Kristen Borgdorff, Reporter
“I understand where they were trying to go, but I think they missed the point. It doesn’t really advertise Redeemer as a whole. It’s missing the community” — a fourth year student.
“We can’t make every single ad about our community because we’re more than just that — and this ad does an awesome job of portraying that. We need to encompass every aspect of Redeemer’s education, and sometimes we need to focus on the beauty of our education rather than just our community” — a second year student.
“I think it’s disappointing that Redeemer is advertising something that misrepresents their programs” — a third year student.
These are just a few opinions on the promotional video for Redeemer’s Health Sciences department that was recently released by Redeemer’s marketing team. The video, titled “Redeemer Health Sciences,” can be found on Redeemer’s YouTube page.
After watching the video, I was left with some questions, one of the biggest being what other students would think of the video. With this question in mind, I set out to listen to what students had to say.
Some students had minimal opinions, while others had strong opinions. Some people even had opinions on other people’s opinions. Some questioned why Redeemer would hire professional actresses, while others questioned how we could afford to hire professionals. I took all of these questions and contacted Josh Sieders, Redeemer’s Marketing Director, to see what he had to say.
While it’s easy to jump to conclusions and form quick judgements, two big questions that students should address before drawing opinions on this video are these: What is the intent of this video? and Who is it made for?
These were the two overarching questions I brought to Sieders. I found that once I had a better understanding of these questions, I was able to have a positive view of the video and how it is achieving its intended purpose.
Sieders answered my first question by saying, “The overarching goal is to raise Redeemer’s profile, to make us look exciting, credible, and to show that we are a valuable place to have an education.” He continued on to explain a key aspect of Redeemer’s vision in its self-promotion: “We are always trying to showcase the best about Redeemer at a high-quality professional level so that people associate that high-quality with Redeemer.”
Sieders also mentioned that the primary target audience is 15 to 17 year olds, with the assumption being that they are a group of people that have minimal familiarity with and knowledge of Redeemer.
An initial reaction among a number of our students when they watched the promotional video was to question who the main actress is. With Redeemer being a small community, we are quick to notice when someone outside of our community is used in our marketing.
First, why did we hire a professional actress when we could have used someone from our own drama department? Sieders addressed this concern, expressing how the marketing department is always sensitive to Redeemer’s small community. Sieders explained how a casting call was sent out to the public, as well as to Redeemer students. The company that created the video, Media that Matters, held the responsibility and right to make the decisions on who was hired, whether the actresses came from within Redeemer’s student body or outside of it.
The promotional video depicts the life story of a Redeemer Health Sciences student, meaning that several different actresses were required to play the same person at various ages. Sieders explains, “This actress auditioned, and she matched well with a really strong 15 year old and a really strong 11 year old, and we didn’t have that alignment in any other area.”
Another reaction that some students had was the question of money: how can we afford this? Sieders explained how Redeemer has a certain amount of money set aside to be used for the intention of marketing the institution and how his job is to decide how and where that money is spent.
He posed the following question: if we didn’t market this, how else would people hear about Redeemer? Sieders notes, “In many cases, certain church communities know about Redeemer, and they have sent their kids to Redeemer. They just know about the school with minimal marketing.” However, this is not always the case. Sieders went on to explain that “over recent years, the market has shifted and the competition has grown, so we need to tell our story well so that students are aware of Redeemer being a good and viable option.”
Many people were curious as to why Redeemer chose to focus on the Health Sciences department rather than focus on all of our programs or another aspect of Redeemer. Sieders informed me that this was a decision made by the institution. “We wondered and we did research on whether promoting a handful of programs or one a little more heavily than others would have a double effect. It would help that program, obviously, but it would also float all other programs as a result.
“Theoretically, the way that would work is that if you choose a program that a lot of students in Ontario are interested in…suddenly Redeemer will be on their radar, more so than if we had chosen a program that was a lot less popular.” Health Sciences fit the bill of a popular program among prospective university students across the province.
“We also know that students frequently change their minds in what they are interested in, whether before they get to university, during the application, or after they’ve arrived. The thinking is that a lot of students don’t really know what they want…so you show them that Redeemer is a good option for that.”
At the beginning of this article, I cited a student saying that they felt as though the promotional video is a misrepresentation of our programs. Sieders clarified that the marketing department put in their best efforts to avoid this misrepresentation. They tried to prevent this by showing a graduation scene, and then showing the main actress at a training session in the hospital. While some of the scenes depicted in the video may not be direct “Redeemer experiences,” they are possible illustrations of what could be done after completing a Health Sciences degree. Every doctor has to get their undergrad somewhere, and this video allows students to see that starting their post-secondary education at Redeemer is a viable option when planning to go on to become a doctor.
Finally, Sieders explained the reason as to why this video focuses mainly on academics rather than the community that Redeemer has to offer: “In years past, a lot of emphasis for our marketing has been on community. That is certainly a huge selling feature, but in the process of marketing that, we’ve sort of dropped in many people’s minds in our credibility as an academic institution in terms of quality of degree.”
While at first I may have shared some of the skeptical thoughts that many students seem to hold, after speaking with Sieders, I found that my view on the promotional video was much more positive, and I am pleased to say that I am proud to be a student at Redeemer University. It is my hope that this article may offer insight into the reasoning behind the decisions made regarding this video and that you too can feel this sense of pride.
The promotional video will be viewed at eight select theatres in the following areas: Ancaster, Hamilton, Burlington, Cambridge, Guelph, Toronto, Kitchener, London, and Welland. The airing time runs from January 26 to February 6 and October 19 to November 1. During this time, it is expected that there will be 4000-5000 views per theatre.
Finally, Sieders was eager to encourage students to reach out to him or the Marketing Department if they have any other questions regarding this promotional video, or any other marketing related question, as they are always happy to answer.