Did anyone read that?

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Mar 212010
 
Authors: Joe E. Goings

Ethan Gentert passes two 3.5-foot by 4-foot bulletin boards in Clark C the Friday before spring break that are typically plastered with advertisements for campus activities, study abroad opportunities, etc.

The one on the right holds 91 advertisements. They differ in size. They differ in position. Some are stapled. Some are push-pinned. 68 are overlapping. 23 are not. And all of this information is posted haphazardly on random areas of the board.

“It’s a little cluttered to read,” said Gentert, a junior engineering major. “It’s definitely too cluttered if the department wants someone to actually read it.”

In a four-hour span, about 15 people walked by these bulletin boards. Only one took the time out to glance. No more than four people ever looked in the direction of the bulletin boards. None of them stopped to read it.

This is just an example of the seemingly countless number of advertising venues that dot CSU’s main campus. And the students who passed by in the four hours this reporter spent with the board represent an increasing trend that is sparking a new question in the minds of advertising experts in today’s world of instant media:

If more ads fell unto this forest, and no one wanted to look, would they make an impact?

But this level of advertising can lead people to become what assistant director of Student Leadership, Involvement and Community Engagement Bobby Kunstman called “poster blind:” So many people and organizations fight for the same student population that students ignore many of the signs.

Finding alternatives

The average U.S. resident sees more than 5,000 persuasive messages per day, 3,000 of which are advertisements.
Kunstman said there is “entirely too much” advertising on campus.

SLiCE does not use paper or posters as its primary advertising method, though it uses them on occasion. The office relies on forms of what Kunstman called “green advertising,” which include e-mail, table tents inside of the dining centers and RamLink, a Web site for campus organizations to post their events.

Housing and Dining Services has taken a different primary approach. The department produces a great deal of paper and poster ads to promote its events.

Tonie Miyamoto, director of Communications for Housing and Dining Services, said the size of the event determines the advertising venue.

One example is Residence Life producing four different poster advertisements for dormitories intended to increase retention of hall residents for next year.

Some campus department are looking at a number of alternative ways to advertise that save paper, including posting events on social networking Web sites like Facebook, utilizing the electronic marquee on the Plaza and using smaller paper ads.

ASAP uses signs and posters, capitalizing on the consistency of their design to “stand out from all of the other types of marketing,” said ASAP marketing coordinator Amanda Lau in an e-mail message. But ASAP also uses alternative ways to advertise such as table tents in dining centers, press releases, mass e-mails and Facebook.

“It’s good to find ways to be more sustainable,” Miyamoto said. “You need multiple outlets to reach a population that is becoming broader, a mix of social media sites and traditional advertising to be effective in this market.”

In contrast to the bulletin boards described at the beginning of this story, a 7-foot by 4-foot board to the left holds only 27 ads. They are spaced apart and separated into noticeable sections for optimal readability.

“I’m less likely to pay attention to a cluttered board,” said Sari Phillips, a junior dance and social work major. “When I see so much stuff on a bulletin board, I’d rather not look at it because it’s just so overwhelming.”

Undergraduate secretary for the political science department Maureen Bruner, whose office sits next to the boards, said she posts notices on them periodically and said they are useful to students.

“It’s readable,” Bruner said. “Students are there all the time checking it out.”

But about 20 students interviewed for this story said they typically succumb to Kunstman’s concept of poster blindness.

“I don’t really pay attention,” junior communications major Shannon Dobrovolny said. “But maybe I pay more attention than I realize and just don’t care.”

The ‘plaza people’

Another method of advertising that some students ignore is certain organizations’ use of recruiters for different causes who frequent many areas of campus, but who make their most palpable showing on the Lory Student Center Plaza.

They ask passersby to sign petitions for particular causes or take fliers to promote particular events. But some students find their thick presence off-putting, and often times ignore them.

“I usually don’t let them (hand me fliers) because I’m not interested in what they give me,” said Ace Post, a junior sociology major. “I can’t walk through the plaza without getting harassed. Sometimes certain people force things on you. It’s irritating because I’m trying to get to class.”

Staff writer Joe E. Goings can be reached at news@collegian.com.

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