Webster’s nationally-recognized ad taken down, replaced


After a lively 13 month lifespan, the Webster University chess billboard was taken down in December.

In mid-December, the advertisement on Interstate-70 that said “Our Top Recruits are Chess Players” was replaced with a new advertisement for Webster’s online MBA program. The new billboard is a part of the new program-specific advertising plan.

When the chess billboard was posted in October 2013 it offended athletes. Despite athletes calling for the advertisement to be taken down, it stayed.

As the billboard remained up, it received media attention and a national honor. Director of Public Relations Patrick Giblin said the billboard was the subject of stories in the Wall Street Journal, Associated Press and International Press Service. After receiving attention from national and international publications, the billboard was named a finalist for Nonprofit PR Awards by PR News. It was one of six national finalists in the “PR on a Shoestring Budget” category.

The billboard remained up for 13 months, which Giblin said was about twice as long as a normal outdoor advertisement. Although the ad was well received, it had a long life because of a transition in advertising strategies.

In November of 2013, the SGA held an open forum with Global Communications and Marketing Office. Director of Creative Services John Costello showed billboards similar to the chess billboard, and said they would be a part of a series. However, Giblin said the marketing direction was changed after the forum.

The change in marketing caused an extended period of brainstorming, and Giblin said they preferred to keep the billboard instead of using a generic university advertisement.

“We felt that it was better to keep it up simply because it was still getting feedback,” Giblin said.

Tom Lauher, director of marketing and media placement and planning, said the new marketing strategy is program specific.

He added that the I-70 billboard, which is one and a half hours away from Webster’s main campus, was an ideal spot for an online program advertisement, which is why an online MBA advertisement was chosen.

He added that the billboard will be used for program specific ads in the foreseeable future. 

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