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Jun 17

choozlechat: Targeting college students with digital advertising during the pandemic with OnCampus Advertising

Due to the pandemic, college campuses look a bit different. These changes present new challenges for marketers trying to connect with students through digital advertising. College students are a dynamic audience that many marketers are looking to reach.

Like all other consumers, a variety of mediums can reach college students. In addition to the traditional forms of advertising, like TV and radio commercials, and ads on billboards, transit, and print media, digital advertising has become another key channel in reaching college students.

To better understand the strategies used to target college students, and how this market has changed over the last year, we chatted with Brendon Basile, Director of Media Operations at OnCampus Advertising. OnCampus Advertising specializes in advising agencies, brands, and universities on how to best connect with Millennial and Gen Z college students.


Q: Let’s start with an explanation of what OnCampus Adertising does and the type of clients you work with.

Brendon Basile: We focus on reaching college students while they are in the college experience. This also includes their parents, faculty & staff, and alumni. Our clients range from banks and telecoms trying to target the back-to-school audience to other businesses and universities trying to reach students to recruit them for jobs or to have them go to their graduate or medical school programs. We also have a lot of youth-oriented brands.


Q: From your point of view, what impact has the coronavirus pandemic had on reaching college students?

The pandemic limited the activities we could do directly on campus. In-person campaigns were not possible due to social distancing, and the fact that many campuses closed limited our reach using traditional media such as brand ambassadors, newspaper print, and out-of-home advertisements.

More on back-to-school advertising in 2020 is found here.


Q: What kind of strategies and tactics do you use for your clients?

We use various strategies, from the more traditional print, brand ambassadors, and out-of-home, to digital-focused campaigns. We have seen a real uptick recently in mobile, email, and CRM targeting-based campaigns.


Q: How have these strategies and tactics changed over the last year?

We needed to find ways to reach college students when they were studying at home instead of at a specific university. As students moved to more remote learning, we couldn’t just target the college campus.


Q: How has Choozle helped you execute your campaigns and strategies for your clients?

Mobile geoframing with a look-back window of nearly a year allowed us to identify students that were on college campuses prior to the pandemic and allowed us to target them regardless of their current location.

Additionally, using an email source provider, we created our own custom CRM lists linked to students’ emails instead of physical locations.


Q: What are some of the benefits of being able to target specific audiences?

Our clients want to reach specific types of students. Whether it’s because their offers are only valid for certain schools, or their solutions only make sense for specific majors, we need to drill down on the right audience. We want to avoid media waste whenever possible to maximize our client’s value.


Q: How have these strategies helped improve your campaigns and performance?

CRM, mobile, and programmatic campaigns that utilized existing Choozle audiences have helped drive traffic to our clients’ landing pages.


Q: What are some of the challenges you face when implementing digital advertising?

Attribution is always tricky with digital advertising. Many clients still pay closer attention to the last click, which gives heavy weighting to search. They don’t always consider the media that drove someone to conduct the search in the first place.


Q: Any final thoughts?

The ability to hone in on a specific target has been greatly beneficial in delivering the right audience to our clients. Whether it’s through mobile geoframes, CRM data, or using data from various media partners, we can narrow the scope of any campaign.


Brendon Basile started working in advertising nearly 20 years ago. Since joining OnCampus Advertising in 2013, he has managed over 100 campaigns targeting colleges and universities across the US and Canada. Brendon runs all facets of clients’ campaigns, from digital to event marketing. Outside of advertising, he enjoys cheering on the Red Sox, Patriots, Celtics, and Bruins, and is a proud Syracuse Orange alum.

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