The Price of “Wonk”: $675,000

The Price of Wonk: $675,000

Chris Lewis

Returning students arrived on campus this fall to three major new developments at American University. First, a big ol’ new building to house the School of International Service. Second, “American Wonks“–a high-powered marketing campaign designed to highlight the passionate intellectualism of AU students. And third, a campus community saturated with various objections to the “Wonk” campaign (go to the comments section of this article for a sampling) for its supposed folly or wastefulness.

We picked up on a rumor that American University had spent $4 million on costs associated with the Wonk campaign. AWOL’s Peter Harrison did some digging and found that the rumor, it seems, is not true. Teresa Flannery, AU’s Executive Director of Communications and Marketing, emailed us a breakdown of Wonk-related expenses, which are expected to total $675,000. Here’s what she sent:

To date:

225,000                Baseline stakeholder study with 12 different audiences to set baseline and identify positioning

100,000                For items including:

Additional copywriting capacity
Wonk characters and work by Nate Beeler commissioned for campaign and American magazine
Creative testing
Linguistics study (term or words that sound like it in the languages spoken in countries where our students and faculty come from)
Thirty-five trademark applications for variations in selected categories
urls in various forms
Grassroots activity by student teams
Campus launch – direct costs (less than one wash post ad) for t-shirts, tents, food, presentations and events (e.g., student presentations, luncheons, teas, Celebrate AU)

Still to come later this fiscal year:

200,000                Create 2011 Welcome Center/Experience that integrates the brand messages in the creative
150,000                Estimated cost KNOW/WONK in fall graduate student recruitment advertising

Then there are the hundreds of communications (colleges and schools, admissions (71 alone in that unit), alumni that will incorporate the concept into existing materials. No new costs, but our internal team will be dedicated to producing these in house.

It’s not $4 million, but $675,000 is a significant chunk of money nonetheless. So American University students, what do you think? Was your dough well-spent on “Wonk”? Give us your take in the comments.

Photo: A bunch of wonks-to-be at American University’s graduation in 2006. (Flickr/Laura Padgett)