OK, the next item up for bid is a college tuition. And, we’ll start the bidding at one penny

OwuIt must have been a particularly long, hard winter in Bartlesville, Oklahoma, for the marketing whizzes at the local university to have come up with this idea: an eBay auction in which bidders compete for one year of college tuition, room and board at Oklahoma Wesleyan University (which bills itself as the 12th ranked Christian university in the country).

So far, 12 bidders have gone back-and-forth on this gem of a gift for that special someone in their lives. The current bid is $18,669.99.

So I ask: Is the school so desperate for students that it needs to auction off one full year at OWU? Or, is it a sly, guerilla  marketing ploy aimed at breaking OWU into the top 10 Christian college rankings? Regardless of the motive, I wonder why they’ve limited themselves to just one year’s tuition, room and board? Why not auction off a guaranteed 3.0 GPA as well? How about a weekend’s worth of wining and dining with the school president and his/her significant other? Since it’s a Christian school, maybe OWU can up the ante and even auction off guaranteed access to the Pearly Gates. Wonder what the opening bid on that would be?

OWU administrators should have weighed the image and reputation impact on the school before embarking on such a hare-brained scheme. How credible is an institution that gives away a spot to the highest bidder? What does it say about the rigor of the curriculum? How demeaning is such a ploy to the other students and their families who have actually earned their way into OWU? And didn’t Christ have an issue with moneychangers towards the end of his career?

The OWU/eBay auction is wrong in every conceivable way. One positive outcome, though, might be an opportunity to change the school’s name to something that more accurately reflects its Las Vegas-type approach to higher education. Here are my thoughts:

– OWU is renamed Online Wagers University

– Alternatively, to reflect its new, digital initiative, Oklahoma Wesleyan becomes eOWU

– The school’s nickname is changed to God’s Gamblers. Heaven’s Heathens? How about The Auctioning Angels?

OWU may have started an interesting trend that could result in future online partnerships between religious organizations and eBay. Why not have the Catholic Church auction off one year’s tuition, room and board for wanna-be priests and nuns? How about the Episcopalians holding an online bid to pay for a particularly deserving deacon’s honeymoon expenses? Synogogues could weigh in and auction a trip to the Holy Land to the highest bid from rabbinical students.

The sky’s the limit (literally). So, let the bidding begin…..

10 thoughts on “OK, the next item up for bid is a college tuition. And, we’ll start the bidding at one penny

  1. Med Guy – unlike you, I have never worked for Peppercom. My opinions aren’t influenced by contempt or spite. Can you say the same?

  2. very much diaagree, rob. but since it seems obvious that you work at peppercom, i’ll use your thinking. lets say that the university “loses” 5 thousand dollars from the real tuition, how much did they get in “free pr.” since peppercom talks about how much value is in pr, would love to see them put their metrix to use here. all the media has been about the school, some have interviewed students about how good the school is etc. and others have had features on the school. so the fact that repman didn’t applaud this shows his true colors in my book- keep knocking what everyone else does that he doesnt come up with…

  3. Med Guy – I think we just have a difference of opinion on what constitutes ‘success’ for the school in this campaign. I would never argue that millions of impressions are a bad thing… unless it’s bad news. This isn’t exactly bad news, but since I see this as detracting from the reputation of the school, I fail to see how massive publicity is a positive. Consider this example: getting people to bid on tuition in the likely chance they will get a discount on tuition equals a discount on the reputation of the school. Getting someone to bid on an internship at Peppercom, for example, would add to Peppercom’s reputation because people would be willing to pay for something that’s normally free. Discount vs. premium.

  4. lunch putz, the “win” is the fact that the university has its name in front of millions of americans and when considering a university, maybe those who didn’t know about OWU now will consider them. what’s wrong with that? so me any harm in that…
    and there would be no need to raise the stakes for those places- im sure they would let you send someone in your place after you became the first to flunk out of all 3…

  5. rob, yes i read the content, i just think he is way off base. as carl said earlier, if they allowed joe prguy to win the auction and attend the university, then i agree. but if you read the auction, it clearly says that the applicant must be admission standards or the money will be refunded. so all this small school did was put itself on the map and its name in front of millions of americans.

  6. Med Guy – I do think that this was a great idea for generating publicity, but to Rob and Rep’s point about its reputation, where’s the “win” now? they clearly didn’t think this out.
    Now if CHUBB, 1-800 DRIVE-18 or ITT Institute were to copy this idea, I would be happy to keep raising the stakes for your tuition costs.

  7. Med guy, do you even read the full content of the post before ripping Repman? He’s talking about the credibiity of the school, not how much publicity it generated. This is a credibility-killing idea no matter who executed it – small school or large. The fact that the story has been all over the news isn’t a win for the school’s PR minds – it just makes that many more people aware of the bad idea. You show me someone who ranks media impressions as their #1 PR success benchmark and I’ll show you someone who is ignorant about PR.

  8. so in one week’s time you have managed to show you don’t understand advertsing and now have shown that the only pr you like is the fluff you create. this is a great story and a huge pr coup for the small university of 1000 students. they probably didn’t spend a penny on pr- all they did was put up an auction on ebay and have had hundreds of articles in papers across the country, a feature on CNN and countless other mentions on news programs. tell me the last time you did that- especially a client whose budget was ZERO.
    this is great pr for a small university. as carl said above, clearly you did not do much DD on this or you would have been applauding the move.
    lunch putz- your grammar comments please…

  9. Repman, I’m surprised by your take on this, I thought you would applaud OWU for dipping its PR toe into the online world. I think OWU would be seriously undermining its credibility if it was to offer this place to any old Joe that won the auction, but the eventual applicant has to meet OWU’s regular academic entrance standards. OWU isn’t auctioning off a degree, just the opportunity to study toward a degree.