Bringing the drive to discover home to Minnesota’s doorstep.


Twelve years ago, “the U” debuted its signature brand platform – Driven to Discover® (D2D). Clouds parted, angels sang (the Minnesota Rouser). After 156 years, the U’s 18 schools galvanized around a single idea. The work felt more like a technology brand than a sleepy institution. Ads featured U researchers answering questions submitted by the public, showing how their work was answering Minnesota’s biggest concerns. The U was united. The U was connected to Minnesota. The U earned a gold Effie.

Fast-forward to 2018.

Higher education is under siege because of exorbitant costs to students, and the state.

An eight-year pattern of declining enrollment squeezes universities nationwide 3 (public institutions are reliant on tuition for financial support).

There’s a wide gap in perceptions between the metro area and the greater Minnesota.

And creatively, the once galvanizing brand movement has lost its mojo.

Nevertheless, leadership was driven to rediscover D2D’s magic (hey, getting 18 schools marching in one direction is no small task).

And so, the effort to reinvigorate D2D began.

Sharpening our focus.

This campaign was not about recruiting students. It’s about building statewide support for a public institution that relies directly on public support, many of whom have little or no connection to the U. With that objective in mind, we landed on Minnesota opinion leaders as our primary audience.

We sharpened our audience further by exploring demographics, attitudes and behaviors.

Armed with this data, we knew we could make the U’s media budget work exponentially harder by reimagining its connection plan, and its stagnant creative platform, in a fresh, audience-focused way.

The Insight.

Being new, we were able to see what others had perhaps missed. Assignment in hand, we hung up all 12 years of the campaign and stepped back. What made some iterations connect while others did not? The answer would literally change the face of D2D. Because the face of the campaign, more often than not, was not Minnesotans, but the university’s faculty and staff. The campaign had consistently showed the U’s drive to discover, but it failed to show the impact of that drive on the lives of everyday Minnesotans. Which was a miss with an audience that, according to research, “Likes to stand out”, “Seek challenge, novelty and change”, “Wants to climb to the top” and is “Very active socially.”

With all that in mind, three strategic tenets guided our work.

Show the impact.

Offer proof, not platitudes. Show how the U impacts the lives of everyday Minnesotans by including them in the campaign.


Make it a dialogue.

Use the campaign to literally turn what had become a one-sided, U-driven monologue into a dialogue with real Minnesotans.


Bring the innovation.

Simply put, our message and media need to be as innovative as the discoveries they highlighted.

The Idea.


You know the University of Minnesota. But do you know what the U does for you?


This simple question gave light to a complete reimagining of the University of Minnesota’s Driven to Discover® brand platform. It would encourage ongoing involvement by continually generating refreshed streams of content designed to reach our key influencers in the places they already spend their time. We modeled user journeys to ensure our content would reach each Minnesotan in the way—and on the platform—that they were most comfortable. It was in this way that we were able to unlock a true “subscription mentality” that kept them continually coming back for more.

User journey

User journey

User journey

The Work.

Taking a cue from the entertainment industry, we introduced the effort with a :60 trailer that teased people to a much larger body of work. The spot was set to highly hum-able original music (recorded by the actual University Marching Band), and showed what Minnesotans connect most with – Minnesota.

Next, came a series of quick-hit :15 TV, digital video and banner ads. Each continuing to invite the viewer to take discovery to the next degree but designed to get the idea across even if they didn’t.

At the campaign site, degrees of discovery are just what visitors found. Content in every form, from most schools, was made easily available. At the heart of which was a series of Driven to Discover documentaries. Each short film depicts a specific story of how a University faculty member’s work is directly affecting the state and its residents. In a highly cinematic fashion.

:15 TV Spots

:15 TV Spots

:15 TV Spots

:15 TV Spots

:15 TV Spots

:15 TV Spots

:15 TV Spots

:15 TV Spots

Short Films

Short Films

Short Films

Short Films

Display Ads

Print Ads

Print Ads

Print Ads

The Results.

Our reinvention of the U of M’s Driven to Discover platform dramatically exceeded all expectations, while stretching the budget to negotiate over $52K worth of added value media and over-delivering on broadcast impressions goals by 28%. Perhaps most telling, this effort has sparked new belief in Driven to Discover within the University of Minnesota community itself, with countless professors itching to share their stories in next year’s continuation.

  • Connection

    • A 52% increase of those feeling “very connected.” The highest score ever in the campaign’s 12-year history 


Furthermore, all of those who feel “connected” at some level is up by 20%.



There was a 19% lift in favorability among those exposed to the digital ads.

For the first time in D2D’s history, greater Minnesota showed equal favorability and connection to metro respondents.

70% who viewed the campaign messages had more positive perceptions of the university.

  • Campaign recall and engagement

    • 7 of 11 campaign messages had recall rates of over 40% (historic average is in the mid-30s).


    • Those who recalled campaign messages had more positive opinions of the University and were more likely to advocate.


    • Banner CTRs were almost 5x higher than the CTR benchmark for banners in the education category.


    • YouTube video completion rates were 56% higher than benchmark.


    • Programmatic video completions were 14% higher than benchmark.
      • Facebook CTRs were almost 3x higher than benchmark.


      • LinkedIn CTRs were almost 4x higher than benchmark.


      • Paid search CTRs were almost 2x higher than benchmark.