WESTMINSTER — One of the upbeat radio ads, broadcast on stations in Baltimore, Washington and York, Pa., features a Dr. Ruth-like character.
Aimed at young people, the ads, sandwiched between rock 'n' roll songs, are selling Western Maryland College and its proximity to the Baltimore and Washington metropolitan areas.
And the response has been great, said Marti O'Connell, director of admissions.
Not only has her office seen an increase in phone calls after the ads have aired, but it also has longer lines at its recruiting tables
at college fairs, she said.
"Kids will be scanning the aisles and then approach our table, saying they heard the ad on the radio," she said. "It's getting them to stop at our table and pick materials up."
WMC has advertised on radio and has stressed its proximity to Baltimore and Washington before. But it's the more upbeat and youthful approach that is attracting attention.
"We have attempted to take the message about Western Maryland to our most important market, which is young people thinking about college," said Joyce D. Muller, director of public information.
Muller said college officials, concerned about future enrollment prospects, are trying to bring more visibility to WMC. The number of graduating high school seniors is expected to fall to an all-time low over the next couple of years, she said.
"We're going to have to compete for students and try to bring more visibility to the college," Muller said. "We have an excellent program, and we're being more creative in how we promote it."
The ads, which began appearing in mid-October, have been broadcast on WBSB, WIYY 98 Rock and WYST 92-Star FM in the Baltimore area. In York, the ads appeared on WYCR. The ads have coincided with college fairs in the Baltimore and Washington areas, Muller said.
"While we recognize that parents and others may read newspapers and periodicals, we know that our target audience is teen-agers, and they're listening to these stations," Muller said. "It gets our name out and directly to the audience we hope to reach."
Muller wouldn't divulgethe cost of the ads. She said that WMC has not increased advertisingdollars, but instead has shifted its advertising priorities.
The ads were the brainchild of Hartt and Co. of Baltimore.
Sue Hartt, president and creative director, has been involved inuniversity promotion for some time but said most of the advertising has traditionallybeen aimed at the wrong people: parents, not college-bound students.
"The idea for Western Maryland was to create spots for rock 'n' roll stations," she said. "Whether that's good or ill, that's what students are listening to."
She noted the principle vehicle for students besides broadcast isword of mouth.
"The college didn't have enough (advertising dollars) to make any impact on television broadcast," she said. "We wanted to be creative and break through the clutter of stuff you hear on the radio."
Her staff created "Dr. Sigmunda Freud," a psychologist who many have likened to Dr. Ruth. Freud talks to a student about his future, but in a fun manner. She does not comeacross as someone who is patronizing or lecturing him.