Sharing The Royal College of Art with the world


Delivering a standout strategic campaign consultancy and media buying plan for The Royal College of Art

The Royal College of Art has been around since 1837, and it’s safe to say they have a high reputation to live up to. They were already recognisable in Europe, but they wanted to branch out further.

With our help, RCA were reaching countries across the world, and attracting new and untapped students.

Tackling a big challenge

RCA had a limited budget and tough targets to meet, ultimately, they needed to identify what regions to target for their online activity. As the largest global market for outbound student mobility, China represents a significant proportion of international students but over reliance on a single market is also a substantial risk. First, we analysed the RCA’s first party data, alongside YWare insights – our proprietary tool integrating key data sources (HESA, UCAS, Census and demographic data) – to understand global market trends, risks and opportunities, to inform media targeting strategies for greatest success.

We also worked with the RCA and their creative agency, Bond & Coyne, to design some brand tracking research. This was to understand their brand awareness and perceptions amongst domestic and international audiences and to compare this with some key competitors.

The findings of the research will be used measure against future pieces of research to understand the changes over time which we are aiming will be positively influenced by our campaign activity. Bond & Coyne were also able to use it to help develop the creative content and messaging hierarchy.

This research informed our media strategy, which consisted of paid search, social media (Facebook, Instagram and LinkedIn), programmatic display, YouTube pre-roll and video on demand, using All4 specifically.

We targeted online audiences whose browsing behaviour indicated a strong interest in Art and Design, were of postgraduate study age (RCA recruit low volumes of progression students so, 25 years – 45 years), and also graduates in relevant disciplines.

We also developed a strategy, in partnership with Bond & Coyne, to nurture their candidates through the pipeline. SMRS analysed the CRM data to identify the most positive types and timings of communication in order to convert candidates. In turn, Bond & Coyne designed improvements to the CRM messaging.

The results were in…

All in all, the 2021 international recruitment campaign saw extremely strong engagement rates throughout. Having initially projected 20,500 clicks, the campaign delivered 93,584.

Of the 544 conversions that were achieved, approximately 65% (357) resulted in a high value conversion of an application click, with the prospective student moving on to the application stage. More than 100 prospective students also reached out via email, while another 80 completed an enquiry submission on site.

However, perhaps more importantly, at the end of the cycle the RCA has reported positive improvements in student recruitment from the markets targeted with the campaign designed to de-risk against relying on one high volume market.