It’s the busiest period of the year for university admissions and marketing teams, as the reality of the year’s student recruitment activity is revealed, and universities find out how well they’ve done in selling their institution to the latest wave of undergraduates.

For students it’s the culmination of 13 years of education and a spring/summer term of studying, revising and worrying about exam results. The reality for most is that they’ve secured a place at their chosen university but some won’t have done as well, and in an age where young people are the top of the internet-usage-table(95% penetration according to OFCOM, 2013) it’s the first place they’ll turn to work out what to do next.

16-24 year olds were spending 17.2 hours a week online in 2010 (OFCOM) and there are currently 3.8 million of the UK’s 16-19 year olds on Facebook (Facebook stats, June 2014). They know how to use the internet to work for them and with our top tips we’ll make sure it works for you and your campaigns.

1. Don’t JUST bid on ‘Clearing’

It’s a mistake made by university marketers time and again with the only winner being Google.

Steph Ricca, Head of Advertising at Net Natives says “you need to be much smarter than that when it comes to Google AdWords. We focus on course and region specific targeting for our clients, which helps keep costs down and increases the quality of the response.

“This is a delicate time for students so it’s important to have a conversation, use things like amplified content to engage students and provide individual responses.  To improve conversion, look for opportunities to get email/phone numbers so you can continue the conversation in private.”

2. Raise COURSE SPECIFIC AWARENESS before the big day and maximise your share of voice

There’s a lot of value in building awareness in the run up to results day, you’ll have an idea (and hopefully a database) of students that will be interested in your courses and institution so use the weeks before to target these students (and their parents) with messages that paint your brand in the best light.

Messaging like ‘It’s not too late to change your mind’ will help with students that aren’t sure they’ve firmed the right course, or focus on messaging that highlights your expertise in the sector.

3. Front load campaigns

Clearing officially runs until the end of September but last year we saw places filled in record time with applications tailing off after the first week. We’d advise you to set your budget to match, so that your campaigns are most competitive early on, allowing you to sit back and relax as others fight it out through September.

See how this worked for one of our clients in 2013

4. Don’t forget the lowest hanging fruit

If you leave Amazon without making a purchase they make sure you’re reminded about that product on as many sites as possible. So don’t let students leave your site without getting some information from them, whether it’s an email address or a cookie you can use to re-engage them.
Read more about remarketing from our Digital Director, Don Skinner

5. Be seen across multiple platforms

Don’t put all your eggs in one basket, there are many ways to reach students and get them thinking about your university. Not all of them will turn to Google search. Many will want to vent the frustration of missing their grades on Facebook first, others will look to peers on Twitter using the un-missable hashtag, #Clearing. Even digital radio is an option; for those students who aren’t considering university, radio is a powerful way to spark their interest, and with platforms like Spotify, targeting is now a real option.

This is by no means a definitive list and the devil is in the detail, one or two campaign messages are unlikely to get results, which is why our campaign team generate hundreds of ad variations with different messages and optimise them 24/7 to ensure results for our clients.

If you’d like to know more about how we do this and what we can do for you, send us an email or give us a call on +44 (0)1273 734640

Article by


Charlie Penrose

Creative Director