November 24, 2022

The Role Digital Plays in Higher Education and its Evolution

How higher education institutions can best leverage digital to inspire and connect with students and decision-makers throughout the applicant journey.

Maree Doumanis
Maree Doumanis
Senior Specialist – Account Strategy
The Role Digital Plays in Higher Education and its Evolution

Like many other institutions during the height of the pandemic, universities struggled to adjust to the new normal and evolve not only their operations but messaging and marketing strategy. For example, digital teams within higher education institutions were faced with the challenge of delivering the right message to prospective, existing and alumni students.

Questions like this were illuminated at HighEdWeb, an annual conference for higher education professionals – including programmers, marketers, managers and designers. Our Education vertical team attended the event to delve into the new opportunities presented within the higher education space and explore the digital marketing solutions that are taking higher ed into the future.

Basic questions to inform digital strategies

Many smaller university or college campuses rely primarily on Google Analytics to drive their digital goals and strategies. While Google Analytics is a valuable and economical source to these institutions, interpreting and re-purposing data from GA can be a hurdle that some marketing teams struggle with. It came as no surprise to learn at the conference that 95% of Higher Ed Media/Marketing teams use Google Analytics; 66% Marketing and IT departments and 32% from the Enrollment Leadership department. This in turn raises many questions about how higher ed teams are able to incorporate learnings into long term strategies. For example, if the data is bad, how does that inform strategy as a whole and which partners can help qualify this data and move strategy in the right direction? If the end goal is to generate an increase in enrollments and applications, what messaging amplified out in market will drive potential students down the funnel? These questions are important considerations for high ed teams looking to set up an effective digital strategy. 

CTV influence on an applicant’s higher ed journey 

CTV, a medium that has grown exponentially over recent years, is proving to be valuable and impactful media channel in the education market – in fact, 90% of education intenders claim to watch ad-supported OTT, and 57% of intenders cannot be reached by traditional cable or satellite TV. [IE1] [MD2] [IE3] One major strength of CTV for higher ed institutions is its ability to reach those members within a household who are involved with enrollment/application decision-making. However, there are a few factors that hinder schools and programs from taking advantage of this upper-funnel strategy. From a marketing perspective, having access and resources to build video content for this initiative is limited.

HighEdWeb sponsor Premion spoke to the influence and benefits of CTV and what type of measurement is in line with advertising in this space. Measurement can include website attribution, linear reach extension, sales attribution and transparent detailed reporting, all valuable but not specific to the likes of higher education. Outside of these metrics, education institutions should think about how CTV can play a role throughout the lifetime of an applicant’s journey, which is far and wide - from the first impression to the application submission stage. CTV can be a premium brand awareness strategy if consideration is given to how the creative experience can inspire applicants, how messaging can be directed to a household to influence decisions and how it can be used in conjunction with other media. For example, a CTV ad is an effective way to tell the story of your institution and highlight what makes it unique. That CTV ad can be followed up with interactive video ads on household devices like mobile and desktop to provide more information that applicants and their families can explore on their own terms. 

Engaging students and their families 

The decision-making process is a crucial yet stressful process for all those involved. In 2021 alone, one third of all college students were first generation, which meant that their parents were enduring the process for the first time as well. Given how highly involved parents are in the applicant journey, it’s important for educational institutions to engage families. For example, Sonia Garrido, Director of Marketing at Stony Brook University, highlighted the impact of social media and how they developed their social strategies to align with student affairs and create ways for the families to connect with the institution. Questions like “how can our university encourage student involvement with their parents prior to moving to campus?” were top of mind.

Creating touchpoints with applicant families is an approach that can be applied to mediums beyond just social. Video advertising is a powerful tool and outside of social environments, video ad creative can include interactive elements like course info and campus content on secondary tabs. When this video creative is delivered across household devices to prospective students and their families, both parties can engage with the content to learn more about the institution and the utilize the information to engage with one another. 

The decision to pursue higher education is one that requires much time, research and input from loved ones. Higher ed institutions that employ digital solutions to connect with their audiences will have ability to create the right touchpoints along each step of the journey.

To learn about’s video-driven digital advertising solutions for education, contact us here


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