Blog #5: Choosing the Right College – Round 2 (Advertising & Social Media)

This past weekend my family came up to see me since I last saw them at the beginning of September. My younger sister, who is in her senior year of high school, is in the same boat that I was just four years ago: deciding where to go to college. During this brief visit, I was able to talk to her more about what her thought process was in choosing which schools to consider and apply to, and the topic of social media came into the conversation a lot.

Even though the dynamics have not changed (like the questions you ask when making your college list – Big or small campus? Home or away? Frats/Sororities or no? Etc.), I think social media is playing an even bigger role compared to four years ago. I mean maybe I lived underneath a rock back then, but I believe social media is playing a bigger part in how high school seniors are making their decisions since their lives seem to revolve around it so much. And colleges are taking advantage of this craze year-round by promoting their campuses and programs, and shoving it down potential students’ throats about open houses and day visits with updates. I mean look at Siena – on its Admissions Twitter page, they wrote just a week ago, “Just a reminder if you are posting #siena2020 photos on @instagram make sure you make it public or we can’t see it and send the surprise!” Notice a few things? Twitter? Check. Instagram? Check. Engagement? Check. Community-like feeling? Check. A unique hashtag? Check. And to top it all off, a mysterious surprise for saying you got accepted into the school? Check. Why wouldn’t you want to attend Siena?! Siena, just like other colleges across the country, is being smart in their marketing and advertising strategies. Paper brochures and flyers go home to Mom & Dad; social media targets and lures the prospective high school students in by engaging with them; and word-of-mouth gets around to the entire family. (And speaking of paper brochures, guess who is taking part in the Siena professional photo shoot on Thursday for upcoming marketing materials? This girl. I know – lucky me!)

For students like my sister who still are not sure as to where to go, there are so many options available to help with that decision: in-person visits to campus, virtual tours, e-mails, paper brochures, websites, reactions from current students and alumni/alumnae, social media (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube, Pinterest), billboards/newspaper ads, bus stop ads, college fairs, etc. And these prospective students scroll through and scour social media to get the “real” reactions of current students before committing to considering and/or choosing a school. At least I saw this with my own eyes over the summer with my sister’s friends. One of her friends went all along the East Coast (from Massachusetts all the way down to Florida) and visited a whole bunch of colleges she was interested in during her summer vacation. And how do I know this? The girl every few hours of every day of her three week trip updated her SnapChat SnapStory with geotag filters that pinpointed what school she was at on that particular day – with the main picture being a campus location photo. I will be honest some of them were cool and eye-catching design-wise, and I am sure kids these days will base their choices on how pretty a campus is or what cool things surround the college (Washington D.C. pops into mind since the girl went crazy with Snaps of all the monuments). But let’s be real – the green and gold Siena dome and banner geotag filter on Snapchat cannot be beat, ha ha.

It is funny how high school guidance counselors always warn the seniors to be conscious of what they put on social media because colleges will be looking with a simple Google search. But the same goes for colleges too – prospective students are checking social media to see how often the platforms are updated, how they interact with students and potential students, and what kind of reputation they get from all the forms of media and communication they see and hear.

Blog #4: “Sex Sells”/“The Apprentice” (Women in the Business World)

With Donald Trump being a hot topic in the news lately … and the center for comedy as well *cough cough SNL, cough cough Jimmy Fallon* … I’ve found myself watching old seasons of “The Apprentice” in my spare time. I never used to watch them, but now that I’m taking marketing classes for my minor, I have found them both entertaining and informing. Yes, when I watch the very first episode for a particular season, I always try to judge who will win at the end of the season and who’s going to be my season favorite. But more importantly, I try to learn at least one thing from every episode in marketing, business, or management senses. Because even though half of Donald Trump’s tasks seem impossible or crazy, the contenders manage to always do something extraordinary or something not so extraordinary using both their street smarts and book smarts.

So besides comedic media and political media focusing on Donald Trump and his presidential candidacy, why am I bringing up “The Apprentice” in this blog? A common statement that keeps being brought up in Advertising class is “Sex sells.” Funny enough, I was watching the Season 2 finale of “The Apprentice” (episode 16) last week and they dedicated a whole segment called “Sex Sells”, where they looked back at three previous moments of the season where the contestants – both male and female – used their physical appearances and sex appeals to make sales (30:20 – 34:00). Carolyn Kepcher, Donald Trump’s right-hand woman, said she was “ashamed to be a woman” based on the female contestants’ advances, most particularly on the infamous and controversial event that took place on Wall Street with contestant Ivana on Episode 13 (dropping her skirt for $20 to in turn make more money on her M&M candy bar sales). In that same episode, “M&M sisters/twins” Sandy and Jennifer dressed very similarly in red tank tops, skirts, heels, and straightened blonde hair to sell $5 candy bars to people on Wall Street. Ivana said, “They look like strippers with candy bars, cheap hookers … I’m pissed they’re using sex appeal to sell and I need to do something completely drastic to get 20 bucks for this candy bar.” So naturally to beat out her competition, she thought dropping her skirt was the right move to make. Despite her passionate defenses in the boardroom, Ivana was sent home for her actions. Season 2 was written about in online articles about the whole notion of women in the business world based on the Season 2 female contestants’ behaviors.

Even though that episode/season aired in 2004, it is still relevant today as we have concluded so many times in class and have noticed in our everyday lives outside of class (i.e. movie/TV show castings; print and media advertisements). Tonight, for instance, I went to the Women@Work event at New Hall, which was a networking opportunity for undergrad female students to talk to businesswomen. One of the topics that came up immediately in the discussion portion of the event was “Do women still have to meet society’s standards and wear that low-cut shirt at an interview to get the job?” Quite a number of the businesswomen took the mic and said no – women should not have to use their physical appearances to get a job in today’s day and age. As one woman said, “Confidence is the sexiest garment to wear to an interview and in the work place.” Even though this empowering statement is true, “sex sells” is also true as well in the advertising world, especially here in the States.

Related links:

NY Times “To The Editor” piece (2/1/04) –

Slate article (2/6/04) –

“The Apprentice”, Season 2, Episode 13 –

“The Apprentice”, Season 2, Episode 16 (Finale) –