Higher education marketing breached a milestone in 2013 when colleges and universities invested more than $1.24 billion in paid advertising.
Surprisingly, overall advertising purchases by non-profit colleges and universities (including public and private institutions in 2-year and 4-year categories) during the year essentially equaled the total amount invested by the for-profit higher education sector:*
Despite the parity of overall investment by for-profit and non-profits, there was a sizeable difference in the average amount spent per institution: 3,420 non-profit institutions (public and private, 2-year and 4-year) invested, on average, $179,693 each last year.
Meanwhile, 417 for-profit educational institutions invested an average of $1.48 million each. In addition, 328 foreign institutions invested $9.5 million in the top 210 U.S. markets during 2013.
For-profit and non-profit marketing directors used different strategies in timing and choice of media platforms. For-profits, for example, spent heavier in quarters one and three of the year, while non-profits focused more media purchases in quarters three and four.
For-profit institutions chose TV, Internet Display, and Cable TV as their favored media platforms, with significantly less interest in Radio, Newspapers, Magazines, and Outdoor channels. In fact, for-profits spent more than twice what non-profit colleges did for both TV and Cable TV.
Meanwhile, non-profit institutions chose Internet Display advertising as their strongest first choice platform, with TV as second choice. Non-profits also invested significantly more dollars than for-profit colleagues in Outdoor, Radio, Newspaper, and Magazine platforms.
Because of the strong preference for TV platforms among for-profit advertisers, broadcast television remains the preferred overall platform for higher education marketing efforts, but the gap has been closing steadily. Internet Display advertising is likely to overtake TV as the No. 1 media platform in 2014 – among non-profit advertisers, it already has.
Two elements emerge as clear trends for 2014 higher education advertising: the overall investment in paid advertising will continue to grow, and the movement toward Internet advertising in all of its myriad distinctive channels will become the preferred platform for most, if not all, college and university advertisers.
Contact EMG with your comments or questions about individual markets and/or specific institutional ad spends.
Advertising spend data source is Kantar Media, which tracks advertising placements in the top 210 DMA’s in the U.S. by all institutions of higher education. Data excludes expenditures in rural areas outside of designated DMA’s, search-word advertising (SEM), and paid sponsorships. Internet display ads are included.