I picked up a story in the SMH recently that reported how Sydney Uni had failed to make the grade with their latest DM campaign. The mail piece targeted alumni with realistic transcripts of academic records marked Fail. The campaign also invited the unlucky graduates to a mock banquet of tap water, white bread and baked beans or two minute noodles.

Calls from concerned graduates started flooding in thinking they had actually been issued a fail grade. It turns out that the mail piece was nothing more than a fundraising campaign, with the objective of informing alumni that current students often fail to make their grades as employment demands prevent them from attending classes. They encouraged alumni to respond by donating to the Student Relief Fund.

Judging from the level of complaints, the creative was obviously convincing for some – some naive alumni, that is. How someone can really believe theyve suddenly failed uni, having walked at their graduation and have the certificate somewhere to prove it, stumps me. Also, surely the accompanying DM letter would quickly make recipients realise that this is actually a fundraising campaign, not a real transcript and banquet invitation. Actually, the copywriting in the supporting letter is quite strong — its clear and holds interest.

Theres no doubt that the piece had impact, although maybe the creative was somewhat on the risky side. Quite funny though. Sydney Uni apologised and promised rigorous testing before future alumni mailings. Im not sure why they didnt think of testing in the first place.

One thing is for certain, through the exposure in a major broadsheet paper which has a weekday readership of 995,000 (source: Roy Morgan) its definitely gained public awareness of this growing student employment issue.