increase in paid search traffic, year-on-year
ad impressions worldwide
international website visitors
The University of Nottingham is a pioneering institution. A top 20 UK university and a member of the Russell Group, with campuses in Nottingham, China and Malaysia, they’re also one of Britain’s leading research universities, ranking 8th in the Research Excellence Framework, as well as being listed as one of the UK’s top employers.
The University of Nottingham approached us to help them to transform their media capabilities to meet he demands of a post-covid higher education landscape.
They wanted to align their marketing departments around a central global strategy that supported faculties to meet their student application targets.
They also needed to build their brand worldwide, targeting prospective students with creative campaigns encouraging international prospects to apply for open days and to generate enquiries for courses across every faculty.
Considerations around the Covid-19 pandemic impacted these campaigns: since the start of the pandemic, the university landscape has changed considerably, with a move to online learning, disrupted exam cycles and international countries viewing travel to the UK with more caution.
There were also cultural sensitivities to take into account when it came to international advertising: the UoN was keen to ensure that everyone was represented in the visual ads, whilst making sure they were also culturally appropriate for specific audience locations.
What we did
It was important to start with immersion sessions with the university, understanding their recruitment targets, whilst compiling in-depth research around their target markets and the differing media habits across the globe. As Hallam are International Growth Partners with Google, we have access to tools that allow us to gain insight into growth opportunities, high-interest areas and advertising costs worldwide, amongst other important factors.
Our planning began with an assessment of the interest levels in UK university study from international students at both post and undergraduate level.
Using tools such as Google’s market explorer, we looked to identify the markets where demand was growing fastest, and compared it with the likelihood of students in those countries being able to afford to study abroad.
The university actually attracts students from over 20 international markets, all of which have different cultures, traditions and media consumption habits. This means that the networks and types of advertising used to target students in each market can vary massively.
For example, we found that in parts of southeast Asia, digital out of home advertising is actually the predominant form of advertising used by many leading brands. You also have the complexities of advertising in China, where Google is non-existent of course – and the need for a network of partners who are capable of managing local media campaigns in those markets.
Hallam partnered with the UoN team on various student recruitment campaigns to meet faculty recruitment goals, the overarching campaign theme being Normal Never Changed the World.
This was an integrated, global student recruitment campaign spanning across 9 digital networks and 12 territories, alongside out-of-home advertising.
Building brand recognition
Although the primary goal was to increase student recruitment numbers through Open Day bookings, it was equally important to build the brand by considering which upper funnel advertising platforms would resonate most with the target audience of 17-24 year-olds.
We were conscious that different platforms would work best at different times in the 6 month period of the campaign when we established the UK strategy, so the platform durations emphasised upper-funnel networks throughout the whole period, with lower-funnel networks boosted towards peak times of search enquiries.
Using Share of Search to measure the success of our brand campaigns, we had the ability to report on international brand interest and course specific interest growth over time.
Share of Search has been shown to be a leading indicator of market share growth, and is a quick and cost-effective way of measuring the long-term impact of brand advertising vs. competitors.
Part of the global brand campaign was anchored around a powerful video campaign:
We focused on the key times in which students would be looking for universities and built up momentum as we got closer to Open Day dates. The UK campaign ran across Google Search, Facebook, YouTube, Pinterest, Spotify, Sky Ad Smart, Twitch and Tik Tok.
To mitigate the challenges brought by the pandemic, we worked with fluid timelines to push different messaging during different periods to the territories that were deemed most relevant by the university’s international office. Our team split the paid media budget mindfully between different countries based on their size and the university’s specific targets for each location.
Our campaign succeeded in reaching new audiences, and delivered large amount of new relevant traffic to the university’s website and recruitment funnels. Some highlights include:
- 2,400% growth in paid search traffic, year on year
- 70 million worldwide impressions of ad campaigns
- 372,000 international website visitors
- Share of Search (brand interest) experienced the largest growth the university had seen in the last 9 years, increasing by 1.25 percentage points
- 1,297 Open Day expressions of interest
- 1,056 actual Open Day Bookings
- 1,651 people registered for Clearing alerts
- 85 international student applications generated for Clearing
The campaign was also shortlisted for a 2021 Drum Award, in the Best Digital Media Strategy category.
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