July 20, 2022

In just 30 seconds, a parade of famous faces captures the essence of the Hilltop: our bold, curious and creative alumni – and the distinguished visitors drawn to campus – truly set SMU apart.

The commercial airing during all Mustang sports televised by ESPN is the brainchild of alum Hal Curtis ’84. Curtis has been a creative director for more than 25 years with Wieden+Kennedy, a global agency headquartered in Portland, Oregon. He’s a legend in the field with three Emmy wins for best commercial, and seven Emmy nominations to his credit. In Advertising Age’s 20th anniversary edition of Creativity Magazine, Curtis was named one of the 50 most influential creative leaders of the past 20 years.

His wide-ranging portfolio for Nike, ESPN and other high-profile brands includes an acclaimed commercial featuring Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade balloons fighting over a Coke. In 2010, Adweek named It’s Mine the Super Bowl spot of the decade.

The SMU collaboration took flight during a conversation with SMU Vice President for Development and External Affairs Brad E. Cheves.

“Brad and I were talking about all the amazing individuals who have come through SMU over the years. It’s an impressive list,” Curtis says. “We both thought it would be something interesting to – in a broadcast spot – remind folks of.”

After getting the greenlight, Curtis and his production team faced the challenge of tracking down archival video and images. They worked with Laura Graham ’16, director of photography and video in SMU Marketing and Communications, to locate assets and secure licensing approvals. Curtis supplied his expertise to the project at no charge.

The commercial encapsulates the breadth and achievements of our Mustang family and the reputation for excellence that draws the best and brightest to the Hilltop. (Play the video above to see for yourself.)

It was a labor of love for Mustangs with star power like Academy Award-winner Kathy Bates ’69, whose distinctive voice provides the narration, and fan favorite Brian Baumgartner ’95, who submitted his own video when the cost of licensing footage of him as Kevin in The Office TV series was prohibitive.

Other notable alumni featured include NFL star and sports commentator “Dandy” Don Meredith ’60, real estate titan Trammel Crow ’39 and Bumble founder Whitney Wolfe Herd ’11.

Also shown are Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. on campus in 1966 and former U.S. Presidents Barack Obama, Bill Clinton, Jimmy Carter and the late George H.W. Bush on campus in 2013 to celebrate the opening of the George W. Bush Presidential Center with former President Bush.

The ad ends with an intriguing question for the future Mustangs viewing it: What will you do?

The commercial premiered during the TCU game September 25, 2021, where SMU retained the Iron Skillet with a 42–34 win.

“Maybe the spot helped us beat the Horned Frogs, who knows,” Curtis says. “What I do know is it reminds us that we’re all a part of something pretty special around here. That’s inspiring, and worth celebrating.”

– From SMU Magazine, spring 2022