By Tim Hayes [

You know, it always sounds great when it pops into your head. 

The big idea, the whopper, the hook that’ll really grab ‘em and make ‘em beat a path to your door.  The rest of the team gets just as excited about it and you start all the hubbub and busy activity to birth this strategic masterpiece, this amazing burst of creativity, cunning, and commerce.

Before you know it, your brainchild has been launched, foisted onto an unsuspecting world, and you sit back and wait for both the sales and the accolades to rack up.

And there’s where you learn the hard soul-crushing truth, delivered with all of the gentility and civility of a steel pipe up ‘side the head.  Your big idea could have used some more objective review because it either doesn’t make sense or is just plain dumb.

As evidence, we present a new marketing campaign recently unveiled at Drake University in Des Moines, Iowa, which features as its centerpiece a large graphic that equates the quality of undergraduate education there with the concept of “D+.”  Yes, he said D+.

As this colossal specimen of marketing magnificence was hatched by an outside public relations firm, can’t you hear the excitement in the room?  Applause all around, kudos and backslapping and champagne corks flying.  Those folks really earned their invoice with this one.  Then comes the rollout and the custard pies start hitting everyone involved in the face.

According to a story on Yahoo! News: “Of course, as many Drake faculty, students and alumni have pointed out, D+ is universally synonymous with sub-par academic performance.  As Ad Week’s Tim Nudd noted, the campaign ‘seems to position Drake as a school whose standards barely exceed total failure.’”

Perhaps predictably, the university’s got its back up over this criticism.  The same Yahoo! News story states: “Defenders of the ad blitz described it as ‘edgy and intriguing’ in a letter to faculty and staff this week.”

Yeah, edgy and intriguing.  That’s one way to put it.

Naturally, I am no stranger to this syndrome of getting carried away with an idea that, at its essence, is actually pretty stupid and naive.  The first of too many examples happened in college, when the student government association decided to cut funding for salaries at The Penn, our school newspaper – where yours truly toiled as an editor working to build a portfolio of clippings and for pizza money.

Alongside a friend and fellow editor at the paper, we decided to use the power of the press to fight this egregious injustice.  We wrote an editorial urging all of our fellow students to “Stick Up 4 The Penn” and tape the front page of the paper to their dorm and apartment windows.  The sheer enormity of this massive outpouring of support would surely melt the hearts and sway the minds of those Scrooges in student government and we’d be able to again earn our pizza money at the levels to which we had become accustomed.

The next day, the cumulative total of front pages seen in windows across campus came to approximately….zero.

So my friend and I spent the majority of an entire night, from midnight until about 5 a.m. taping copies of The Penn on first-floor windows from one end of campus to the other.  We’d show ‘em!  Meanwhile, unbeknownst to us, the faculty advisor for the newspaper had already worked out a backroom deal to save our salaries.  Stick Up 4 The Penn.  Sheesh!

But gosh, it sure sounded great when the idea first popped into our heads.

Copyright 2010 Transverse Park Productions LLC