SMA Redefines Continuing Ed at NYU

NEW YORK The New York University School of Continuing and Professional Studies is taking a different tack to catch the attention of bleary-eyed commuters by appealing to their sense of fulfillment, rather than their career ambitions.

A new outdoor, print and radio campaign breaking this month from Seiter Miller Advertising touts the school as a place to engage your mind and meet new and interesting people, rather than simply a place to learn a new computer program.

“Its always indicative of the economic state,” said Ken Krimstein, creative director on the account at SMA. “People look to advance themselves in an up market, and use it as a life preserver in a down market.

But attitudes have shifted since the Sept. 11 attacks on New York and Washington D.C., Krimstein said. “We’ve found that personal fulfillment has moved in a very long way, alongside economic betterment.”

To appeal to that sense of self-betterment, print ads and promotional materials carrying the NYU logo feature soft images, like big white mugs of frothy cappuccino, paired with copy that reads, “The class lasted two hours, the post-class discussion—three cappuccinos.” Another ad shows an open literature book with superimposed copy, “I’m not sure if I’m an accountant getting in touch with my inner poet, or a poet getting in touch with my inner accountant.”

“A lot of things we’ve heard in the research are students saying, ‘The classes are so interesting and we all want to hang around afterward and make friends,’ ” said Krimstein. “To that extent it has become more of a branding focus rather than a retail focus.”

That shift of focus has as much to do with the competitive landscape as it does research, said Mike Bailey, management supervisor at the agency. NYU, one of the leading institutions offering continuing education programs, now competes with a variety of schools, some not even in New York. The University of Phoenix offers online courses, investing heavily in advertising their for-profit educational services, Bailey said. Likewise, NYU is now competing with specialty language schools and art schools, like the New York Film Academy, not to mention business-focused schools like Baruch College and city and community colleges.

“The competition has tended to follow us,” Krimstein said. So we had to move the market and really carve out a brand leadership position for the next couple of years, underpinned in this human voice.”

The New York independent shop has handled the NYU continuing ed account since 1982.