PCC Solves Budget Shortfalls by Integrating Product Placement In the Campus and the Classroom
Portland Community College recently signed a lucrative deal with multiple corporations so they may brand and position their products throughout the campus system. According to campus representatives, this deal could finally balance the college’s budget and relieve some of the financial pressures it’s been experiencing in recent years.
Lisa Stockley, communications representative for the college said, “We’re excited about our new corporate partners. They have assured us that this deal would not impact the quality of our educational offerings and they would not distract the students and staff in any way. And we’re quite confident that the revenues we’re receiving from these deals will more than make up for the inconveniences faculty and students will experience on a day-to-day basis.”
Stockley outlined some of the highlights of the deal. She said instructors would all be required to wear Chewy.com and other branded micro-billboards on their heads while teaching classes. “We know Portland students are professionals looking to improve their lives and they’re also dog and cat lovers. We figured that if the instructors were to wear these colorful billboards on their foreheads, we could reach at least 80 to 90 percent of our student populations. We’re excited to start with this Chewy.com campaign. Next month, we’ll begin our Nugenix ad campaign. You know, it will have a little picture of Frank Thomas and in bold letters will say, THE BIG HURT! TRY NUGENIX. I’m really excited about that one”
When asked about what control the college had over the content of these ads, Stokley said,
“None. Zero.Zip” She did not elaborate, but patted herself on the back and said softly, “Well done Lisa.”
We did a walk through of the different campuses to observe some of the changes. At first observation, the changes were pretty obvious. Apparently, four casinos had purchased the entrances to each campus. The Northeast campus was purchased by New York New York Hotel and Casino, they had installed a blinking neon New York skyline complete with a model Statue of Liberty and a roller coaster.
I asked what one student, Jamie Chaperman, thought. “It’s really cheesy. On my way to biology, I rode the roller coaster. It’s fifty dollars for a ticket and only lasted three seconds. I feel robbed. But I took a selfie and posted it and I got four thousand likes. So that’s cool I guess.”
When asked if she thinks corporate sponsorships on campus is a good idea, she said, “I like blinking lights and now I want to go to Vegas, so I guess it’s okay. Plus, they installed fake slot machines in my chemistry class and they’re kind of cool. Walking Dead themed machines. I just love that show.”
As I was walking through the campus, one of the college shuttle buses pulled into the pick-up zone. I didn’t recognize it at first, but the big U was hard to miss. Uber had purchased a marketing and operating agreement with the college and installed driver-less technology. I could hear a student standing near the grill asking the bus, “What time do you leave?”
It never answered, just closed its doors and drove off without her. At first I thought there was a driver, but it was actually just a mannequin wearing a bus driver hat.
I caught up with an English literature instructor, Steve Stopple, to solicit some first-hand feedback about the micro-billboards professors are to start wearing.I found Stopple exiting the newly named, “Netflix Hall”. His response to my questions were both poignant and ironic, “I love my job, but these micro billboards are a bit much. They don’t tell you that some have audio and video modules. I could be right in the middle of a lecture on Chaucer and suddenly an ad starts blasting. Granted, some of the theme songs have catchy, funky tunes but it’s a bit of a distraction. I also don’t like it when a rep from the company comes in and uses one of those T-shirt guns to lob samples at my students. It’s dangerous. You know what I mean? Sometimes, it’s all just too much and I have to leave, but then I get my pay docked for not showing the full advertisement. It’s very frustrating”.
Overall, there seemed to be a lot of unrest about the new branding campaigns, but for many, the jury is still out. The terms of the college’s deal with these corporations are ultra secret with administration, who claim executive privilege. When confronted with the fact that there is no such thing as executive privilege for community college administration, they simply shout “Fake News!” Readers, I assure you I will stay on this story until I get to the truth. But first, I’ll have take a Gondola ride in the canals of the Venetian Hotel sponsored entrance to the Southeast campus again. I love it when the Gondolier sings Witchcraft. You know the tune, “Those fingers in your hair, O sole mio…”. Something like that.