Understanding Media Consumption – The impact of advertising (3/3)


Ed Layt, Head of Consultancy, SMRS

There are many ways to measure the impact of your campaigns and quantitative immediate metrics normally prevail. Impressions, reach, clicks, conversions, return on ad spend, engagement… I could go on. These data points are all valuable – provided they align with your objectives. However, there’s a tendency to look at what’s easy to measure, often overlooking more complex factors even if they are just as important. A significant obstacle to this broader perspective is the associated cost of conducting the primary research needed to evaluate aspects like emotions, perception, awareness, intention, sentiment, and impact.

As shared in my previous blogs (The surprising truth about prospective student’s media habits and The role and impact of Education media), we’ve undertaken some ground-breaking research to better understand how 16-21-year-old prospective UG students use media. And as part of the research, we’ve focused on getting a more holistic view of the impact of advertising.

We asked respondents if/where they remembered seeing university advertising, the impact it had on them and what media they used when making their final decisions. Read on to find out what they said…


The top 4 impacts of seeing university advertising were:

  1. Raising awareness of the provider – Education media channels were the most likely to generate this response
  2. Generating a positive response about the provider – Podcasts were the most likely to generate this response
  3. Reminding or nudging the individual about the provider – Radio was the most likely to generate this response
  4. Generating a negative response about the provider – cinema was the most likely to generate this response

We probably don’t often think about the negative impact our advertising might have on perception. But it’s clearly there in our response data. And something we must all be cognisant of. And before you begin to think about cutting all your cinema advertising, you might want to read on, because this response is likely to be a reaction to poor execution, rather than the channel not being ‘right’.

On average across all channels, almost one in ten said seeing university advertising drove action, and they consequently contacted a university. This response differed across channels, but cinema, podcasts and TV advertising had the greatest impact. Fascinating as the impact of these channels can often be difficult to quantify.

Making contact is one thing, but can preference change as a direct consequence of seeing advertising? Well, our respondents told us, yes. In fact, nearly 12% said seeing university advertising increased their preference for that university. And the key channels to drive this response were social media, newspaper/magazine and cinema advertising.


So, what have we learned from the research?

  1. Impression and engagement-based data sources alone do not tell us the full story behind what’s working and what’s not
  2. Current research data available from AMPs ignores the importance of key channels
  3. There are nuanced and crucial differences between when people use channels and for what purpose – all of which present opportunities for us to serve our campaigns in a more mindful way to achieve greater impact.
  4. These differences continue to emerge across different demographic profiles.

Point four is perhaps the most important to bear in mind as I conclude this blog series. All of the aggregated stats I have shared around most preferred, most important, best for driving action… etc. have the potential to shift position when we look at the specific audience you are looking to engage. We are not a homogenous mass with the same preferences across the length and breadth of the country, and we must listen and respond to our audiences’ differences in order to most effectively satisfy their needs. And to do that, we’ve built a tool that enables us to combine our expertise in media strategy, planning, and buying with these research insights, so we can navigate the ever-evolving media landscape and connect with target audiences in the most effective way possible.

If you would like to learn more about how SMRS can help your institution develop an insight-driven media strategy, please do not hesitate to get in touch or  Register now to receive the full white paper.

Ed Layt, Head of Consultancy, SMRS