What is Back-to-College Advertising?

Topics: Marketing Toolkit, Digital Media, Media + Advertising, Campus Media

Posted by: Barbara Gretsch, CEO

Back to school time is around the corner, which means that businesses and retailers need to start thinking of the best marketing and advertising strategies to target students on campuses nationwide. 

Back to School advertising campaigns contribute to more than 15 percent of annual retail sales. So, as brands, it is our chance to increase brand awareness through targeted out-of-home (OOH) and out-of-the-box campaigns, in addition to traditional advertising. What we call Back-to-college advertising time here at MSSmedia, is our time to help position your brand or company on-campus and ahead of the competition.


Advertising to College Students

There are many ways to advertise to college students from online to outdoor to traditional advertising, such as newspapers or radio. At MSSmedia, we have been successfully delivering marketing campaigns, both regionally and nationally, for more than 15 years geared toward college students. We’ve done the market research and know the college market like the back of our hand. For example, one of our most successful back-to-college advertising campaigns, Victoria’s Secret PINK, launched at West Virginia University in Fall 2018 and featured OOH advertisements that increased brand engagement and in-store sales.

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Another significant campaign we helped develop was the new Target store near students at Ohio State University. We helped drive traffic, create brand loyalty, and ultimately position the brand as the top-of-mind brand for home goods, supplies, clothes, etc.


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Engaging With the College Audience

Be the first to arrive on college campuses! Come August, colleges, and universities will fill with students returning to their dorms, social organizations, and classes. Back-to-college season gives brands an advantageous opportunity to gain visibility and influence activities in the college market through their campus ads, whether on transit shelters or kiosks! MSSmedia has been the leading provider of outdoor advertising solutions for colleges and universities in the nation, reaching millions of students through our OOH installments in California, Florida, Texas, and various other states.

One of the most effective advertising mediums for students during the back-to-college season is transit advertising. But what is it exactly? Transit Advertising is an advertisement placed in or on modes of public transportation, from buses to shuttles, or public transportation areas, such as inside a bus station. Through transit advertising, brands can target students, who are often on-the-go in-between classes or on their way to recreational activities, thus increasing brand awareness and impressions. MSSmedia provided bus-wrap ads for the New Mexico National Guard Bureau to increase visibility for its local recruitment and retention efforts.


Do Not Forget Social Media

It is no surprise that universities and colleges have embraced social media. Today’s students have grown up during the rise of the technology era and are consistently engaging on all platforms. Individuals, especially Gen Z – the first generation to grow up with the internet and social media – are well aware of the influence technology and visual media has on their everyday lives. Gen-Z students will not always be looking toward outdoor advertisements – no matter how big or eye-catching – so social media represents another critical avenue for brands to run promotions.


+ See our paid social advertising stats infographic


MSSmedia has mastered clients’ marketing strategies throughout the years, helping them to optimize their social media and mobile efforts. As an example, we partnered with Florida International University to run a mobile campaign on behalf of Pandora, leading to 50K impressions and an increment of in-store sales to their Miami, FL store near the university campus.

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Promoting in Campus Newspapers

Yes, student newspapers are thriving despite today’s digital-first media environment, making print ads a critical medium to engage students! One study shows that more than 75 percent of students are interested in reading about the latest news in their papers. Also, with the addition of sponsored content, your print advertisement will be even more efficient. Sponsored content is not an ad. It is a longer piece of brand-sponsored content, such as a video or infographic posted on a publisher’s website or newspaper.

It is an exciting way to advertise to college students because it tells an engaging story that encourages the audience to interact with for an extended period. Like native ads, the most successful sponsored content provides meaningful value to the readers by educating them and entertaining them. For example, one of the sponsored content leaders, BuzzFeed, has been successfully using this strategy throughout the years. Sponsored content has been able to add value to online posts and articles while increasing sincere interest from the audience.


Trying Guerrilla Marketing

Guerrilla marketing on college and university campuses thrives on authenticity and creativity, and this form of promotion best serves to entertain. It is less costly in comparison to other types of marketing, which is why several companies go this route when reaching the college audience. Guerilla marketing encompasses graffiti, flash mobs, and treasure hunts. Graffiti, for instance, is a powerful marketing strategy that uses streets and walls as a giant canvas to communicate messages. A specific technique, Reverse Graffiti, allows brands to create temporary images on streets and walls by removing grime from the surface. MSSmedia mastered the art of Reverse Graffiti during the years, working with clients such as Papa John’s in Houston to deliver personalized and original clean graffiti pieces across the city.


See our complete guide to advertising to university students.




Here at MSSmedia, we’ve been providing Education, Government, Real Estate & Lifestyle clients with succinct, optimized, and successful marketing solutions for more than 15 years. Consider MSSmedia a full-service, one-stop shop for all your Media and Public Relations needs. Your goals are our motivation. And our mission is to propel your message, further and faster, to achieve the outcomes you’re looking for. If you found this blog post helpful, please share!

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