Access to education has become much easier with the proliferation of online programs. After major disruptions in the workforce market, including the pandemic and Great Resignation, online education is experiencing soaring demand. The profile of students has also changed to include those just graduating from high school and adult learners. More people want to upskill and reskill to land in-demand jobs with a bright future.

As a result of demand, online education revenue is expected to reach $74.8 billion in 2023. Colleges and online learning providers have welcomed this new revenue stream to fill gaps that exist due to waning enrollment in traditional universities. However, it also means tight competition for these students, as an influx of investment has given way to new organizations offering programs and eating market share.

These programs want to reach all types of customers at the local level, which makes radio and digital advertising great tactics to use. Let’s look at how you can recommend a campaign to these entities, whether it’s the local community college, a university or an entirely online program.

We’ll also review how you can present an omnichannel advertising proposal with digital and radio to make the grade with these advertisers.

Skills-Based Hiring Trends Correlate to Programs and Certifications

There are labor gaps in various markets that need employees now and in the future. Many of those jobs focus on skills versus degrees. According to the Harvard Business Review, skills-based hiring is on the rise. The report addressed that many employers dropped degree requirements in lieu of specific skills, especially in the IT field.

Other sectors have the same needs, including the EV (electric vehicle) service roles and new jobs created by the CHIPS and Science Act in the semiconductor market. These jobs require specific training and skill development. Education advertisers with applicable programs should make this part of their ad campaigns. Consumers need to know how a program directly correlates to a job, so they can be sure the investment leads to opportunity.

Today’s Students Are Every Demographic

In discussing ad campaigns with these businesses, discuss the reality that today’s students encompass every demographic. As a result, they should launch campaigns for each student persona. The needs and requirements of a recent high school graduate and someone changing careers in their 30s are different. The former group needs more direction on transitioning to a career with the help of education. The latter is likely more concerned about flexibility, how long it takes, costs and career placement. You can deliver a good mix to speak to all the audiences they want to recruit.

Along with changing the content, where you place ads should align with where the audience spends time. For example, Gen Zers love Snapchat, Instagram and TikTok. Older adult learners are likely looking for options on LinkedIn or Facebook.

Ad Content Should Highlight the Experience

Online learning advertisers need to stand out among the crowd. They can do this by including differentiators in their ad content. Whatever they do really well — flexible schedules, offering career coaching and planning, costs or anything else — should be prominent in their messaging. Another approach to capturing the experience is with ads that star current or past students talking about how the program helped them find success. It immediately gives the content more legitimacy.

Advising They Lead with Education

It’s not a stretch to recommend that online education providers lead with learning in their ads. Both digital and radio ads should deliver valuable information and point these consumers to pages on their website that provide details on the program, including what they’ll learn, costs, length and how it will help them attain a specific job. Most people doing initial research online and seeing these ads online aren’t ready to sign up. They need all the facts first, and the ad campaigns should focus on informing rather than selling.

Delivering an Omnichannel Campaign: Linear + Digital = A+

In your proposal, after a thorough customer needs assessment, you’ll understand the advertiser’s goals, audience, timeline and budget. Based on this and considering the content ideas above, you can deliver a great mix of digital and linear.

Here are some options for digital:

  • Display with geofencing: Fence an area where the advertiser’s audience spends time. If they’re looking for adult learners who want to upskill and shift careers, you can find that audience working in retail and restaurant businesses. So, you might recommend fencing a large shopping area. Another example would be geofencing industrial workplaces, where workers may seek greater skill development to move up at their current company or apply for other jobs.
  • OTT ads to sell the experience: Earlier, we talked about how these organizations should focus on the experience. OTT ads are the perfect channel for these. They engage the eyes and ears and, most of the time, aren’t skippable. Plus, you have targeting options, including demographics, behaviors and interests.
  • Social media that’s niche or mainstream: The tactics you suggest will depend on the audience and the program. As noted, younger generations prefer some platforms, while older ones are likely to use others. Aligning the certification or skill with a social media site isn’t an exact science, but you can infer that people’s behaviors and interests impact what sites they visit. For example, those promoting paralegal programs will likely get more traction on LinkedIn. IT courses may get more views on Reddit.
  • Native advertising for informational-focused content: Native advertising is a unique display ad type that complements a website’s look and feel. These ads get a tag of recommended content, and the format is excellent for informational-style ads. Native ads typically have strong engagement and conversions, so it’s an essential element of an integrated campaign.
  • Geotarget all display to reach pockets of high unemployment: Overall, national unemployment remains low, but each market is different. You can advise online education providers to target these ZIP codes to find those most in need of career support.

Blend Digital with Radio

Radio can be an excellent addition to your campaign. It has exceptional reach through a market, and when ads run during respected and well-liked personalities, people take the ads more seriously. New data reveals that AM/FM radio delivers incremental reach to touch prospective students. The research indicates that 45% of Americans are considering online education, with 23% definitely planning to begin classes. Additional insights include:

  • These prospective students listen to a wide array of programming, with rock and classic hits in the top two spots, followed closely by adult contemporary, classic rock and top 40.
  • AM/FM radio ads for five well-known online universities provided substantial incremental reach lift, one by 250%.
  • Per the study, the “right” mix of media buying for online education should give much more weight to AM/FM radio for strong ROAS (return on ad spend).

Convey these points to advertisers that may be overlooking the opportunity with radio. Remind them of all the data confirming that radio lifts digital ad performance, too.

Gold Stars Ahead with These Smart Strategies

You’ve got ideas, recommendations and more to get started. It’s time to test them out and earn those gold stars with a stellar proposal and pitch. For more ideas on digital ad mixes, use our interactive tool, Create the Ideal Digital Ad Mix.