Clearing creative review 2020


By Aimee Kleinman

After a rollercoaster year for everyone on the planet, A-level students have had a particularly turbulent time. Firstly dealing with closing schools and learning from home, then cancelled exams, uncertainty around university and finally a U-turn after Results Day! All of which has had an impact on Clearing. Here are a few insights:

– Searching started much earlier and continued much longer than ever before.

– There’s been a boost in placed students during Clearing, likely reflecting young people’s inability to travel or gain employment during a year out, or fears of 2021 being more competitive.

– We saw a huge increase in the popularity of medicine and health-related subjects.

– There’s a renewed focus on mental health and secure careers in anticipation of an economic downturn.

– Unsurprisingly for a youth audience, mobile is the preferred way to explore options.

– This audience is a lot more active on social media in the evening, peaking 8-10pm most days.

Our Clearing Creative Review has become somewhat of a barometer for student marketers each year. And for 2020, we analysed more marketing materials from more institutions across more platforms than ever. We identified trends, analysed key themes and panned for those nuggets of marketing gold. In our Clearing Masterclass, we’ll share all the details, warts and all. But here’s a taster of six key themes to keep you going until then.

1. All words, no play

This year, more institutions experimented creatively with different platforms, channels, and formats – such as Snapchat filters, heavy use of Instagram Stories, and even an app. But… the creativity wasn’t quite so prevalent in messaging, and overall look and feel.

2. Very quiet whispers of COVID-19

We couldn’t do a review of Clearing 2020 without mentioning COVID-19. That said, not every university shared our urge to mention it. Understandably, there was no real creative built around COVID-19, but there could have been more opportunities taken to appeal to world changers, especially with a rise in interest in health-related subjects. We did see some lovely shots of at-home call centres though, with furry co-workers, helping to relax an intense day.

3. Call to action – but no ‘why’

We’ve said it before, but it needs repeating. The main message across institutions this year, and most years, are prominent calls to action – but so few gave us reasons why we should click that link, call that number, or DM that account. You know it’s Clearing time. Students know it’s Clearing time. So, solely telling people that it’s Clearing time doesn’t give them a reason to choose your institution over the other 100 places also telling them that it’s currently Clearing. Believe us, they know.

4. Student voice

Sharing the student voice has grown and grown over the years, and now we see two camps emerging. For the brave: student takeovers – giving your audience an authentic, first-hand account of what life’s really like here, that they feel they can trust. For the cautious: student stories – still sharing a true experience, but with a touch more control over messaging.

5. Clearing ain’t so bad

Clearing can be stressful. It can be frantic. It can also be embarrassing for some students. So, a focus on promoting the message that it shouldn’t be, is helpful and reassuring. Going through Clearing is just a different route to achieving your potential than the one you initially planned.

6. Flexing existing branding

Goodbye, brand recall. Hello, ‘Clearing’ in big red letters. Clearing is a time when people don’t have the luxury of deep dives into your institution. As marketing approaches to Clearing take similar approaches, brand is more important than ever, but least applied for Clearing campaigns than any other marketing activity.