UTSA looks to make its name and its story known throughout San Antonio through a series of broadcasts on local radio stations and billboards across San Antonio.
“It’s actually a very small marketing campaign,” David Gabler, assistant vice president for university communications, said. “We’re just coordinating a bunch of different things that were already out there.”
UTSA has stepped up advertisement recently to help promote private donations for it. Most notable among them is promoting UTSA’s desire to become a national research university. Currently, there are only three national research universities in Texas, and, Gabler explained, UTSA would love to be fourth, or “even fifth or sixth.”
The benefits of advertising are not limited to calling attention to research, however.
“We, as a university, want to increase our enrollment because that brings in more revenue that we can perhaps put to other parts of the university. We also may want to try to increase the pool of applicants, which then allows us to be more selective and allows us to essentially raise the quality of those that are admitted,” Dr. L. J. Shrum, department chair of marketing, said.
“That’s good for students because it raises the prestige of the university and makes your degree more valuable.”
Advertising also raises awareness about UTSA and its signature academic offerings.
“It increases brand awareness and so, as we increase brand awareness, we also may have an increase in brand prestige,” Shrum said.
“And the more that is the case, the more you have people willing to donate time and money to the university. And that helps as well, again, because that frees up money to put into other parts.”
Gabler stressed that prestige as well, but in different terms.
“We want to remind the public of UTSA’s excellence and accessibility,” Gabler said, “We want to increase community awareness about UTSA’s excellence.”
While student involvement in the current advertising campaign is small, Gabler claims they will need students as the project progresses.
“What we really want to stress about this marketing campaign is that it is very much in the beginning,” Gabler said,
“We have used student focus groups already and will continue to do so.”
This isn’t the first time student focus groups have been used, however, to make sure that advertising campaigns were on the right track. Shrum pointed to an example in which students were used to market an idea. He said that, because of the similarities of students and the audience the university wants to reach, students are used in deciding how to create an advertisement.
But UTSA is the only public four-year university in San Antonio, and thus Gabler feels the university needs to remind the public of UTSA’s excellent programs and commitment to the community.
“We are a public university. Because of that, we have to have public accountability.” Gabler said. “We have more stakeholders than say, Trinity University. We have to communicate to all our stakeholders, first among them students, what we are doing. It’s a huge mission.”
The success and failure of this advertisement or communication will be hard to judge.
“In business, we teach that you want to have measurable objectives. Let’s say that the objective is that you want to get more applicants, and so you look at the applicants before and the applications after. Well, that’s a crude measurement because things could intervene,” Shrum said.
“We have this thing called an economic mess.”
However, there are currently marketing groups in mind to see if they can judge the success or failure of the advertising,
“We are using marketing research to see if this advertising is appealing the way we want to or not,” Gabler said. “However, if it isn’t, we will fine tune it accordingly. If it really seems like it is not working, we will not continue it. It will be successful if we can raise 100-150 million in private support for our programs.”
Even if these goals are ever met, Gabler suggests that this advertising can be successful in other ways that might not be so visible.
“We really want to tell UTSA’s story, and we really want to show how a higher education can benefit so many people,” Gabler said. “A university degree in this century can change lives for the better, and we want to make sure people know that is what UTSA is all about.”