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Students ‘swallow’ campaign with mixed reactions

Published: Thursday, January 31, 2013

Updated: Thursday, January 31, 2013 01:01


With the word “swallow” boldly printed on the campaign posters across campus, the campaign has garnered the attention of many students — but not all positive.

“Swallow,” a campaign created by USF Wellness to encourage students to replace one drink a day with water, kicked off on Jan. 16. The campaign serves to provide students accessible facts on the benefits of drinking water in order to promote a healthy lifestyle. 

Directors of the USF Wellness marketing team have implemented the campaign to catch students’ attention, marketing specialist for USF Wellness, Christine
Haywood said.

“We wanted to grab students’ attention,” Haywood said.  “We decided on ‘swallow’ because we thought it made sense with increasing water intake.  One of the challenges we have as wellness marketers is to break through the clutter.  When we meet, we think what will get a student to pause for three to five seconds to get across our message.”

But the campaign has received mixed reactions from students on campus, and some students such as Aprhodite Kocieda, a graduate assistant and a graduate student in communications, have expressed dissatisfaction of having “swallow” as the title, calling it “sexist” and “derogatory.” 

“Essentially, I feel that the campaign is attempting to use overt pornographic tactics in a very ironic way to construct a message,” Kocieda said. “The creators of this message are blatantly alluding to a sexual act characterized by women swallowing men’s semen in order to promote the act of drinking water, which is transparent, ridiculous and offensive.”

Isabel Samreth, a freshman majoring in pre-architecture, said the campaign drew explicit images to her mind.

“When I first saw the campaign, I thought of the sexual swallowing,” she said. “It took me a little bit to realize that it had to do with drinking water.” 

But Chris Gayre, a sophomore majoring in business, said he thought the campaign name was clever. 

“More students should drink more water every day, so I think what they are doing is a good thing,” he said. “The name of the campaign is creative and it gets your attention and that’s the point.” 

The campaign highlights the benefits of hydration and provided students with free water bottles in various locations throughout campus.  A map was also created by USF Wellness to highlight the 50 water-bottle filling stations locations on campus so students can easily refill their water bottles.  

Haywood said research has found that water consumption leads to increased energy, something she said can be very beneficial to college students.

“What we are trying to do is to encourage lifelong wellness habits while students are in college,” Haywood said. “We thought of water and what the benefits of water are. There’s been so much information in the media about sugary drinks and diet sodas, we thought about water as such an easy way to start.”

But Kocieda said the campaign is more sexist than beneficial.

“I find it highly ironic that they are thrusting this message when women are continuously raped and sexually harassed on college campuses,” she said. “The actual word ‘swallow’ is in bright pink font, suggesting that the message is directed towards females considering the cultural alignment of pink with women. Do we still have to continuously conjure up sexual images in order to promote an idea wholly unrelated to sex?”

Kocieda said she wouldn’t be surprised if a petition or demonstration ensued.

“Many of my students approached me with their concerns about this campaign which is how I found out about it,” she said.

But according to Haywood, marketing campaigns are most effective when they are not done at long lengths of time.  

“We only do our campaigns for two to three weeks,” she said.  “This will actually end at the end of next week but you might see some remnants of it around. As the campaign is winding down, we actually have analytics for what our reach was and a formula for where we were in different places and what sort of reactions we got.”

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Fri Feb 1 2013 12:11
spitting is rude
Fri Feb 1 2013 09:25
This is another example of how people need to get over themselves and stop believing it is okay to pitch a fit any time their feelings get hurt. Yes, they could have chosen a better name, but it did pique curiosity and got the message across to those who aren't always looking for something to bitch and complain about, which is the point of any good marketing campaign. The idea was to promote students good health and higher energy, a good cause. So how about we focus on that instead of picking apart the name and protesting.
Usf student
Thu Jan 31 2013 14:21
It's ridiculous that this is considered an issue on a college campus. I'm a fan of the campaign just because it succeeded at gaining my attention, I paused to read and look for an explanation like many others did. Was I ultimately persuaded to stay better hydrated? Probably not, but I actually read the sign which is the only time that's happened. It would be childish if the staff tried to deny any double entendre but so long as it's used as a way for them to gain attention, rather than actually advocating and promoting the second meaning, then I don't see a problem with it. Sure some people will find it obscene but really only the people who think Janet Jackson's nip slip "traumatized" their children. As for it being sexist just because it's pink, well yeah the sex act is predominantly a female act so pink makes sense to use, had it been a gender neutral sex pun like drink 69 ounces a day would she have been pissed if the 69 was pink? Of course we still need to conjure up sex for unrelated subjects why else would every advert use models, just be glad someone so offended by minor references doesn't live in Europe to see there t.v. commercials. So people who are so offended by sex puns they feel the need to control their use in adverts just need to stop being so anal.
Thu Jan 31 2013 10:20
Aprhodite Kocieda, you really need to get a life

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