Client: The Ohio State University Max M. Fisher College of Business
Campaign: “Go Beyond”
Audience: Prospective Working Professionals and Master’s student applicants outside of Ohio
Shortly after graduating with my MBA from The OSU Fisher College of Business, the marketing department recruited me to help construct preliminary creative concepts for an advertising campaign tentatively titled “Go Beyond.” My role was to take an amorphous philosophy and articulate it through words, pictures, and illustration, like a one-man test agency. Having just intimately experienced the product with a pragmatic understanding of its points of differentiation, this exercise proved equally interesting and challenging. An outside firm later adopted these insights and creative pieces to execute the final campaign.
The specific insights portrayed here were born from a solid year of testing, brainstorming, and tossing dry erase markers at one another. Columbus exists in an odd bubble, both geographically and in public opinion; it’s the 15th largest city in the United States — bigger than Portland, Seattle, and Las Vegas — yet tends to be denigrated as either an industrial wasteland (literally what one Brooklyn blog called the city, despite the fact that it’s service-based) or an agricultural layover to somewhere more interesting, which largely describes everywhere in Ohio except for Columbus. And maybe Cleveland. Maybe.
The city’s biggest hurdle has never been a lack of development, but rather a lack of innovation. A frighteningly accurate 2014 Fast Company article described Columbus as a hub that “has developed a civic speciality in absorbing coastal excesses and distilling them into mass product.” Subjectively, this label becomes less and less accurate every day; the Midwest breeds its own marketable eccentricity. The university works with General Electric, Procter & Gamble, and Rev1 Ventures (all “boring” establishments with surprisingly fresh innovation labs), as well as smaller food and drink trendsetters like Watershed Distillery and Jeni’s Splendid Ice Creams. Leadership from these companies unanimously taught us that creativity and risk are profitable under the right processes. Attracting entrepreneurs with an urban mindset outside of Ohio’s borders required this message. Samples below.
Serving as a “test agency” allowed me a degree of experimentation that I probably wouldn’t have been afforded on a more formal project. We went through dozens of photos, illustrations, wordplays, and concepts. The goal was to encapsulate the message in the execution and the art, with a form-is-function mindset. High-dynamic-range imaging provides a swath of contrast and color value beyond normal exposures, hence my focus on them with this project. In the picture above, I wanted to fade the stairs out to monochrome to accentuate the graduating class leaving the past, but also paint them a slight royal purple hue to capture the bizarre royalty that higher education views itself. But the flow of the picture also leads beyond the borders of the frame to an emergent future full of paychecks and 401Ks.
Expressing the reality that Fisher incubated talent that transcended mere adequacy took some time. The below video is the final product, executed by an outside agency. I’d argue that we could have drilled deeper and more specifically (focusing on international or start-up angles), but the general tone works, even if it sticks rigidly to higher education production tricks, language, and values.