Your School Doesn’t Need a Super Bowl Ad

February 16, 2022

I’m not an American Football fan but the Super Bowl is one of those sporting events that reaches beyond it’s traditional fan base. It is of course not just a sporting spectacle but more of a cultural moment each year in the US, thanks in large part to the half-time music show and plethora of ‘Super Bowl ads’. 

These adverts take advantage of the huge Super Bowl audience and in more recent years have had a second life online when some inevitably go viral. Seeing coverage of this year’s game, the ads and, what looked to be one of the better half-time shows, got me thinking about the approach taken by many Independent schools when it comes to their own video advertising. 

In particular I’m talking about the almost ubiquitous ‘school video’. Where the Creative Directors of Madison Avenue and beyond look to surprise and delight with a new and distinctive idea, most schools fall back on a set of generic tropes that could almost have been put together using stock footage.

At this point I stopped writing this blog post and briefed this idea in to Alysha, our Production Assistant.  So here is her promotional video for an independent school created solely from stock footage: 

This is of course not true of every school video. Some break the mould and find creative ways to communicate the distinctiveness of their offer through video. Nevertheless, when we speak to school marketing teams we often hear that these big budget productions are left languishing on the metaphorical shelf somewhere deep inside their YouTube channel. 

So what’s the alternative? 

The first thing that schools need to realise is that they don’t have a ready made Super Bowl audience and so blowing all the budget on a fancy (whether creative or generic) video may make you feel good but it’s unlikely to lead to new students. 

You need a clear plan of how the video is going to be used, where in the customer journey it is likely to be effective and how you will reach your target audience. And that target audience is key. For most schools you will have a range of different offerings depending on day or boarding places and whether a child will be joining you from the local area, elsewhere in the country or from somewhere around the world. The needs and priorities are bound to be different. Furthermore, your strategic priorities and market opportunities should be dictating which of these groups you are focussing on for any given recruitment cycle. 

Missing from the video content of most independent schools are the authentic voices that could do so much to help sell their school’s distinctiveness. We need to hear from: 

  • Current students
  • Former Students
  • Staff 
  • Current Parents 
  • Former Parents 

It is these voices, that can provide a wealth of content, with the ultimate aim of having ongoing engagement with a growing audience of prospective families. Where to invest in your child’s education is not the kind of decision that can be made online, but strong authentic content can ensure that the right families arrive at open days. As we heard recently from a school marketing team; “Once they are here, the school sells itself!”