As cable television costs continue to rise, more people are giving up their subscriptions to traditional TV for streaming services such as Netflix, Amazon Prime, YouTube TV, and Hulu. For advertisers, this signals a massive change in the behavior of our audiences. But this isn’t the only shift in media consumption we’re seeing with a population that’s been dubbed “cord cutters.” Their other habits include turning to services like Pandora and Spotify to get their music, downloading podcasts to take on the go, and spending more time watching long-form videos on platforms like YouTube.
That means our jobs as higher education marketers are becoming more complex as we re-evaluate marketing budgets that were once allocated toward TV commercials, radio advertising, billboards, and other tactics that previously helped us reach the masses of our target audiences.
As this cord cutters population has begun to integrate themselves into traditional undergraduate, transfer, adult education, and graduate audiences, we’ve started to see a few advertising tactics that help higher education institutions ensure that they’re still building critical branding and awareness that will help fill the top of the marketing funnel.
You can no longer ignore OTT advertising
OTT, which stands for “over the top,” is the video content streamed directly from the internet to laptops, mobile devices, tablets, and connected TVs. With 71% of all US households now engaging with OTT content at least once per month and 65% of Gen Z/millennials engaging with four-plus OTT subscriptions, it’s a huge missed opportunity if you aren’t using this advertising format to reach your target audience.
Your ads can be shown before, during, or after the OTT video content the viewer has chosen to watch, are full screen, and are also unskippable. With hyper-targeting options available, you can get your message in front of the right people at the right time. Choose to target your audience using their interests and online behaviors; layer on demographic information like age, location, education level, and income; serve ads to those who have visited your website or searched for you on search engines; and even target users who are consuming media that is contextually relevant to your ads.
Podcast advertising is on the rise
As previously mentioned, cord cutters have embraced the uptick in podcasts available for consumption. In fact, more than 73 million Americans listen to podcasts every month—up over 30% since 2016—and 44% of podcast listeners are 18–35 years old, which means advertisers have found an additional outlet to reach one of the more elusive populations in higher education.
However, very few higher education marketers have taken advantage of this advertising platform. The early adopters have a huge opportunity to establish a firm position in this uncrowded market, especially compared to more cluttered spaces like Facebook, Instagram, and LinkedIn.
When advertising on podcasts, marketers don’t need to have a previously produced audio file; the script will be read by the host of the podcasts that are part of your campaign. All you need to do is provide the script you want them to read. Although there are more than 73 million people listening to podcasts every month, individual podcast listenership isn’t incredibly high yet, given the overall number of podcasts that exist. Because of this, targeting is more limited—marketers should anticipate being able to only target by individual podcasts and geography of the listeners.
YouTube needs to be included in your marketing mix
This tactic shouldn’t come as a surprise to most in higher education, but we’d be remiss not to remind you that YouTube advertising should be a tactic to allocate your marketing dollars toward. Not convinced yet? These stats may change your mind:
- More than 30 million people use YouTube daily.
- 80% of 18–49-year-olds watch YouTube at least monthly.
- Millennials prefer YouTube 2:1 over traditional television.
- The 35+ and 55+ age groups are the fastest-growing YouTube demographics.
- 67% of YouTube users have at least some college education.
- The average viewing session is 40 minutes, up 50% year-over-year.
There are a few advertising options that are available on YouTube that’ll help you hone in on your target audience, regardless of where they are in the marketing funnel. The first is TrueView In-Stream ads. These ads are similar to OTT ads: they’re shown before, during, or after a video that the user has chosen to watch on the platform. Since users are able to skip your ad after five seconds in this format, you’ll want to make sure you’re communicating the most important information at the very beginning of the video ad. Ads that are between 15– 30 seconds tend to perform the best.
The second option is TrueView Discovery ads. These ads appear after a user performs a YouTube search, showing up on the YouTube mobile home page, in the search results, and next to related videos. These ads need to be clicked on by a user, so the ad unit is made up of a thumbnail and up to three lines of text. We suggest having a call to action overlay on the video thumbnail so you drive users to your website.
As you can see, prospective students now have many more options available to them when it comes to how they want to consume media. At Carnegie Dartlet, we’re making sure we’re staying up-to-date on the latest trends and shifts in behaviors so we can continue to reach people where they’re spending the majority of their time. If you want to learn more about how to utilize streaming media advertising in your higher education marketing plan, we're here to help.