You never know what will strike a chord with your students, so sometimes the best place to start is with your staff. In fact, that’s what Western Oregon University Bookstore did with their most recent promotion. Web Specialist and Head Cashier Mara Hoaglin was sharing her interests with coworkers one day, and was surprised to learn that her manager was also a big fan of the British TV show, Doctor Who. The store’s gift buyer quickly chimed in with the fact that she had access to Dr. Who merchandise, and the idea snowballed from there.
Now, the store is planning a special event and contest to coincide with the 50th anniversary of the science-fiction classic. Both promotions are centered around life-size replicas of the Tardis, the Doctor’s time travelling machine, and a Dalek, a fictional extraterrestrial race of mutants on the show. They were constructed by Hoaglin and her co-workers and will be raffled off this week.
“I wanted to build a Dr. Who display to go with the merchandise we decided to order,” explained Hoaglin, who came up with the idea. “I asked my manager, and he was on board with it from the beginning.”
After two weeks of hard work, the Tardis was complete; it was built solely from materials sourced around the store.
“We had a bunch of extra cardboard in our warehouse, so I used that as a starting point,” she explained. “One of our other employees also brought in a refrigerator box, which was a huge help in building the framework. After that, I found a gigantic roll of blue butcher paper and used it to cover the Tardis. The hardest part was probably the grid on the front, which took a lot of measuring; but, overall, it wasn’t that difficult!”
At that time, Hoaglin’s manager and fellow Doctor Who fan was out of town, so she took it upon herself to plan a special surprise for his return: the life-size Dalek.
“It was way more complicated,” she admitted. “Our staff worked together and everyone came up with innovative ideas for the materials to use for each piece. The circles around the outside are actually Slurpee lids that we purchased for very little, there’s a garbage can lid on the top, and a plunger from the dollar store served as one of the tools. It took a lot of rigging, but when it was all assembled, I wheeled it out back on a dolly to spray paint it; I definitely got some weird looks!”
Once constructed, the Tardis and Dalek stood in the center of the store and drew quite a bit of attention. According to Hoaglin, students would stop by to take photos with the impressive display and a few dressed as Doctor Who for Halloween also posed with the pair. The Doctor Who merchandise, including everything from beanies to watches, has been very popular, as well.
“I didn’t think so many people on campus watched Doctor Who, but there are definitely a lot of fans here,” she said. “They think it’s so cool that we chose this as a promotion; we’ve had rave reviews.”
The promotion culminates this week with a final event where two students will walk away with the life-size replicas. All those present at 1:00 p.m. will have the chance to complete a quiz based on the show. The first to answer the most questions correctly will have their choice between the Tardis and Dalek. The following day offers a final chance to anyone who wants to complete, and the winner receive the remaining replica. Upping the ante, participants who attend dressed as a character on the show receive an extra bonus point!
“We’re going to have deep discounts on our remaining Doctor Who merchandise, free snacks, raffles prices and we’ll be streaming episodes of the show too,” she described.
To advertise the event, the store sent out emails to both staff and students, displayed a flyer on strategically placed TV monitors throughout campus, placed an ad in the school newspaper, and posted to their social media pages. Hoaglin is hoping the effort pays off with a big crowd.
“We’ve had really positive feedback so far, and I think that will continue through the event,” she said. “It’s going to be a really good time!”