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Sunday, May 15, 2011

SMU Advertising over the Ages - including pictures of their famous Jumps

"Most turkeys taste better the day after; my mother's tasted better the day before." - Rita Rudner


Someone asked me why I asked she was from SMU (on seeing pictures of her jumping)

Luckily, SMU archives some of their advertisements online, so you can see how their advertising has evolved over the years.

1) 2003 January - 'SMU is different'

The emphasis is more on the quality of the education, and how different they are - which is why they do handstands, jump and do gymnastics.

Note also how they are dressed - all casually.

2) 2005 March - 'Not just.but'

Where there is still talk of their students receiving a good education, the emphasis has clearly shifted to job prospects. Note that maybe a third of the people featured here are wearing suits (up from 0% in the first ad).

Also, don't miss the following lines which are repeatedly hammered into you: "100% of SMU graduates found jobs within six months, 60% well before they even graduated, 75% receiving at least two offers."

We still see the famous SMU jump(s).

3) 2005 August - 'Make the world a richer place'

I was considering leaving this out of my analysis since it was for their specialised Masters in Wealth Management (I left out a previous ad for it despite its boasting that millionaires could count on their graduates) but I was just so disgusted by the copy that I had to include it:

"Our Vision: To Make the World a Richer Place"

See, ads in the industry (at least those that I've seen) don't openly proclaim that they seek to grow the treasure of Mammon - instead they stress things like tradition, trust, customer service or similar fuzzy-wuzzy things.

This, on the other hand, promotes naked, unabashed self-interest - with a headline that is more likely to be used by a NGO.

4) 2006 May - 'Affirmation 2006'

The SMU students have stopped doing gymnastics and jumping, but now seem to be into dance.

This edition stresses the popularity of the university, creating a self-fulfilling prophecy (hot favourites remain hot because they are highlighted as hot favourites).

Incidentally the text on all 6 pages is identical except for the names of the students.

5) 2008 March - 'Let's Make a Difference'

There is a seeming return to emphasising the quality of the education. Yet, note that the 'practical' aspect is hidden just below the surface, with key phrases like "places our graduates among employers' top choices", "business study missions, overseas internships", "many are also talented spotted" (sic)

Oh, and don't forget this great snub (coming on top of 66% finding jobs before graduation etc): "Our top 20% Business Management graduate employees take home an average salary of S$4,100 per month - 28% more than the top 20% earners from other local universities"

However, there're only 10 individuals in casual attire - versus 20 in formal. Compare this with the first ad of January 2003.

6) 2010 March - 'A Different U'

This series notable for only having two students in office attire (one of whom is selling Fish Bee Hoon to boot)

The message might appear to have become less 'pragmatic', but its motivating spirit is still clear. For example, the Fish Bee Hoon page says that: "Many found challenging careers in a variety of industries, others became budding entrepreneurs. Either way, each one has what it takes to choose their own path in life". It is significant that both highlighted paths involve business success instead of, say, becoming a social activist (perhaps volunteerism is only called for when you're in school - after you graduate, just focus on making big bucks).

Also, see the Rodin page: the primary motive talk of a good education is finally revealed - "to produce well-rounded graduates who are fully preparedfor the 'real world' demands of business, government and life in general."

I was surprised that there was talk of business ethics - but this came after the Financial Crisis, after all.

7) March-May 2011 - Various

One or two old ads (e.g. the Ballerina) are rerun, but the vast majority show graduates in office attire (even if not always suits) posing in no-nonsense poses.

You know that they're positioning themselves strongly as a business university which brings you good job prospects, as gone are the smiles, fun poses, gymnastics and interaction with professors. However, one thing puzzles me - if their top 20% Business Management graduate employees are taking home a higher average salary than the top 20% earners from other local universities, why aren't they smiling (or even looking smug?) There're two possibilities - they aren't outperforming the main two other local universities anymore (there's now a noticeable lack of statistics attacking the reader), or they're just being less hardsell in their advertising - which I can't say.

What is interesting though is the stronger emphasis on community service: the non-profit sector is now listed as a valid career ambition (the page with the ladies in red and blue dresses), "when doing business with a heart, the whole society profits" (the Third World classroom) and community service is mentioned in each graduate's cluttered CV. They seem to be trying too hard for some though ("Anti-smoking advocate"?!) And it seems CV padding is not something SMU advises against: "Winner, MAS essay competition", "Winner, beauty pageant" and above all the superbly generic "Award winner" and "Student leader" do not seem particularly suitable for the purposes of these advertisements.

I will end off by noting that it is surprising that they're featuring civil servants now (and even an Air Force officer - misleadingly dressed in a business suit).
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