By BRYAN OROZCO
You may have seen them around town this summer, big and blue in high and low places, and maybe moving next to you as you drove.
Advertisements telling you to ‘ThinkSmart’ and, “Focus on your future, not how you’ll pay for it,” were seen on billboards, at bus stops and wrapped around Sun Tran buses and the Tucson Streetcar this summer.
Outdoor ads were not the only forms being broadcasted to Tucsonans.
Pima Community College delved into the world of affinity marketing as they paid for Internet ads and commercials to be broadcasted on websites when it correlates with your browsers and history searches, according to PCC Marketing & Communications.
Websites such as Hulu and Pandora saw PCC ads receive thousands of impressions, when an ad is fetched from its source, over the summer, according to PCC Marketing Metrics on July 8, 2015.
PCC administration recommended the ad campaign to the governing board, and it was approved in March 2015.
The amount of advertising PCC had in summer of 2014 is immensely different than summer 2015.
This year, the campaign included outdoor and digital ads that ran from March to August, and radio, print and TV ads that ran from April to August.
In 2014, radio ads broadcasted from mid-March to May and outdoor, digital, TV and print only ads broadcasted in the month of August, according to PCC Marketing & Communications.
The budget allotted for the 2015 ad campaign was $434,700. That amount is staggering when taking into account last year’s budget cuts on education made by Gov. Doug Ducey, which left community colleges like PCC with no funding from the state.
Paul Schwalbach, PCC’s marketing and public relations manager, explained that the ad campaign has been a multipronged effort to increase the visibility of the college.
This is sort of the first chapter in a multi-year plan, and its really more than just advertisement,” he said.
PCC’s recent past may be a reason for allocating such a high advertising budget.
In February, the college’s accreditor took PCC off a two year probation. The ad campaign started in March.
“The fact that we are off probation is good news, and it did coincide with the initiation of the ad campaign,” said Schwalbach. “So we had a better message to tell because we are no longer on probation. So it made sense to start advertising at that point.”
Schwalbach added that the college wants to establish a deeper relationship with the community, one that goes beyond just providing facilities for Tucsonans to use.
PCC Chancellor Lee Lambert also feels that the sanctions had an impact on the decision to have an ad campaign, but how much of an impact it had is unclear. Lambert also admits that he himself played a role in the campaign.
Given the nature of the position the college was in, he warned the governing board of potential budget cuts and layoffs if the college not only increased student enrollment but also student retention.
PCC Marketing & Communications will not be able to see if the ad campaign increased student enrollment until fall 2016, however the results on how the ads over this summer are in.
According to PCC Marketing Metrics, there were a total of 15,682 ‘clicks’ on PCC online ads that sent users to their website and information on what the college offers and how to enroll.
Now, that does not mean it correlates with true enrollment.
PCC has always seen high numbers of interest to attend the college on the part of the community, yet the number of enrollment continues to decline year by year. This underlines the problem that the administration admits the college has: the ability of retaining students.
Current students did see the ads around town or online over the summer, but when they were informed of the budget for those ads some were a bit skeptical.
Valeria Lizarraga, 18, said, “You can always better something from the inside, but I don’t know. I guess its business.”
She went on to say that the SMART Board, an interactive whiteboard that uses touch detection, in her math class does not work and she wishes that some of the budget of the ad campaign instead went towards fixing the board, or maybe improvements to technical support.
As students get accustomed to their fall semester class and the administration searches for a solution to declining enrollment numbers, it is unsettling to think that there are students among us that are struggling to pay for classes and buy textbooks while there is a billboard on Grant Rd. between Tucson Blvd. and Treat Ave. with a pretty hefty price tag.