John Tantillo’s Winner and Loser of The Week: Ursinus College and Super Bowl Ad Critics

John Tantillo’s Winner and Loser of The Week

Brand Winner… And Loser…


John Tantillo’s Winner and Loser of The Week: 

Winner:  Ursinus College

Loser:  Super Bowl Ad Critics                                              



Folks, there is nothing more encouraging than watching a great brand recognize its true identity.

Ursinus College in Philadelphia has recently done just that. 

As most of us know, the college admissions scene is highly competitive and institutions try everything to increase their numbers and rankings (especially in the all important periodicals and admissions guides).

Unfortunately, in recent years this has led to all sorts of numbers distortion that has diluted the applicant pools and even threatened the integrity of many well-respected schools.

Ursinus had gotten caught up in the admissions race, apparently hiring a marketing firm that advised them to drop some their application fee and even their essay writing requirements.  The result was a huge jump in the number of applicants.

But, as it turned out, this lead to more students not accepting the offer admissions, huge amounts of additional man hours for administrators and staff and an overall sense that somehow the college was comprising its mission and standards.

Bottom line, Ursinus made the brave decision to get back to brand basics and make their admissions process more challenging and more consistent with their academic mission. 

The result was an immediate reduction in the number of people applying and a maybe a short-term blow to their ranking, but the benefits should be an increased selectivity in the long-run and an uptick in their reputation.

Sure it’s a risk to not do what everyone else seems to be doing, but the benefits of being true to your brand will almost always outweigh this.  Something I believe Ursinus will soon find out and other colleges will likely follow.


Super Bowl ad critics are at the top of my list this week for brand losers.



Because in all the commotion, controversy and commentary surrounding the stratospherically expensive Super Bowl ads, one thing is missing: the first rule of advertising.  Does it sell the product?


This might sound fundamental, but I’ll say it anyway.  Ads exist to sell, if they fail to do this then they fail.  Period.  Forget whether they are beautiful or clever, that’s not what they have been created for. 


Unfortunately, Super Bowl ad critics –and I won’t name names here but I’m speaking about folks in the media who ought to know better— seem to relegate selling effectiveness way down the list of important criteria when evaluating these ads. 


To buttress their arguments, they cite academic studies (such as Northwestern’s polling regarding Groupon’s “politically incorrect” ads).  The problem is that the studies support the wrong criteria and are usually unconnected to the Target Market (arguably the socially-minded Northwestern graduate students polled about Groupon are not that company’s only target market or even primary target market).


In other words, the ads have been evaluated as a kind of cultural and even artistic phenomenon for so long that people have forgotten that first rule of advertising. 


Bottom line, expect to continue to hear the highly creative/clever ads crowned kings and the genuinely sales and marketing-minded spots declared hopelessly unoriginal, offensive or pointless… 


But does it really matter?  In the end, the smart money is going to continue to deliver the smart advertising and the clever folks will receive awards while their clients wonder where the sales went.

And, remember, it’s always easier when you keep marketing and branding in mind



The first rule of advertising: does the spot sell the product?

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