"It was a dark and stormy night. I was working late when suddenly. . . ." Sam Spade, portrayed by a Humphrey Bogart sound-alike, encounters a disturbed young man who agitatedly screams, "When I first came to BYU, I decided to live off campus. Now I have seven roommates who are eating me out of house and home!"
Spade calms this poor troubled soul by showing him a free, color brochure for Brigham Young University's on-campus "living-learning experience."A second ad features an irrational father shouting, "Look at her grades! They're UP! She hasn't written for more money in months!" An irrational mother says, "You must help us find our daughter." The creative Sam Spade says, "Folks, I know exactly where your daughter is. She's living on campus at BYU."
Incredulous, the mother asks, "Our daughter?" "Little Suzie!" the father chimes in, "What about her grades?" Spade replies, "The dorms have special study halls with tutors, typewriters and, of course, computers."
"But the money!" shouts the shocked father. Spade notes that the "dorm rates freeze for four years, and she doesn't NEED a car! Remember, she's living on campus."
"My baby," says the mother, "living on campus!"
So BYU has joined the advertising world. These catchy radio ads regularly celebrate on-campus housing, which began losing students in 1980. Officials were worried about the decline in high school seniors living on campus their first year. According to Ted Hindmarsh, director of housing, the students living on campus their first year are more likely to excel academically and endure until graduation.
Improvements were planned. Officials were not convinced that students should have such amenities as color TVs and Jacuzzis. So they kept the "spartan rooms" that require occupants to go down the hall for the rest room and shower. But innovations included reading-writing centers, math labs, access to tutors, and normally high-enrollment courses offered under more intimate circumstances.
But the best news for students is the measurable improvement in the formerly spartan cafeteria offerings. Students can now choose from four distinct lines offering a great variety of foods, and are free to eat unlimited quantities. Unfortunately, some freshmen gained as much as 25 pounds during their first year, a phenomenon known locally as the "freshman bulge."
It also may be responsible for the plethora of "BYU coed jokes" widely circulated in recent years. Ted Hindmarsh says it also disturbed many freshman mothers. So on-campus housing offered nutrition and exercise training for interested students, and color-coded every food item: (Green: "go for it"; green-yellow: caution, high in calories; and yellow: detour, high in calories, low in nutrition.)
Following the changes, Hindmarsh thought it was urgent to get the word out, especially to parents with an out-dated BYU housing image.
Advertising! Some BYU officials "fell off their chairs" at the mere thought, says Hindmarsh. But they were persuaded when Peggy Fugal Advertising of Provo created a Sam Spade take-off. Fugal thought it was time to shed the stuffy, boring image for one that was more fun. Hindmarsh liked it because Bogey and Bacall's reputation is strong among parents of freshmen.
Catchy and clever, it produced a new BYU image overnight. The response, according to Fugal and Hindmarsh has been completely positive, and on-campus housing enrollment quickly increased. In spite of a waiting list, the ad campaign continues.
I've saved the best one for last.
Spade says, "I was working late. Suddenly, the door opened and there she was. I could see there was something special about her."
"Sam, I did it. I confess."
Spade is shocked, because she doesn't seem the type.
"Tell me I did the right thing - Please!"
"You were nearby, you had help, you had a social life."
"It was obvious she'd been living on campus at BYU."
"It was all too easy. They offered me EVERYTHING. A house, food, a way to MAKE IT!"
"And you TOOK it!"
"I HAD to." She raves about study halls with computers and typewriters.
"You mean. . . ."
"Yes, they TUTORED me."
"I had three square meals a day, clean linen, AND . . . I had FUN!" (spoken in low, sexy Lauren Bacall manner)
She leaves and Spade sends for a free color brochure, promising an unforgettable on-campus experience.
It is the ads that are unforgettable.