As one of the country’s biggest and highest-ranked public university systems, the University of California wanted to present a unified campaign that reminded California residents, and specifically policy makers, what made their universities essential to the future of the state, nation, and world.
The term “public” had become somewhat misleading. The University of California, like most public institutions, receives very little of its funding from public sources. And at Berkeley and UCLA, admission standards are among the most competitive in the country — making it hard to portray these institutions as accessible to the masses. Many of the UC universities also directly compete against elite private schools, and needed to communicate their advantages over those institutions.
By taking common “public” phrases and pairing them with striking images, the campaign made a bold statement with strong support from the UC system’s rich body of academic research. The media buy included a large transit presence, airport billboards, outdoor signage, and a single-day takeover of the New York Times home page, along with radio and other digital spots. All of these executions drove viewers to UniversityofCalifornia.edu, where they could read in-depth articles about the topics featured in the ads.