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How Much Do You Spend on Advertising?

Bob Brock

In the first half of 2013, colleges and universities placed a robust $570.5 million worth of paid advertising in the U.S.*

Higher ed investment in advertising has been climbing since the recession bottomed out several years ago.  Marketing budgets at that point had been slashed by 25%-30% from their pre-recession levels.

But recently, colleges and universities have been motivated to reinvigorate their marketing efforts to build awareness and brand equity as well as address stagnant enrollment markets and steadily increasing competition.

And while the overall investment by higher education has been rising, the make-up of advertisers has been changing, too. It wasn’t long ago that for-profit institutions outspent non-profits by a large margin. But in the first six months of 2013, non-profit institutions actually invested more in advertising than their for-profit cousins:

            Paid Advertising Jan.-June 2013 (excluding search-word advertising)

Non-profit institutions                –  $302.0 million

For-profit institutions                 –  $268.5 million

Total                                            –  $570.5 million

In the for-profit sector, the single largest advertiser during the first six months of the year was once again The Apollo Group (University of Phoenix and several other entities), which purchased advertising valued at about $81.3 million (including internet display advertising but excluding search word marketing).

Other major for-profit spenders included DeVry Inc. ($41.8 million), Capella Education Co. ($18.5 million), Full Sail University ($15.8 million), Career Education Corp. ($14.5 million), the Washington Post (Kaplan University, $14.5 million), Corinthian Colleges Inc. ($11.6 million), and Strayer University ($10.8 million).

But in the emerging higher education marketing landscape, non-profit institutions – both public and private – are beginning to close the spending gap with for-profit institutions. For example, more than 50 non-profit colleges and universities purchased one million dollars or more worth of advertising in the first six months of the year.  These included a surprisingly wide range of community colleges, private institutions, and publicly supported state universities. A few of the more aggressive non-profit marketers showed investment levels previously seen only in the for-profit sector, including one public university that purchased more than $11 million in the first half of 2013.

Ad spending by non-profits overall is increasing, with scores of institutions reaching the $500K – $750K levels for the six-month period, excluding search-engine marketing, which is a big advertising platform for many institutions.

TV remained the platform of choice to reach college and university audiences, with 28.7% combined share (Network and Spot TV) of the overall ad spend, with Cable TV accounting for an additional 11.8%.

The big story, though, is internet display advertising, which continued to rise in importance as a preferred marketing platform, accounting for 27.4% of ad spends during the period.

Radio was also strong with a combine 10.6% of overall buys (Local, National Spot, and Network Radio platforms).  Outdoor advertising garnered 9.7% of higher ed advertising dollars.

Tracking and assessing competitor advertising buys has become an important tool in today’s marketing toolbox. With marketing now a necessity in the college marketplace, it’s important to know what and where competitors are investing in advertising.  It’s the kind of information that builds a strong case among senior leaders for maintaining a competitive marketing budget. Competitive data also helps inform and shape your own ad buys.

If you’d like to find out exactly how much and where competitors in your area or nationally are investing, call or email EMG.  We develop quarterly reports on ad spends – by institution and by DMA – in all major markets across the U.S.

* All figures are based on national tracking data for paid advertising by institutions of higher education in 210 DMA’s across the United States. Data is based on published advertising rates and may not reflect negotiated discounts. Data includes U.S. internet advertising but excludes search-word advertising.

7 Replies to “How Much Do You Spend on Advertising?”

  1. What source did you use to gather this information? If it was an internal survey, did you project the numbers to reflect those outside the sample?

    1. Bob:
      Outdoor DOLS stands for “Outdoor Dollars.” This is the percent of total investment tracked being spent on billboards, outdoor bulletins, transit signage, etc. by institutions of higher education for the period specified. Hope that answers your question. Thanks.

  2. Interesting stats – How can i get the Ad spent for colleges in the Northeast region? it says to contact EMG – yet – no email is provided – please let me know

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