Marketing at the UPR

by: María E. Del Valle

On a daily basis, most people are encountered with an overwhelming amount of advertising.  Whether it’s driving to their jobs or sitting at home watching TV, you are bound to find yourself being invited to endorse different products.  But where do these ads and promotions come from?  There are people dedicated to researching the best possible way to persuade you to buy a product or to support an idea and Jannette Ortiz happens to be one of them.

Jannette is currently a Marketing professor at the University of Puerto Rico Río Piedras.  She has always had a soft spot for the UPR having obtained her Marketing bachelor’s degree at the Mayagüez campus.  She later went on to study her Master’s at the University of Pittsburgh with a concentration in strategic planning and market study.

She worked for Phillip Morris, a leading tobacco company, Jannette, mentions how she got in just before the Tobacco Settlement of 1998.  The settlement greatly limited the Tobacco Industry’s advertising.  “After 1998, tobacco ads could not be visible to the general consumer, before that change our advertising budget was huge.  Ads were placed on billboards, events such as concerts, even on racecars!” she explains.  “We could no longer give out promotional materials such as t-shirts, hats, key chains and our budget greatly decreased”.

Jannette also acknowledges the moral impasse caused by working in the advertising and marketing department of a product that is harmful to its users.  “The market got very limited in part because of the stigma that tobacco had.  People who smoked did not want to wear the Marlboro brand and did not want to be reminded of their smoking”.

With a limited market and a new family, Jannette decided to leave the corporate life and teach what she had learned throughout the years.  So after working with big companies such as Colgate, Nestle, Kraft Foods, and Phillip Morris, she came to teach at the UPR.  “The level I had reached in my company, required for me to travel to New York for days at a time and I was starting a family so I decided to faze out the corporate world and move towards a new direction”.

She had always been interested in teaching and by 2003 had already been invited to teach and give conferences at different universities.  Jannette began a full time teaching position in the Publicity Department of Río Piedras.  Even though she had received offers from other universities such as Universidad de Sagrado Corazón in Santurce, Ortiz wanted to give back to the place that had turned her into a successful businesswoman.

For six years, she has been giving four to five classes per semester but now with new budget cuts, her course load has been reduced to two classes.  Her 30 student sections have now been cut down to 15.

“What is mind blowing to me is that curricula have been edited and credit requirements have decreased.  That would be fine if it weren’t for the fact that, in my opinion, some of the classes that are being cut are crucial before allowing the student to go out in the real world”, Jannette explains.

Some of Jannette’s colleagues have already decided to abandon the UPR and find jobs elsewhere.  She explains how many professors have lost motivation and are disillusioned with the system and how they have been treated.  She has witnessed the same reaction among students.

When asked what she believes has changed the most since last semester’s strike, Ortiz immediately mentioned that she believes that the UPR is losing its spirit.  “My students are a lot less enthusiastic and are just trying to pass their classes and hurry along to graduate because they are worried about things like the cuota”.

Ortiz also goes on to mention how from a marketing and publicity standpoint, it will be very hard for the UPR to recover after losing so many students and creating a reputation of dishonesty.  She gives examples of how other universities have used the strike and other elements to advertise themselves as different from the UPR.

Recently, Jannette Ortiz began exploring her options and looking for new opportunities in the corporate world.  Once again, she would like to be in the Marketing Department for big companies.  Like many other UPR professors, she has no choice but to leave the system, as it has just stopped working for her.

Jannette is only one of the countless losses of students and professors the UPR will likely face.  “It’s sad to leave… but things aren’t the same anymore”, she explains.

Philip Morris is one of the many companies Jannette has worked for.

Torre de la Universidad at UPR Río Piedras where Jannette teaches.

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