How could Northern Michigan University increase awareness of its many programs while efficiently driving student recruitment online? What approach could NMU take to stand out in the highly competitive post-secondary education market among qualified prospective student audiences?


The goals

  • Reach and engage new prospective students
  • Inform audiences of the benefits of attending NMU and the range of programs offered
  • Generate recruitment leads measured by requests for additional information and campus tour bookings
  • Increase online admissions applications

The approach

  • Use upper funnel tactics [YouTube TrueView and expandable rich media] to lift awareness and inform prospective applicants
  • Use standard display to remarket to engaged audiences and efficiently drive conversions
  • Optimize campaign delivery to audiences and tactics with the most efficient engagement rates [upper funnel] and eCPA [lower funnel]

The results

  • Exceeded NMU’s expectations for the volume of both online applications and recruitment leads generated by the campaign
  • Growing awareness and engaged audience pools combined with ongoing optimization led to a continuous drop in eCPA over the duration of the campaign for both the TrueView video and engagement/ display components : 84.6% and 27.6% drops respectively

The details

Northern Michigan University (NMU) — one of over 40 colleges and universities located in the state of Michigan — offers over 140 combined degree and graduate programs to about 9,000 students every year. NMU partnered with MediaNet to create and execute a digital media program that would lift awareness of NMU among prospective students, support the recruitment process and ultimately drive online admissions applications.

MediaNet developed a custom audience and measurement framework that would provide valuable feedback and data for optimization. In partnership with the NMU marketing team, MediaNet defined a full-funnel program that would fulfill NMU’s two-fold campaign goal. The first goal: lift awareness by informing audiences about the key benefits of attending NMU. MediaNet developed interactive expandable creative with embedded video to tell the story of NMU and entice prospective students to continue exploring NMU’s offerings online. The rich media creative was paired with a YouTube TrueView video component to complete the awareness strategy.

NMU’s secondary strategy would be geared toward driving conversions [lower-funnel] measured by volume of leads generated such as requests for additional information, booking a campus tour, contacting administration and completing online enrollment applications. HTML5 banners were deployed for conversion tactics and paired beautiful imagery with an actionable CTA to drive users to NMU online.

Through careful data observation and analysis, MediaNet discovered that both the rich media expandable and YouTube video components [originally intended for branding] were also effective at driving conversions. The program’s flexible and holistic design gave MediaNet the opportunity to optimize prospecting and remarketing strategies across all media types so that the combinations of creative and environments that were most proficient at driving conversions could be prioritized seamlessly throughout the campaign.

Overall, remarketing produced an average eCPA 10 times lower than prospecting strategies for both standard and expandable banners and more than 100 times lower for TrueView.

NMU’s digital recruitment campaign successfully drove online applications and admissions lead volumes beyond the university’s expectations. Growing awareness and engaged audience pools combined with ongoing optimization led to a continuous drop in eCPA over the campaign for both the TrueView video and engagement/display components : 84.6% and 27.6% drops respectively. The NMU marketing team found the myriad of transparent insights they received both throughout and post-campaign valuable in guiding their next digital recruitment initiative.