Discover the winning campaign strategy used by both Tufts and Northwestern.

Watch now – Brighter World: The Campaign for Tufts, Jumbo

The elephant in the room: How to find great stories right under your trunk.

At a university, there is one thing that brings everyone together. Tufts’ Vice President of Communications and Marketing, Jean Ayers and Northwestern’s Associate Director of Communications, Tristan Riddell recently sat down with Smartypants Executive Producer Anna Bick Rowe to talk about how sometimes the most inspiring and uniting film subject is as simple as the color purple.


A mascot in a campaign film?

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Jean Ayers, Tufts: When you’re an alumni or trustee at an event, you’re in a room with all these other people who were at Tufts at different times. The university’s been through many, many changes since then, but Jumbo the Elephant is the thing you all have in common.

Tristan Riddell, Northwestern: One way to recognize a Wildcat out in the wild is the purple that they're wearing. So purple is a sense of pride but it's also a gateway to introduction and it's a gateway to community.

Anna Bick Rowe, Smartypants: We always encourage universities to embrace fun and playfulness because audiences really appreciate something that shows nostalgia for their community in a lighthearted way. It’s not talking about fundraising, it’s not talking about specific pillars of the campaign or anything like that. It’s just playful and gets to a school’s heart.


Where did the idea come from?

Jean Ayers: What I liked about it was that people didn’t know they were going to be asked about Jumbo, so their responses were very spontaneous. I think that's what added to the playfulness of the video.

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Anna Bick Rowe: We ran through our normal questions, but left some extra time at the end of each interview for playful questions that would surprise people. There is just so much folklore, so much to say about a school mascot. Every person we asked had something different to say.

Tristan Riddell: The idea for the “Purple Pride” video came from the Smartypants team. When you were interviewing our administrators, faculty, students and donors, you asked the following question at the end of each interview: “How do you show your Purple Pride?” and everyone had a great answer. It made sense to put them together into one film.

Jean Ayers: I think if people went into the interview thinking, Okay, we’re gonna talk about Jumbo the Elephant, they may have approached it in a more academic way or maybe a more rehearsed way.

Watch Now – We Will: The Campaign for Northwestern, Purple PRIDE

How did the film succeed?

Jean Ayers: It’s been the cold open for events. The reaction has been really positive, people laughed in all the right spots, and it really just got people in the right frame of mind for the rest of the program.

Tristan Riddell: We’ve used if for years because it had so many evergreen aspects to it. We used it at live events, we sent it out in emails, and other departments – even outside of alumni relations – asked to use it because so many people loved it so much.

Anna Bick Rowe: Some alumni might feel a little distance from the university or from what's going on there. These films can be extraordinarily useful to make them feel like they're a part of what’s going on right now.

Jean Ayers: Elephants are very smart and loyal and they have long memories. They have really close knit groups that support and protect each other. The Tufts community is very much like that. I think the video captures that sense of belonging.


Welcome to the "Monthly Monocle," the newsletter from Smartypants wherein you'll get an inside look into campaign films, as our filmmakers and non-profit collaborators discuss the choices they made during the creative process.