Can uOttawa be cheeky? You bet!

Posted on Thursday, May 14, 2015

Theatre students Katy Raymond and Morgan Briault with two members of the production team.

Last year, the University not only launched its new Defy the Conventional branding, focusing on its extraordinary people, programs and research — it also came up with an unconventional way to promote its services and events, the G vs. G videos. I was lucky enough to help launch the project.

It started with the idea of a vlog (video blog) for students by students that would feature events and services available to them. We made a pilot, but the concept didn’t quite resonate with the students who saw it. They pointed out that it was too long and the monologue made it… well, boring!

To promote uOttawa services and events differently, I approached Professor Kevin Orr, at the time acting director of the Department of Theatre, to help us find a new video concept and cast students for the roles. Katy Raymond and Morgan Briault, both theatre students, were selected to play Garnet and Grey, respectively, named after uOttawa’s official colours. The concept was to have the characters try to outwit one another in different ways, hence the title, G vs. G.

The competition between the two leads to cheeky stories, unconventional for an educational institution that, up until the launch of the rebranding, liked to play it safe. Standing out from the pack can be scary, though. Every time a G vs. G video is sent out into the social media universe, I worry about people’s reactions. So far, the response has been encouraging, although some bewilderment can be felt in the posted comments, which contain undertones of “Did my university really create that?”

Katy Raymond and Morgan Briault during a video shoot. They are seen in the camera monitor

To deal with the question of bilingualism, we made the videos dialogue-free. The videos unfold to the rhythm of fast-paced classical music, with  ragtime-style title music and an intro starring the two characters that makes them easily recognizable. In a minute or less, we catch viewers’ attention and end with the information to be conveyed. The packaging is essentially similar to what is done in the ad industry, but for uOttawa, it’s a novelty.

This project has allowed us to meet the increasing desire at the University for videos that appeal to students, to maximize the use of current communication tools and to cross-promote on various platforms: service websites, campus TV screens and social media. Since the first video was launched last August, the number of views on Facebook and YouTube has reached close to 60,000. With every G vs. G video posted on the uOttawa Facebook page, activity statistics creep up: viewers like them, share them and comment on them.

Katy Raymond and Morgan Briault are made up to look like zombies.

The G vs. G videos are entirely produced in house, from concept development to production and from acting to videography. By making use of in-house resources, we promote our own talent, which was also one of our goals, and avoid the steep costs of hiring a production company.

Although employees and students alike appreciate the videos and love exercising to them (they are screened in campus gyms), we have yet to measure their impact on campus event participation and service use. However, as we launch the last two videos for this year, the response has been sufficiently positive to produce another 10 videos for 2015-16, with a new actress in the role of Garnet. Congratulations, Katy, on graduating!

Katy Raymond holds up a cake with a picture of Morgan Briault looking distressed.

The videos can be viewed on the uOttawa Facebook and YouTube pages.

Valérie Michaud-Lal is a communications officer at the Office of the Associate Vice-President, Student Services.

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