Nebraska chancellor reignites quirky marketing campaign


By Deena Winter | Nebraska Watchdog

LINCOLN, Neb. – The University of Nebraska-Lincoln chancellor lit up social media circles again this week, firing up last year’s “Perls of Knowledge” campaign for another run.

ACTING! UNL Chancellor Harvey Perlman acting in one of his “Perls of Knowledge” videos.

But this time, Harvey Perlman created his series of silly videos without hiring outside companies to help write Tweets or video sketches.

Instead, UNL’s admissions office put together the campaign, in which six famous alumni, professors or coaches purport to be the real masterminds behind Perlman’s social media persona.

Last year, Nebraska Watchdog reported that an edgy Lincoln marketing firm, Archrival, was behind Perlman’s zany “Perls of Knowledge” social media campaign, at a cost of about $40,000. In that campaign, Perlman suddenly began writing cryptic tweets, (such as “What’s a chancellor got to do to get some decent chocolate chip cookies around here?”) which culminated in the unveiling of a website with short videos of Perlman doing things you’d never expect from a staid, professorial chancellor. Like laughing at stupid cats on his phone or clapping off-key as the Husker mascot did the Harlem Shake.

The university said the campaign was wildly popular, generating a quarter-million YouTube views, 36,000 website views and loads of free publicity.

The Perls campaign was reignited this week, with Perlman unveiling a new member of his so-called “Social Squadron Team Alpha+” team – including Twitter co-founder Ev Williams (who attended UNL from 1990-1992) Nebraska basketball coach Tim Miles, Emmy-award-winning professor Kwame Dawes and prominent alumni like billionaire Warren Buffett and Chicago Tribune Managing Editor Jane Hirt — each day.

But this year, the campaign was done in house. UNL Admissions Director Amber Williams said her office designed and implemented the project from beginning to end with no support or consultation from Archrival or any other firm.

The campaign is still high quality and seems focused on highlighting prominent alumni, distinguished professors and a wildly popular basketball coach while still showing Perlman’s lighter side. Although next time, we hope to see an appearance by Bo Pelini’s famous cat.

Contact Deena Winter at Follow Deena on Twitter at @DeenaNEWatchdog

Editor’s note: to subscribe to News Updates from Nebraska Watchdog at no cost, click here.