4 mins

On Thursday 5th November, our expert student marketing panel hosted the next episode in our digital masterclass series: ‘Clearing 2020: The Digital Masterclass’.

The masterclass examined Arke’s ‘2020 Q2 Digital Behavioural Research’ (click here to download a copy) and exactly how COVID-19 and lockdown changed UK Undergraduates’ behaviour in the run-up, on the day and beyond in this summer’s Clearing intake. The masterclass was full of actionable insights to help student and youth marketers prepare for and succeed in Clearing 2021.

A huge thank you to everyone who attended and submitted a number of thought-provoking questions…we’ve rounded some of them and our panel’s responses up, plus the results of the two polls we ran during the session, so you can digest them at your leisure.

If you want to watch an on-demand recording of the masterclass, we’ve embedded the YouTube video below.


Question 1:

Did engagement metrics, such as CTRs, change much this year vs previous years?

This year, we saw, in particular, an increase in CPCs. CTRs are generally an indication of quality, so these don’t tend to change too much year after year, and didn’t vary too much this year. It was more expensive to get to a certain CTR threshold, but once there, the only variable was price. Additionally, CPMs on Google Display display, particularly in the run up to Clearing, were cheaper.

One of the advantages of programmatic, that we took advantage of this year, is that you can tap into niche inventories, allowing for fairly cheap CPCs in comparison to other platforms, so is a very good advertising option that we’d recommend in 2021.

Question 2:

Are there good examples of universities who use TikTok well?

In September, our expert student marketing panel hosted a masterclass all about how to use TikTok to supercharge your virtual open days. Click here to watch a recording of the session.

There are a few universities who are active on TikTok and doing a good job in terms of organic content, including the University of York. TikTok is an untapped platform for education institutions and represents a massive opportunity, both from a paid and organic perspective, to reach your target audience. We’ve written a number of blogs all about TikTok and how you can make the most out of the platform:

TikTok: Unlock its content and engagement potential – https://arkeagency.com/news/tiktok-unlock-its-content-engagement-potential/ 

TikTok: Advertising formats explained – https://arkeagency.com/news/tiktok-advertising-formats-explained/ 

TikTok: Why all the data headlines – https://arkeagency.com/news/tiktok-why-all-the-data-headlines/ 

Question 3:

How did you get around the suppression of ads containing COVID specific messaging?

In terms of messaging, we didn’t actually refer to COVID-19 specific terms, such as pandemic or coronavirus, but instead used terms that alluded to what was going on. Our messaging tapped into emotions, focusing on safety and security, etc. With our clients who have open spaces within their campuses, we focused on this too, highlighting a key USP to make them stand out from the crowd.

Question 4:

Did you see much activity post A Level Results Day?

We certainly did. After the day of Clearing, we had a few tactics that still had some budget left to be utilised and shuffled budgets around to take advantage of this in the days after. The campaigns that were still active included brand and key subjects, and remained live until at least the end of August, with some rolling into the first week of September too.

Interestingly, CPCs increased in the week after Clearing as competition remained fierce. Normally costs come down immediately after Clearing, but this matches up with what was going on after Clearing, in terms of u-turns with A Level results and students getting their original grades. 


We also ran two polls during the masterclass:

What was your biggest challenge in Clearing 2020?

  • Uncertainty of students’ grades – 40% 
  • Different messaging to normal – 20% 
  • COVID-19 – 20% 
  • Smaller budgets – 20%

Did you notice a change in the frequency and timing of applications this year?

  • Yes – 40%
  • No – 60%

That’s a wrap on our Q&A session, as promised the full masterclass is below:

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