Animated MU television ad impresses some, confuses others

Friday, November 30, 2007 | 4:58 p.m. CST; updated 5:49 a.m. CDT, Tuesday, July 22, 2008

COLUMBIA — With a national audience watching the Big 12 Championship and following the Tigers’ quest for a national title, MU’s national exposure and media coverage is reaching a new level. But the animated television 30-second spot ad national audiences are seeing is getting mixed reviews. While MU’s administration and its designers call it unique and innovative, students and alumni say they don’t get it.

“I thought the slogan was catchy,” said Dustin Arand, a third-year law student at MU, in reference to the “Get a degree with teeth” tagline in the ad. “But the tiger looked like it had been created independently and then superimposed on the street background,” he said. “It almost looked like it was doing a forward moonwalk.”

A print ad based on the ideas of MU alumnus Jack Smith inspired the TV spot. That print ad featured a tiger wearing a mortarboard hat while walking down Wall Street. Neither the School of Journalism nor its in-house advertising agency, MOJO Ad, had a hand in creating the commercial. Instead, the sketches and storyboard were handed over to Ali Hussam, director of the Strategic Technologies Group, an in-house producer of simulations and animation for MU’s School of Medicine.

Laura Roloff, manager of marketing communications in University Affairs for MU, said the university tried to do something that makes it stand out.

“That way, they’re (audiences) more likely to remember us and our message, as opposed to us doing some kind of Ivy (League-style) cover,” she said. “We didn’t want to fill the ad full of copy with a bunch of things the university does. We wanted to do something simple.”

The administration and University Affairs chose an animated ad, as opposed to the montage of students, faculty and campus that is usually designed for such spot ads, Roloff said.

While their “less-is-more” intentions are reflected in the lack of spoken word or complexity in the ad, Smith said the execution wasn’t immediately apparent. Jan Schulz, an MU junior, and Arand were both surprised to learn the tiger in the television commercial was walking down Wall Street.

“It looked like it’s walking down a back alleyway,” Schulz said.

The technology used in creating the promotion is considered among the best in the animation industry. Hussam said he thinks the animated ad shows sophistication with its use of advanced technology, simulation and modeling.

A new ad is created annually for the university and usually reflects the printed material distributed by admissions to prospective students, according to University Affairs.

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