Education 2021

Facing an uncertain future, Otago Polytechnic were tasked with doing more with less budget. They developed an entirely online campaign – a drastic change from what had previously been done. 

Mapping the future

The challenge

In post-pandemic New Zealand, the new normal was online. Otago Polytechnic’s traditional brand awareness campaign couldn’t reach potential learners the way it had previously and the focus turned to social and digital advertising. The core learner base was set to change dramatically in terms of geography and socio-economic status, yet the need to increase domestic enrolments grew. Past online marketing hadn’t been optimised. Otago Polytechnic’s website conversion rate was extremely low for the sector (less than 1 percent compared to 3 percent on average) and remarketing to visitors hadn’t been attempted. Split testing on landing pages had never occured and Facebook and Google ads had been managed by an outsourced agency, with analytics not utilised. The previous year’s marketing spend had been unsuccessful in driving website visitors. The loss of international students was also creating one of the most challenging marketing environments the sector had witnessed. 

The response

An overarching campaign, ‘Map Your Future’, was created and three themes were developed: ‘Follow the Jobs’, ‘Follow your Dreams’ and ‘Follow your Heart’. The team quickly implemented a data-driven campaign, relying on digital skill sets without agency support or extra budget, giving up $70,000 they’d normally have. Benefit-driven ads targeted people in the consideration phase of their decision journey. During lockdown, staff struggled working from home, so half the team worked twice as hard to get the creative across the line. The campaign was confirmed for design in May, but the team had to pivot in June when the Government announced ‘fees free’ programmes, requiring new messaging, new landing pages and back end changes. All creative, bar one video, was done in-house with just one team member managing social and search advertising. The five Colleges had to hand over control of budgets and all agree on messaging and creative. Cross-organisational stakeholder engagement was achieved by providing weekly reports to the Heads of Colleges.

The result

The campaign delivered more learners than ever, while the data-based nature of the channels allowed the team to hand back $100,000 of traditional ad spend. +1,000 more applications were achieved than 2019, and 107 percent on target enrolment funding. Only $33,905 of the $50,000 budget was spent. Otago Polytechnic was one of the first polytechnics to promote fees free. Stakeholder feedback was so positive that the team is managing all Colleges’ marketing budgets again this year. 47,000+ people viewed the video. Channels combined drove 22,500 clicks to the website. Remarketing ads resulted in 273 applications started (CPR: $16.15). Fees free social ads had the highest CTR to the website at 4.47 percent. These ads resulted in 1,853 applications started (CPR: $8.41). Campaign landing pages had an average conversion rate of 2.1 percent. Creative assets resulted in 993 applications started (CPR: $12.13).  

Education Company: Otago Polytechnic

Marketing Initiative: Map Your Future

Judges’ Comments: “Very impressive speed, agility and precision, especially for a small team with limited resources and a challenging environment. Both exceeded objectives and came in under budget.”

Finalist: BestStart

This article was first published in the 2021 December/January issue of NZ Marketing magazine. You can subscribe to the magazine, here. Or read the other winner stories, here.

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