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The Next Normal for Higher Ed Advertising is More Complex

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For literally centuries, the vast majority of market awareness-building for the education industry has been conducted at the grassroots, where public demand for a college education is created through alumni networks, family legacies, sports affiliations, and college-town relationships. Having limited experience with traditional TV advertising, let alone across today's omnichannel, multi-device environment, there was little pressure on college marketers to adjust recruiting strategies. And along came the pandemic to finally kill off the classic TV ad format, highlighting the student experience, resplendent with a backdrop of fall colors and targeted to already-loyal college sports fans.


To recruit new students, it's time for this old-school, image-based, general-audience advertising to give way to more effective strategies, using more persuasive value propositions and feature/benefit themes. Students need new reasons to enroll above and beyond a beautiful campus, a football team, or that their parents went there.

The new normal for most product marketing today is a broader and more complex advertising mix. The "next normal" of TV-quality advertising can include automated, programmatic campaigns, using real-time bidding technology and dynamic, creative, relevant messaging. Targeting data using the digital exhaust from millions of individuals and their devices can help colleges pinpoint the right viewers with the right messages across multiple internet-connected TVs and tablets — all served streaming over the top of cable and broadcast (CTV & OTT).

With programmatic OTT/CTV advertising, educational institutions can start running programs similar to what faster-moving goods and service companies have already mainstreamed into best practices: timely, nuanced messaging, customized to an individual student's affinities and vocational aptitudes, and to the parents themselves. Schools can serve those messages according to what those likely buyers are watching, when and where they are, and what's relevant to them based on their browsing habits and predicted buyer behavior. This starts to expand advertising strategies beyond the status quo, where the audience was altogether in one place and time watching the same show (usually traditional network TV on Saturday afternoons in the old college marketing paradigm).

For starters, schools can't sell solely over cable and network TV anymore. People continue to cut the cable cord, and the big network upfront ad buys that were canceled in the first quarter of 2020 almost certainly translate into further atomization of advertising dollars into the long tail of thousands of video-on-demand streaming options. Nor can colleges count on spray-and-pray advertising across only traditional content formats (sports, billboards, radio) with no way to measure ROI. They can instead identify and serve customized messages to, for example, prospective engineering students who may display entirely different media consumption habits than, say, prospective arts and sciences students, who have completely different behaviors and motivations than the family influencers who write the checks.

With thousands of schools getting ready to fight over enrollment like never before, ads need to be optimized with data-driven targeting, and conversion activity must be traceable.

Read the full article to learn how programmatic advertising benefits higher education recruitment, here

Andy Dixon is a seasoned Content Writing Specialist at Strategus, renowned for his expertise in creating engaging and impactful digital content. With over a decade of experience in content creation, Andy has honed his skills in a variety of niches, ranging from technology and marketing to education.

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