Showcase #2: open for anything

Ogilvy helps Open Polytechnic rediscover itself—out in the open
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Stlls from the TVC Ogilvy produced to launch the Open Polytechnic’s new campaign. Watch the TVC below

Ogilvy helps Open Polytechnic rediscover itself—out in the open

See also: Creative Showcase is an advertising supplement created by Idealog. For information on upcoming Creative Showcases, call Ben Gibb on 09 966–0997 or email

Sixty-three years of history, 30,000 students across 41 countries, and a unique position in New Zealand tertiary learning makes for a strong brand, right? Well, yes and no.

Like many long-established brands, in 2008 the Open Polytechnic brand was suffering from familiarity and a perceived lack of relevance. People knew the name—brand awareness was strong—but, for many, it meant little.

Amanda Malu, executive director of Marketing, joined the Open Polytechnic in early 2008. “One of the first things I noted was that the reality of the organisation was not matched by external perception. We had very satisfied students, many of whom have gone on to extremely successful careers, international awards and a talented and passionate faculty. But many of our external target audience felt that an Open Polytechnic education was less relevant to employers than a university education.”

Open and distance learning is the fastest growing area of education in the world. Increasingly busy lifestyles and an entire generation of consumers used to doing things on their terms make distance learning more relevant than ever. So why wasn’t Open Polytechnic enjoying the upside?

The challenge

The Open Polytechnic briefed Ogilvy to develop a brand repositioning campaign to give the Open Polytechnic the stature and currency that it deserves, positioning it as the learning organisation for today’s world.


Our research gave us two important insights:

  1. Potential students wanted tertiary learning to fit around ‘their’ world;
  2. People felt the world had changed—it was more fluid and diverse than ever before. That change creates both challenges and opportunities

Michael Prentice, head of planning at Ogilvy, comments: “Our conclusion was that the Open Polytechnic’s time had arrived—the open way of learning placed it in a category all of its own, exactly right for our times. This led to our creative brief’s key message: Open learning for an open world.”

The launch 45-second brand TV advertisement captured this message through an inspirational, richly-textured contemporary animation that takes the viewer from the start of their life through to a fluid, changing world full of possibility: “But now your world is bigger than it’s ever been. And it has no boundaries. We are no longer limited by tradition, language or distance. What was once fixed, is fluid. And there’s no one path.”

Through the use of evocative language and imagery, we moved the Open Polytechnic to a unique, inspirational space—one that is uniquely ‘open’. Where “Everything is possible. Everything is open.”

The launch brand TVC has been supported by print, outdoor and online advertising, and 15-second TVCs delivering key messages.

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Print collateral includes (from left) course material, prospectuses and press ads

Visual identity

To support the new brand positioning, a new visual identity was developed for use across materials such as the 2009 prospectus and course brochures.

Paul Irwin, the general manager of strategy and planning at Ogilvy Wellington, notes that “many design agencies lock their clients into a design straightjacket. For the Open Polytechnic, it was critical that we created a design style that was flexible, providing both the inspiration to attract potential students, but also practical enough to apply to a huge range of course materials.”

Ogilvy’s design solution was to create a ‘brand funnel’, which specified which design elements should be used at different stages of the potential student’s engagement with the Open Polytechnic. The three stages spanned ‘browse’ (discovering possibilities such as prospectuses), ‘active research’ (reviewing specific details such as course brochures) and ‘engage’ (studying with the Open Polytechnic such as using course material).

The design toolkit provided a wide range of design elements, including dream-like elements such as birds and a light device to reflect possibility and discovery through to colour-coding and icons for specific courses and Maori design motifs.


The TVC was launched on 21 September 2008 and the feedback was exceptional, both externally and internally:

“I’m delighted with our new TV ad campaign. Respect for all Open Polytechnic stakeholders, and respect for our role in education and training, is overwhelmingly evident. The key messages that have been articulated and crafted are substantive and profound,” says a senior faculty member.

Post-campaign quantitative research in February 2009, compared with a pre-campaign benchmark, revealed the campaign had been very successful in changing perception.

Agreement with statements around key brand messages increased by between 20 percent and 57 percent (such as a 57 percent increase in agreement with the statement “Open Polytechnic has courses that will open up new possibilities for you”). Additionally, the Open Polytechnic had a 14 percent increase in the perception that it is the tertiary organisation that best provides learning relevant to your work and career, with the next closest tertiary institution only showing a two percent increase.

Course enrolments for the January–May 2009 period were up 22 percent compared with the previous year, with May up 20 percent year on year.


To reinforce the rebranding, Open Polytechnic has in 2009 launched further innovations in education including a free training offer for employees made redundant or participating in the nine-day fortnight (taken to market within a week!); partnering with the Department of Labour to promote courses to immigrants and returning expats; and increased partnership with industry bodies and employers.


The world has moved in favour of Open Polytechnic’s style of education; now, thanks to the work of Ogilvy, it has found a genuine way to connect to the opportunity. The world really is open.

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