Drake University’s latest PR campaign, “The D+ Advantage” has been generating a lot of buzz in the last few weeks. And it’s certainly not positive buzz.
The Iowa university rolled out the new ad campaign in July hoping to attract prospective students. However, the D+ graphic they used to signify Drake’s Advantage “your potential + your opportunities” is commonly known as a grade given for below-average schoolwork.
Needless to say, boasting sub-par academics is far from what students want their pricey, college education to provide.
The AWL criticized the campaign declaring that the team that, “dreamed up Drake University’s latest campaign, “The D+ Advantage,” got so carried away by an apparent allusion to positively charged molecules that it thought it could either ignore or, alternately, capitalize on one obvious fact: the logo is the grade for pathetically under-average schoolwork, a D-plus.”
All this criticism angered Drake alumni who complained that by sending the wrong message about the university through the “The D+ Advantage” their degrees had been devalued, according to the Washington Post.
After the backlash, Drake sent a letter to faculty and staff explaining its rationale behind the D+ campaign. It insisted that its intentionally edgy and ironic logo “was not designed to stand alone or represent a grade. Instead, it was designed to be paired with prose and draw attention to the distinctive advantages of the Drake experience.”
Bloggers scoffed at the university’s justification.
“In this age, we need a quick visual, one that really encapsulates a core idea in the 1.9 seconds a potential student takes before clicking on to another page in the fruitless quest to find information of value on a university website,” Katjusa Cisar posted on AWL.
Interestingly enough, just a few days after Drake sent out its letter, Drake dropped the misleading grade logo on its website and changed it simply to Drake+.
Was this a successfully edgy graphic that helps to attract prospective students through ironic messaging? Or was it purely a branding blunder?
Even if the logo was a miss, some have still claimed that all this media attention did Drake a favor through free publicity.
“If criticism of the D+ campaign helps various news outlets attract readers, then please continue that criticism, because attracting readers means more exposure to the Drake University brand,” said one blogger’s comment.
At the end of the day, is any publicity good publicity?