story or do they come to students when they feel there has been something done to warrant an amazing story?

The FAQ section of the brand page gives very little information on any of this.

During the week of the initial launch, tables were set up in random places across campus to try to give students some information on the campaign and to boost knowledge of what it was about. At these booths students were given the chance to write a quick note about Amazing Stories on a giant Wolfcard at an informational booth. They then put their head in a cutout and had a picture taken of them with their ‘motivational’ message. However, a majority of the messages were silly, nonsensical notes like “bacon strips,” “no worries,”  “I like cheese,” and “lizardman: had a lizard shaved on my head.”  While they are quirky and fun to read, do they really convey the message UAA intended to send out?

If students remain clueless about what the campaign is or, for many, that it is even happening, then how can we expect potential students and members of the community to figure it out?

There is a Brand Implementation Committee currently working to send the word about what amazing things UAA has to offer out to high schools and the general community. There have also been talks of creating a student advisory committee specifically for this campaign. It is great to spark up UAA’s reputation and try to get some eyes turned our way, but what we need right now is some sort of rewind, reboot and redistribution of the campaign’s message to better explain what is going on and get more students involved.