(Posted October 13, 2008)

HUNTINGDON, Pa. -- In an advertising era where humans pretend they are computers and cavemen peddle insurance, Juniata College decided to go back to basics -- let students tell they're story simply and clearly.

On top of that, the college believed that no one could capture the experience a Juniata education provides better than young people who are currently enrolled at the college. Thus, a film crew from the college's digital media program, wrote, produced, and edited a series of four 30-second ads on the affordability of a Juniata education that will debut in four central Pennsylvania counties on Oct. 20.

"I had no idea how far Juniata goes out of its way to help students from all walks of life come to the college. It became clear while filming that Juniata really establishes a personal connection with all its students."

Tim Auman, Senior, Jonestown, Pa.

"It was one of the greatest learning experiences I've had," says Grace Canfield, a junior from Littleton, N.H. studying marketing communications. "It taught me a lot about marketing. The advertising message has to be direct and everything the viewer sees in the ads affects how they perceive Juniata."

Canfield, Tim Auman, a senior from Jonestown, Pa., and about four other students from Juniata's Digital Media program created the ad campaign in under three months. The campaign features four interviews with students from counties surrounding Juniata. Each student explains how they were able to enroll at Juniata and how they were able to afford a liberal arts education at a private college.

"Juniata is well known in the local area but we found in our research that there is a perception locally that a private college is too expensive," says Gabe Welsch, assistant vice president of marketing at Juniata. "We wanted to create a clear message that a Juniata education is within reach of most families and who better to tell the story than students who call central Pennsylvania home."

The ads feature three current Juniata students and one recent graduate: Neil Perrin, a senior from Huntingdon studying digital media; Clare Coda, a junior from Shady Grove, Pa. in Franklin County studying biology; Sarah Slat, a junior from Hollidaysburg, Pa. in Blair County studying psychology; and Jessica Saive, a 2008 graduate from Altoona, Pa. in Blair County who earned a degree in biology.

"Creating these ads makes us feel as though this is very real," says Auman, who is studying digital media. "For a professional experience, it's important to have something you've done appear on television instead of posting something on YouTube."

The college decided to launch its affordability campaign last year with its "Four-Year Guarantee" program, which played up Juniata's four-year graduation rate as compared with figures from the Association of Independent Colleges and Universities of Pennsylvania showing that only 37 percent of students at "state-related" schools graduate in four years or less. From Juniata's class of 2006, 96 percent of students graduated in four years or less; typically, Juniata has about a 92 percent four-year graduation rate. At "state" schools, only 27 percent graduate in four years or less. (Penn State is "state-related," meaning it is supported by state funding but is otherwise independent of the Pennsylvania Legislature's control.)

The four-year guarantee comes with a laundry list of conditions: It only applies to domestic freshmen, not international or transfer students; it doesn't include room and board; and it requires students to maintain "qualitative academic progress" and complete an average of 30 credit hours per year. Juniata also will pick up the tab only for those classes a student needs to fulfill the requirements for graduation.

The television commercials are the next step in Juniata's efforts to step up recruitment of students from Juniata's traditional market -- central Pennsylvania. The ads will air in Blair, Cambria, Centre and Huntingdon counties. The college plans to expand the campaign to other areas in throughout next year.

Although the ad film crew were all Juniata students save for Nathan Wagoner, director of the college's digital media program (he also directed the commercials), many of the filmmakers were surprised at the depth of personal connection many of the interview subjects felt for their college.

"I had no idea how far Juniata goes out of its way to help students from all walks of life come to the college," Auman says. "It became clear while filming that Juniata really establishes a personal connection with all its students."

Contact April Feagley at feaglea@juniata.edu or (814) 641-3131 for more information.