How can Schools use Digital Advertising

9th August 2018

written by George Hughes

In an article by The Guardian, Ralf Lucas the founder of Good Schools Guide said that he was noticing a clear shift when meeting parents in their opinion towards State schools, saying that “Independent schools really need to show us more, not just tell us, as we’re really taking State schools seriously”. Parents today are spoilt for choice. Not only do independent schools need to prove their value over State schools but they also need to work harder to stand out from their competitor schools. This is why a well executed digital strategy should be a top priority for any marketing team in the independent school sector, and digital advertising can play a massive role in that.

So, what is digital advertising? Digital advertising is when you run adverts online across social media, Google, YouTube, and various other websites. Last year digital advertising spend outstripped television for the first time in history (SEOworks). It’s highly effective and the good news is it’s affordable for everybody, regardless of the size of your school marketing budget.

What are the best ways to use digital advertising for your school?

1. To drive more people to your school website

A video on your school website is an extremely effective way of engaging prospective parents. But how do you get them to visit your website in the first place, especially if they’ve never heard of your school? By running adverts online across Facebook and Instagram you can reach people beyond your immediate sphere of influence. For example, if you are a boarding school based in Surrey but you want to attract more international students from South Korea, you could run a Facebook advert that only targets affluent, well educated, English speaking adults in the Seoul area. Or, if you are a school in Buckinghamshire running a bursary scheme for inner city children, you could run an Instagram advert explaining the advantages of the scheme targeting London postcode children under the age of 16 who attend a specific selection of State schools. Even if you just want to attract more pupils from the next county, social media advertising is a great way to do this.

2. To highlight the best aspects of your school

Parent’s can often get into “analysis paralysis” when comparing different schools. This is because many will have a good website, a compelling video and lots of information that positions them in a favourable light. To stand out from the competition, you need to think outside the box and that’s where digital advertising can help. You can provide parents with many more layers of information about your school to help them in the decision making process and also keep yourself in the front of their mind. By creating a series of films highlighting different aspects of your school, whether that’s art, sport or academia, you can run them as promotional videos online across social media channels, Google and YouTube

3. Keeping you at the front of prospect minds

One of the best things you can do for your school with digital advertising is to set up “re-marketing”. You might not have heard of re-marketing before but you will no doubt be familiar with it. We’ve all been there; you look at a bit of furniture or some clothing online and then an advert for that same item starts following you around the internet. You might find this slightly annoying, but the truth is it really works! All you need to do is ask your website designer to install Google and Facebook Pixel. Once that’s done you can set up your own re-marketing campaign via Google ads or Facebook ads. The reason this is so good is because it will keep your school in front of prospect parents as they deliberate over which school to visit, or which school to choose for their child.

Digital advertising can offer you some great solutions. Instagram and Facebook are both platforms that allow you to be very strategic in your approach to reach target audiences. By allowing you the selection of certain factors like location, age, gender, demographics, interests, behaviours, connections or language, you have the potential of reaching parents and students worldwide. As well as specific people around the UK. Your main focus when advertising on these platforms is to have a very distinguished idea of who your target audiences are and how you are best going to reach them with compelling content. 

You can be even more specific in your approach by targeting your prospect parents and students on the channels that you know they are most active. For example, if you want to be targeting parents with digital adverts the best options will be Facebook, Google and YouTube. As an older generation and not so immersed in the world of social media, you’ll mainly want to target them during everyday internet activity, for example, at work or online shopping through Google, watching recipe videos on YouTube, or, staying in contact with friends on Facebook.

If you want to be targeting students with your digital adverts the best platforms for you will be Instagram and Snapchat. The younger generation is much more tech savvy – providing them with direct access to your school’s information through a well displayed advert on Instagram will add a lot of credibility (maybe they’ll even share the ad). If you want to be reaching Feeder schools with your adverts then the best place to reach them is through Twitter as it’s more of a platform for brands, businesses and organisations. Perfect for spreading a more sophisticated message about your school to other people in the same field.

Digital advertising can seem like a daunting task but once you get started it soon becomes second nature. Just be specific in your approaches and make sure to have a very clear idea of who you want to be targeting. Use the right platforms in relation to your target audience, be knowledgeable about them so that you can be precise in your targeting and, be specific in the content you produce so that it resonates and connects with the target audience.

If you are looking for support with how to advertise your school then we have a team of highly experienced creatives, film makers and digital marketers who would love to help. Drop us a line here

In recent years there has been an undoubtable shift in the way brands and advertisers are choosing to communicate with their audiences and customers. Not only is there a steady decline in traditional forms of advertising and a transition towards online video content but, the way brands are using video to advertise is also changing.

Whilst video adverts that play on the immediate desires of a general target audience still have a big role to play in general advertising, advertisers and brands are starting to see the opportunities to connect with their audiences with more meaningful content; content that is relevant to their lifestyles and emotions. What we are seeing now is video being created by brands that is driven more by narrative and storytelling as opposed to the “hard sell” video adverts that has been the norm for so many years.

Take this 2018 advert by Disneyland Paris – The Little Duck as our first example.


The video was posted on Youtube on December 25th and now has 2.9 million views and is the most viewed video on Disney’s channel. It is a video led entirely through narrative that plays with the audience’s emotions. The story is relatable to both an older generation who remember Donald Duck and a younger generation that engages with high quality animation and cute animals. What works well with this video is that it sells the desire to visit Disneyland Paris through the story of the little duck, without needing to mention ticket prices, accommodation or travel. The narrative of the video helps to build an instant and positive connection to Disneyland. 

A lot of brands now produce video content solely for online use because it not only costs less than TV advertising but can also reach an equal number of people. More money can then be put into the production of the video, making them appear more like short films or TV series instead of adverts. They are longer in length, have characters or a protagonist and there is a strong storyline that has a message relatable to the target audience.  

Here is another example by Mercedes Benz – Bertha Benz: The Journey That Changed Everything.

It is a video about the journey of Mrs Benz and her first fuelled car adventure. There is a strong narrative and a main protagonist, the production quality is high with a lot of detail put into the set design and costumes, and there is a relevant and modern message about female empowerment with the tagline at the end of the video “She Believed in Herself”. It is 4 minutes long and therefore would be too long to run as a TV advert but works incredibly well as an online branded video because it’s interesting, eye catching, different from what Mercedes have done in the past and has a meaningful message. 

Creating an online video for your brand that uses storytelling can help you to reach wider audiences that you might not already engage with. The reason the Mercedes Benz video works so well is because the message it is selling is worth sharing, so audiences are more likely to share the video amongst friends and family. The story is powerful and it builds strong emotions which help aids the positive impression of the Mercedes brand.

Here is another example by Delta Airlines.

A very eye catching and heartwarming video that works well at building an emotional connection to Delta Airlines. They’ve told the story of travelling through the eyes of a child which makes it seems a lot more exciting and desirable. What works well with this advert is the brief mentioning of the brand at the end of the video. If the audience is engaged and likes the video, they will need to wait till the end to find out who the brand is behind it. Because the story has been so engaging for the audience, when they see the branding they will respond positively to it.

These are just a few examples of story-led videos from brands that have come out recently online. Videos that rely on storytelling are highly effective at engaging your audience on a much deeper and more meaningful level and they don’t always need a big budget. It is more important to have the right strategy, ideas and script. And most importantly you need to know what story you want to tell.

If you are an SME and haven’t heard of the term ambush marketing, then you may be missing a trick. It’s a high impact, cost effective way for brands to hog the limelight and is frequently being used by the likes of Pepsi, Burger King and Nike to generate huge sales. And the good news is that you don’t have to be a big brand to use ambush marketing. It works for emerging brands too. So, what is ambush marketing and why is it so effective?

Imagine you want to hold a street party but can’t afford it. Then you find out your neighbor is hosting his own street party with a band and an expensive sound system. So you invite all your friends over and pass the party off as your own. Before you know it, your neighbour’s guests have even ended up at your house. You’ve got the street party you always wanted and didn’t have to pay a thing. #partyambush.

Now imagine you are Coco Cola and you’ve paid a fortune to sponsor the World Cup. But then Pepsi, who hasn’t paid a penny in sponsorship, decides to rebrand all their drinks cans with pictures of the England World Cup team. They win sales from Coke without the hefty price tag of official sponsorship. Catch my drift?

The most common form of ambush marketing takes place surrounding key sporting events where brands would ordinarily have to pay for sponsorship like the World Cup, Wimbledon or the Olympics. But it can also be used for other key calendar events like Movie Releases, Royal Birthdays, Festivals OR to hijack big marketing announcements from other brands like Apple or Tesla. And that marketing can manifest in print, TV, digital, radio or a brand’s packaging.

So how can emerging brands use ambush marketing effectively? And what about video – how can you use it to amplify an ambush marketing campaign?

1. Be Direct

In this game you need to be proactive and keep a beady eye on your annual calendar. There are many events that pop up throughout the year which you could create some awesome content to generate buzz. Form connections through imagery, colour and slogans whether that’s Union Jacks for a Royal Wedding, rainbows for London Pride or in the case of Blue Kitchen restaurant this year – create a social media video.
During the world cup they create this video which referenced Maradona’s famous “Hands of God”. So even thought Blues Kitchen has no official connection to the present world cup they formed a strong association that would have resonated with their audience.

Your ambush doesn’t just have to be inline with a specific event – it can stem from anything that is current or trending. You need look no further than social media for the latest meme or hot topic. Do you remember when fidget spinners first came into town and how everybody went crazy for them? Well Burger King took that trend in their stride and produced this awesome Gif…

As an emerging brand this is exactly the type of trend that could you easily to create some content around.

2. Be Fearless

To make an omelet you have to break a few eggs. So to stay ahead of your competition, you’ll have to risk putting a few noses out of joint with your ambush marketing. Look at what your competitors are doing or any bigger brands that you could ambush and then form a marketing campaign around their events. For example, in 2012, Nike piggybacked off London Olympic fervor with their own TV campaign called “Find your Greatness” despite the fact that Adidas were the official sponsor, not Nike.

And an example of an emerging brand jumping on a big brand’s bandwagon is Mous – they timed the release of their indestructible phone case with the arrival of the Iphone X. They even ambushed the long queue outside the Apple store and filmed some video content with the hopeful Iphone owners putting their indestructible case through its paces.

3. Be Predatory

Look for opportunities to have a dig at your competition. Here’s another example from Burger King where they hijacked the cinema release of the Clown horror film “IT” and used it to poke fun at their main competitor McDonalds with the slogan “Never Trust a Clown”. They created this piece of video content to promote the campaign.

And Android released this advert for their Smart watches just before the release of the Apple Watch, making the point that as an Android smart watch owner they have different styles so you can still be individual but with Apple, you only get one choice.

As an emerging brand there are so many opportunities lying in wait for you to do your own ambush marketing campaign, whether that’s piggybacking off a major event, jumping on a new trend that’s doing the rounds on social media or having a dig at some of your bigger competitors with a counterintuitive video campaign. Just look at the calendar and for anything you can take advantage of, then start your scheming! Be the predator, not the prey.