10 Awesome Education-Related Advertising & Marketing Campaigns of 2012

January 8, 2013 DMS Marketing Team

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Our Top Educational Advertising Selections

Frequently on our blog, we discuss the nitty gritty details of marketing in the education sector. Over the last year, we’ve kept you updated on new media usage in education, taken some deep looks into how analytics inform evidence-based business practices, and, hopefully, provided our readers with valuable insight into effective marketing strategies and tactics. That being said, 2012 was an absolutely great year for higher education advertising campaigns, so let’s take a look back and reflect on some of the visionary, entertaining and just plain cool campaigns that schools have produced over the last year.

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10. The University of San Francisco

Example of Advertising Education at the University of San FranciscoUSF_Bus.img_assist_custom-480x164USF_EvilGenius.img_assist_custom-480x164USF_Hill.img_assist_custom-477x114


Produced by Hub Strategy, the University of San Francisco rolled out clever advertisements that graced the sides of bus shelters, billboards and even spread to online banner advertisements and print media early this year. Eschewing the traditional San Francisco imagery of the Golden Gate Bridge, the advertisements were tailored to speak to San Franciscans by providing witty, on-brand commentary and in-jokes about the school.

9. Ozark Technical Communication College

Cost Comparison – Community Colleges vs. For-Profit Colleges from OzarksTech on Vimeo.

Ozarks Technical Community College, a school in Springfield, MO with an enrollment of 15,000 students, launched a local television campaign that plays to one of the school’s strengths by comparing their $3,300 annual tuition to the cost of large proprietary competitors like Bryan University and ITT Tech.

Attacking the price-point of a school may seem like a low blow, but marketing isn’t about being nice. Good campaigns are designed to find the pain points of an audience and craft a compelling narrative about your own brand. Another interesting point about this campaign is that it showcases the ability for small, local schools to exploit that close-to-home aspect of their character when competing with national brands. While the national brands do frequently do some tailoring of television ads for local markets, that tailoring is limited.


8. University of Bristol


Okay, yes, yes, I know. QR codes are kind of old news and, realistically, they do seem to be ignored by most consumers, but the University of Bristol’s QR-code billboard is an awesome idea. Instead of plopping an ugly, white and black, two-dimensional square on an existing advertisement, the school used the iconic imagery of the Clifton Suspension Bridge for its billboard, hiding the QR code within the bridge’s form. “It was important that whatever we did to get the message out there had to live up to the extremely high academic standard and overall world-class reputation of the university,” Bristol’s direct of communication strategy and marketing, David Alder, told The Drum. “Hence the rather clever use of QR code in the design creative and the use of the design out of doors, meaning that more people could actually interact with it and discover what the ad is trying to get across.”

7. American University


Originally created in 2010, American University’s WONK campaign was recognized with a CASE Circle of Excellence Award in 2012. The AU Wonk campaign is a integrated university-wide marketing campaign designed to promote American University’s brand objectives by strengthening the school’s academic and research reputation, enhance the quality and diversity of both undergraduate and graduate enrollment and improve engagement, support and advocacy among alumni. The school worked with SimpsonScarborough, a company that specializes in higher education brand strategy and market research, to conduct thousands of quantitative and qualitative interviews to form the underlying brand strategy and identify triggers and the campaign tone. In total, the school spent about $555,000 during the development and enactment of the campaign, which spanned social media websites, physical out-of-home advertising displays, a redesign of the school’s Welcome Center and on-campus events.

That total price may seem high, but initial results seem to indicate that it was well spent. American University reports that campus campaign awareness is extremely high (around 90 percent), the university’s website has seen a 35 percent increase in traffic and a 21 percent increase in page views, and the school’s admissions website has received an 88.9 percent increase in traffic.  Fall applications for the school also increased by 25 percent.


5. University of Florida


Instagram and Twitter may be going through a messy break-up at the moment, but back when they were still totally into each other (in June), the University of Florida capitalized on their fantastic relationship by encouraging graduates to tag posts with the #ufgrad hashtag during their commencement. “We ended up getting hundreds of photos posted to the hashtag of people, before, during, and after the commencement,” Bruce Floyd, social media specialist for the University of Florida, told U.S. News and World Report. “We had all these students at commencement take photos. Why not create a way to gather and capture the conversation?”


4. University of Oregon


Running from June 22 through July 6, the University of Oregon encouraged students to use image sharing website Pinterest to pin things that reflected the brand of the Oregon Ducks, tag it with a #nationalbrand hash tag and be entered in a contest to win a $250 shopping spree on the team’s online store. Since the contest began, pages and pages of different pins featuring the #nationalbrand tag have appeared, including a team color-clad Darth Vadar, lawn gnomes and more.

3. ASU Memes


Even though it was created by a student and not the school itself, the ASU Memes Facebook Page is great example of how humorous and easily sharable content can be quickly produced and shared on behalf of a school. The brainchild of Ryan Kaupe, a criminal justice junior when he created it, the Facebook page began as a copy of a Princeton-related page. After creating it, a coworker effectively “purchased” the page, offering money in exchange for Kaupe keeping it updated. Currently, he’s single-handedly responsible for approximately 80 percent of the content on the page, which includes hyper-relevant memes about specific classes and ongoing events.

2. Tufts


This is an oldie, but a goody. Back in 2010, Tufts began allowing college applicants to submit optional YouTube videos along with their applications. It’s par for the course for Tufts, which, as the New York Times notes, “like the University of Chicago, is know for its quirky applications. […] Tufts has for years offered applicants an array of optional essays – “Are we alone?” is one of this year’s topics – or a chance to “create something” out of a sheet of paper.”


1. Wichita State University


Wichita State University, a public university originally founded as the congregational Fairmount College in 1886 (and whose original football team was called the “Wheatshockers”), started a social campaign to increase brand awareness for the school by encouraging alumni and students to use the hashtag #WSUexperience across Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, Instagram and other social media websites. No word on what type of results that they’ve seen from the June 2012 campaign, but it’s an awesome attempt to bring some more visibility to their brand.


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