Ringling College outsources to an alumni-owned business for success

05 May 2010,   By ,   0 Comments

Ringling College of Art and Design has always believed in supporting alumni-owned businesses. A mainstream e-communications contract with a Hispanic ad agency founded by Ringling alumni has proved to be more than good will. It is good business.

Pedro Perez launched Nuevo Advertising Group along with his wife Roseanne in 2001. “E-commerce is not new,” he says. “It’s how we do it that makes the difference.” A multicultural approach and success level makes this campaign notable in my judgment as well.

Here’s some history. Nuevo did not start as a Hispanic agency, and its moniker does not really do the company justice. Boyd Gaming, owners of numerous casinos including Stardust, was one of the early clients. The agency managed the web presence, online promotions and customer rewards — in English. The shift to Hispanic marketing came as Sarasota media and businesses continuously asked Perez to translate English campaigns into Spanish for the significant Latino population in Florida.

Literal translation was not good enough. Perez felt that trans-culturization was necessary for effective communications. A sensitivity to culture, whether Latino or Anglo, distinguishes the Nuevo approach. Thus, Nuevo Advertising Group and a spinoff, Nuevo Translation.

Back to Ringling. Christine Meeker Lange, special assistant to the president for media and community relations, joined Ringling College after an earlier career with several media companies. “Ringling was good academically. But from an e-marketing and communications side, it was weak. We couldn’t even send an HTML email,” she recalls. Over a year and a half she has convinced one department after another of the need to shift from print to electronic to improve communications and save on printing and postage.

Initially, she paid Perez a small retainer to consolidate and manage certain college databases, and to begin experimenting. An adult continuing education campaign garnered 400 registrations – a 20 per cent lift over the usual. Gradually alumni, career services and some other departments joined in to share news, promote events and maintain relationships using e-mail.

Nuevo now manages all of Ringling’s electronic communications, other than admissions. Messages are based on a rich understanding of the audience, explains Perez. “We control what, when and how they receive. We do not overwhelm recipients with multiple e-blasts. There is also room for one-off opportunities.” Nuevo fine tunes by day of week and time of day using sophisticated analytics. Messages are in either English or Spanish. They have what Perez calls unfettered control of all electronic messaging to analyze open rates, clickthroughs and forwarding to really see what is resonating with recipients.

There are operational benefits as well. Ms. Lange observed that even an event invitation became a laborious manual task of collecting RSVPs from multiple sources, including post cards and telephone calls, then logging into a crude spreadsheet. Now the e-response device automatically populates a spreadsheet to manage acceptance rates and other analytics.

An expanded Nuevo now manages a variety of marketing activities: Continuing Studies and Special Programs e-marketing and Google AdWords campaigns; recruiter links to students and graduates; student exhibitions; press releases and more.

Most important than technology is a thorough understanding of the Ringling community. Pedro and Roseanne attended Ringling. They, like so many alumni, students and faculty, are bicultural and bilingual. They know, like so many others are discovering, that training in the arts combined with left-brained business skills make a powerful combination.