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Embracing Digital

In the run up to Scottish Higher and A-level Result day more universities than ever are embracing digital advertising to recruit potential students through Clearing. The use of digital includes standard display advertising and a move towards more ‘native’ content.  Here is a quick round-up of different digital mediums being used and a simplistic pro and con to each channel. 

1.      Display advertisements placed through a media owner

The standard advertising platform across the web where advertisers take slots usually through tenancy or CPM basis on student focused media owners.  These media owners will be providing information directly relevant for A-Level / Clearing audience meaning reaching the target market is guaranteed. 

 An example of display advertising on media owners such as The Student Room and UCAS

An example of display advertising on media owners such as The Student Room and UCAS

  • Pro:   Display message directly to target audiences 
  • Con:  Potential for advertising format fatigue 

2.      Facebook Advertising

Facebook enables different advertising formats such as display and suggested posts. Both styles attempt to look more like branded content or native advertising. Facebook advertising is easy to set up and can be controlled directly by the marketer, including what metrics are set and what the campaign objective is. With a population of over 1 billion there is a lot of potential audience to reach. A potential  downside is the time investment needed to respond to comments on suggested posts.

 Examples of Facebook suggested post placement and side bar advertising 

Examples of Facebook suggested post placement and side bar advertising 

  • Pro: Easy to set up and Facebook enables marketer to buy advertising by different measurements
  • Con: Changes to the  Facebook algorithm can prioritise family and friend feeds over promoted media 

3.     Google Ad -words

Universities have been using PPC advertising for some time. Ad Words are relatively easy to set up and do not require a creative so can be set up directly by the marketer. As interest in running PPC advertising over Clearing has increased, so has the cost at this time of year. 

 An example of ad words based on search term "Clearing 2015"  on 30th July 2015

An example of ad words based on search term "Clearing 2015"  on 30th July 2015

 Google Trends view of search terms over last decade

Google Trends view of search terms over last decade

  • Pro:   Easy to set up and does not require expansive creative
  • Con: Clearing keywords can get very expensive in August

4.      #Clearing2015

Using # trend to get into clearing feeds  started in July with most institutions using it to let potential students know what courses are available. This is becoming an increasingly normal channel to broadcast details of vacancies.

 Example of #clearing2015 feed around 31st July 

Example of #clearing2015 feed around 31st July 

  • Pro:   Free and easy to do
  • Con: Messages disappear quickly through the crowded hashtag

5.      Twitter Advertising

Twitter adverts are the official promotional slots that can purchased directly with Twitter. There are two main formats; a promoted tweet or a lead generation card. These promoted slots sit at the top of the feed and have a longer tail then normal tweets. Twitter provides the standard metrics of re-tweets and favourites but also offers a conversion metric too. The lead generation cards can integrate with external CRM systems such as Eloqua and Salesforce. Such is the take up of university advertising on Twitter that Twitter itself now advertises to Higher Ed marketers. 

 An example on the left of a promoted tweet and a lead generation card on the right

An example on the left of a promoted tweet and a lead generation card on the right

  

  • Pro:   A range of solutions and metrics available
  • Con:  Popularity will drive up costs  

6.      Promotional tweets / influence marketing

Brand endorsements have existed in the fashion and cosmetic world for some time but are a relatively new channel for universities. Endorsements or 'influence marketing' involve content promotion through influencer networks, giving an authentic feel to the message.  

 Examples of influence marketing across influencer networks on Twitter

Examples of influence marketing across influencer networks on Twitter

  • Pro:  Harnesses the power of word of mouth in a measurable format
  • Con: Relatively untested for Higher Education but definitely one to watch 

7.      YouTube

Advertising through YouTube includes display options run through the Google network as well as native content in the form of the clearing infomercial. Somewhat ubiquitous now, no university YouTube feed would be without their own guide to Clearing. These are usually (but not exclusively) short video guides from students who have been through the process produced by the university and/or professional video production team.

Occasionally the students themselves create something special.  University of Lincoln student Thomas Ridgewell (TomSka) created a series of spoof videos. They are highly tongue in cheek, authentic and innovative. Although perhaps not initially well received by officials,  students loved them. They still receive lots of love four years on and represent the holy grail of shareable content. 

 Examples of video clearing guides on YouTube

Examples of video clearing guides on YouTube

 Example of display banner on YouTube video

Example of display banner on YouTube video

 TomSka video for University of Lincoln posted four years ago with comments from students.

TomSka video for University of Lincoln posted four years ago with comments from students.

  • Pro: YouTube is a really important site for young people and the platform provides great opportunities for paid and free content.
  • Con: Video production can be expensive and there is the real possibility of “Dad at the Disco” excruciating inappropriateness if content is not produced sensitively.

8.      Google email placements

A new type of ad format somewhere between an email and a web advert. 

 An example of new advert format displaying at the top of Gmail 

An example of new advert format displaying at the top of Gmail 

As a new channel for clearing placements there are  limited case studies to draw opinion from. My initial thoughts on the format are the short content, large action button and pre-downloaded images suggest click through rates should be higher than a conventional email. Interested to hear thoughts and experiences. 

9.      Programmatic adverts across affiliate networks

Same format as standard digital display however advertising is purchased programmatically across affiliate marketing networks.  These networks are more likely to accept CPC and even CPL payments model meaning better ROI and cost effectiveness. However, there could be less control alongside which content or stories adverts display.  In the example below adverts are displaying across Mashable, a great choice to reach innovator/ early adopter audiences. 

 Examples of programmatic advertising 

Examples of programmatic advertising 

 10.      And the rest…

Of course there are many other channels such as Tumblr, Instagram, Pinterest and the “My stories” feature of Snapchat.  As this blog was intended to be quick and  has already broken that promise, I'll look at the rest another time! 

A quick summary...

These are not arranged in a hierarchy since each channel has merits and challenges dependent on a variety of  factors such as brand, copy and target market.  It is interesting to see how new media is being incorporated in the marketing mix and how education marketing continues to evolve. 

For anyone wanting more tips and ideas of promotion through formats mentioned above, there is a great blog article here:

http://www.thehubcomms.com/social-media/how-to-market-your-brand-on-every-social-media-channel/article/343604/

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