I've long been disturbed by Alverno College's advertising images, but it occurred to me that I'd been missing the point by seeing them merely as a bungled marketing campaign rather than as what I believe they really are: iconography. In this area of German and Eastern European folk who are likely to be Catholic or Lutheran, the cultural milieu targeted by the campaign is identified by perhaps nothing so much as its attitude towards women.
1.) Go here to see the Alverno images
What feelings are conveyed by the third group of images compared to the first two? My personal interpretation is that a more relevant key metric for a certain aspects of the white American experience is its expectations for the female mood. I'd venture to say that the subgroup traditionally identified as "upscale" corresponds to female unhappiness. Female happiness would be plotted on the socioeconomic scale somewhere between the lowbrow fat, jolly characters played by Melissa McCarthy and the unsavory-to-most world of pornography.
I also find it noteworthy that the Alverno billboards always seem to face west, though it's certainly logical in view of the fact that the Alverno campus is on the eastern end of the Milwaukee metropolitan area. I wonder if an appeal isn't being made to notions of the socioeconomic world of the East Side of Milwaukee. To climb the economic ladder, women must sacrifice happiness--to an extent that one of the Alverno images reminds me of nothing so much as an assault crisis center or suicide hotline:
The thought-world of much of the white Upper Midwestern population--descendents of immigrants from Scandinavia and German-speaking countries starting in the late 1800s--is that of people of a deeply melancholy disposition. We don't associate happiness with the "serious" life. The transcendent activities of the human soul, religion and education, are about pain, specifically female pain. Quite simply put, the Alverno campaign is great iconography that reflects the conscious and unconscious face of women in this time and place.