Are You Good Enough? A New Earlham Ad Campaign

April 1, 2011

Now that the new Earlham website is launched, we need to take another step in strengthening Earlham’s admissions posture.  In this season of college acceptances, we are going to unfurl a major media advertising blitz that calls attention to Earlham’s distinctive qualities.   Earlham admissions are healthy, Jeff Rickey believes, but we also need to be vigorously pursuing the right students for the college.


“Are you good enough for Earlham?” is the title of the campaign.

The College has contracted with a number of international media stars, each of whom will attest that they were not good enough for Earlham, and asking viewers whether they are good enough.

Miley Cyrus will be featured in one of the first of the spots.  She says, “With my drug use and scandalous photos, I never could have been admitted to Earlham.”  And then, looking straight into the camera, she adds “I wasn’t good enough for Earlham, are you?”  “Can’t Be Tamed,” her recent hit single will be the background music.

The first of the spots will run at halftime of the two semi-final games of the NCAA Division I basketball tournament this Saturday evening.  Another will run on Monday evening at the halftime of the finals.  Being careful to observe gender equity in all things, we will also run spots in this media blitz during the halftimes of the women’s NCAA Division I basketball semifinal and final games on Sunday and Tuesday evening.  The ad series will continue running through April in slots on “Skins,” “Teen Mom,” and “Glee.”

Other spots will feature Bristol Palin, Lady Gaga, and Vice President Joe Biden.  In Biden’s spot, he says “I was good enough to be elected Vice President of the United States,” but with my record of plagiarism, I could never have been admitted to Earlham.”  And at the end, he, too, adds, “I wasn’t good enough for Earlham, are you?”

In her spot, Lady Gaga says “I never wanted to be good enough for Earlham.  I don’t think they’d let me wear meat there.”

In a spot aimed squarely at parents of college-age students, Keith Richards acknowledges throwing a TV set out of a hotel window and other acts of furniture vandalism.  “With my history of furniture mayhem,” he says in his signature gravelly voice, “I could never have been admitted to Earlham.”  “My goodness,” he adds, “at Earlham they consider Adirondack Chairs to be sacred objects.”

In one slightly different ad, Jack Nicholson reprises a famous moment from “A Few Good Men.”  “You want the truth?  I couldn’t handle the truth,” he says.  And then adds “I couldn’t handle the truth at Earlham College, can you?”

Some clever editing allows a spot showing Paul Newman explaining why he wasn’t good enough for Earlham, saying about his admissions essay, “What we have here is a failure to communicate.”

This advertising campaign will be expensive, but we hope and expect it will push Earlham to dramatic new levels of media attention.  The expenses of producing ads have been offset with income from product placements of Miller Lite.  (This will be allowable under Earlham’s alcohol policy because none of the media stars are current Earlham students, and none of the ads was filmed on the Earlham campus.)

To pay the remaining costs of the campaign, the College is selling some valuable assets with the approval of the Board of Trustees.  Miller Farm will be sold to the Richmond Sanitary District, and the worldwide rights to “How Can I Keep from Singing” will be sold to the estate of Michael Jackson.  Efforts are under way to work out a ten-year renewable sponsorship with Purina to name the new science building the “Purina Monkey Chow Hall of Science.”

Later this month, all current students will be given hats to wear throughout the summer, wherever their travels take them, bearing the message “I was (barely) good enough for Earlham; are you?”  “Hats with a semi-colon,” said Earlham Student Government Co-Presidents Ryder Comstock and Conor Dowd in unison.  “Now that’s cool.”


About Doug Bennett

Doug Bennett is Emeritus President and Professor of Politics at Earlham College. He has a wife, Ellen, and two sons, Tommy (born 1984) and Robbie (born 2003).
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