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ND ad focuses on research, service

Theresa Civantos | Wednesday, September 5, 2007

Notre Dame’s new commercial aired on NBC Saturday during the Georgia Tech football game, trumpeting the University’s research initiatives in Haiti.

The ad opened with two minutes of footage of striking poverty in the Haitian capital, Port-Au-Prince. The segment featured victims of elephantiasis, a disfiguring disease that causes swelling in the extremities, and highlighted Notre Dame’s research initiatives aimed at fighting the deadly disease.

Next came a 30-second spot that highlighted several Notre Dame students and their various fights for human rights.

The commercial concluded with a student asking the viewer, “What would you fight for?”

The two-minute spot only aired once during the game. It was the first of seven spots that will air during halftime of Notre Dame home games this fall. Each spot focuses on a different aspect of Notre Dame humanitarian research initiatives, said Associate Vice President for Marketing Todd Woodward. The same 30-second spot will follow all seven ads.

“This ad shows that Notre Dame is Catholic without overtly saying ‘Catholic,'” Woodward said. “We hope that a viewer would watch it for 30, 40 seconds before knowing it was a Notre Dame ad.”

That more subtle approach to religion is a significant shift from two years ago, when the University aired its “Candle” ad, featuring a girl in church who later receives an acceptance letter from the University and looks to the sky in prayer.

The ad generated an angry response from students and alumni who found the religious message more narrow than welcoming.

Last year’s ad, on the other hand, was much less divisive. The spot used variations on the “Play Like a Champion Today” signs and showcased accomplished Notre Dame alumni in different fields.

The new commercial, Woodward said, has drawn widespread positive feedback.

“It’s not like any other college ad,” he said.

Georgia Tech’s ad, which aired next to Notre Dame’s, featured a robotic arm playing the school’s victory march.

Senior Tyler Stavinoha and Father Thomas Streit, director of the University’s Haiti Program, narrated most of the ad, which can be viewed at nd.edu.

“Notre Dame is not afraid to be different, to be unique … to help change the world,” Streit told The Observer. “That’s how you show leadership.”

Stavinoha said the portrayal of the University’s work in developing countries brought out Notre Dame’s commitment to both service and research.

“At Notre Dame, our Catholic identity and commitment to service are very much united. … A Notre Dame education is about more than sitting on campus reading books,” said Stavinoha, who spent eight weeks working in the Haiti Program.

“Notre Dame uses academics to make a difference in people’s lives,” he said.