This week, the University of Phoenix debuted a new ad campaign — and it almost seems tailor-made for anyone who’s tried to juggle the demands of family, a career, and an advanced degree. But the first thing that has captured viewers’ attention is the haunting voice singing the school’s new anthem. Who sings "If I Only Had A Brain" for University of Phoenix’s More Than Brains campaign ad? The talented singer behind the spot has remained mostly a mystery, but hopefully that’ll soon change.
The university’s More Than Brains campaign pulled together mini-portraits of the lives of typical students — waiting tables, serving in the military, breastfeeding young children, commuting to the office — while they work toward earning an advanced degree online. But rather than focus on attracting prospective students, the University of Phoenix changed strategies in the new spot, according to Ad Week, opting instead to send a strong message to current students who might feel pressure to abandon their studies.
The new campaign came just days after the education company that owns for-profit University of Phoenix agreed to be purchased by private investors for just over $1 billion, the New York Times reported. The new owners have promised to help lead a clean up of the for-profit education industry. The University of Phoenix and others have come under heavy criticism recently for low graduation and job placement rates as well as questionable recruiting and financial aid practices, according to the Times.
According to Ad Week, the new campaign was intended as an emotional plea to current students, both to congratulate them on having the focus to commit to an advanced degree and to encourage them about the value of a University of Phoenix degree in the real world. The lyrics, set to a take on the Wizard of Oz song “If I Only Had A Brain,” capture exactly how tough it can be to try to juggle it all:
So my kids don’t have to forage / Got two jobs to pay a mortgage
And I’ve also got a brain.
Life’s short, talk is cheap / I’ll be working while you sleep
Still don’t think I’ve got a brain?
You can try, I’ll do it faster / I was born a multitasker
I was raised against the grain.
Took two bullets in the chest / Got three kids, I never rest
And I’ve also got a brain.
You think a resume’s enough / Will step up when things get tough
Don’t you want that kind of brain?
A degree is a degree / You’re gonna want someone like me
But only if you have a brain.
But for many viewers, the standout element in the 60-second video clip has been the haunting, soulful voice that seems to both commiserate with and challenge University of Phoenix students. According to Ad Week, the vocalist who also helped compose the lyrics behind the ad is a woman named Roarke with We Are Walker, a Los Angeles-based music content company. Not much more information is available about Roarke online, but another Ad Week story reported that the ad featuring Roarke is part of a larger campaign strategy created by agency 180LA to help the school shed its “diploma mill” reputation.
So far, Twitter users have given the campaign mixed reviews. While some love the anthem and message, others questioned the campaign’s “all degrees are equal” premise.
While the campaign is a hit or a miss is unclear, but the takeaway seems to be that viewers are pretty curious about the talented voice delivering the University of Phoenix’s message. The More Than Brains ad campaign began airing nationwide this week and is also available on YouTube. Here's the full clip: