Across the advertising industry, programmatic accounts for 80% of all digital spend, but in the student marketing space, it’s a relatively underutilised tactic. 

Despite the mystery still surrounding programmatic for many student marketers, programmatic advertising is simply the automated buying and selling of online advertising. And this year marks the 25th anniversary of the very first online banner ad, so it’s about time to get your head around it.

The first-ever banner advert was published online in 1994 by AT&T, with a simple ‘click here’ call-to-action. Back in those early days of the internet, it managed to achieve a 44% click-through rate; something marketers today can only dream of.

But programmatic can still be used to achieve amazing cut-through with impressive ROI, if you’re brave enough to give it a go.

So let’s take a look at some recent Natives campaigns with universities who are getting it right with programmatic and what we can learn from them.

A central federal research university

Campaign aim: To target specific students for specific courses and retarget those who had already shown an interest.

How it worked: Using audience data from past campaigns, we created lookalike audiences and followed them around the web with targeted adverts. People that engaged with the ads, performed an action on the course site, or visited the site organically were then retargeted as a highly engaged audience.

Result: 86.39% of confirmed course applications came from programmatic tactics, with the rest coming via Facebook and other media buying. 

A public research university in London

Campaign aim: To get students to sign up for their Open Day.

How it worked: We used different levels of retargeting, where people who performed an on-site action (like page views) were categorised on how likely they would be to sign up to an open day. Higher advertising bids were then placed for those more likely to sign up. 

Result: The cost per open day sign up was £37.51, 30.54% lower than the overall campaign CPA of £54.00. 

A prestigious private nursing school in New York

Campaign aim: To raise awareness of the nursing school’s courses in the U.S.

How it worked: We analysed the top-performing websites from previous years and placed higher bids for those websites. We then incorporated third-party data on users who might be interested in the university/course offering.

Result: Programmatic reached 250,333 users in just 24 days, compared to social advertising which reached 221,908 unique users in total over the whole year. The cost per unique user was 3.15 times higher for social than for programmatic, showing that reach is much easier using programmatic than social platforms. 

“Programmatic advertising leverages the vast data we have collected as an agency to reach the right audience, at the right time, in the right environment, making it crucial to an omnichannel campaign”

- Will Farrance, Programmatic Trader, Natives

But don’t take our word for it. If you’d like to know your DSPs from your DMPs, the what, why, and hows of programmatic advertising and why programmatic is an important part of any media plan for the student audience, then sign up and download our free webinar recording here.

Our advertising experts have lifted the lid on how our leading student trading desk works and takes you through a 101 on programmatic. You’ll be empowered with the knowledge to work more effectively with your agency. 

We covered:

  • The what, why and how of programmatic
  • Planning, targeting, and measurement
  • The creative options you have available
  • The challenges of in-housing versus the benefits of an agency
  • And examples of when programmatic advertising won the day

Sign up and download our webinar and watch on-demand. 

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Article by

Nicola Jones

PR & Events Manager