7 Great Higher Ed Billboards

Let us show you why this tried-and-true advertising medium should still have a place in an institution’s marketing journey.

By: Ryan Schwartz
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You’re driving down the highway on a warm August afternoon with one thought in mind: getting to your destination. Along the way, you spot a higher ed billboard that catches your eye. The billboard is creative, colorful and eye-catching. When executed correctly that billboard will stay in your head long after you’ve exited your car. 

Due to the sheer size and scope that the medium can cover, the effects of a clever higher ed billboard can leave just as strong and lasting an impression on high schoolers beginning their college search. Although considered a less modern advertising medium than social media or digital outlets, billboards have the advantages of being constant and immovable. It’s much easier to delete an internet ad or click off of a website page than to ignore billboards. 

Here are seven great higher ed billboards to showcase how to use this cost-effective and creative way to promote your university.

 1. Michigan State University

Michigan State celebrated the semicentennial anniversary of its College of Human Medicine in a very clever fashion, replacing the “0” of their 50 years with a green beaker, in alignment with the school colors.

There’s something to be said about this billboard: it’s short, sweet and to the point. A driver can look at this billboard for a total of 3 seconds and immediately understand what it is and which university it references. To top this off, the beaker sticks beyond the billboard’s traditional square image and offers more to catch the eye. Michigan State’s billboard offers a simple, yet informative method of attracting attention.

2. Depauw University

Depauw University offers a creative take on this college marketing strategy: always being a part of the college community even after graduating.

Deedie Dowdle, VP of communications and marketing at Depauw University, spoke on the institution’s billboard marketing initiative and how “Gold Within recognizes that alumni had varied experiences at Depauw but share a common bond.” This bond allows students to feel a sense of connection with their college community, helping them feel as if they continue to have a place on the campus no matter how long ago they graduated. 

The feeling of campus pride will not only stay with alumni but will potentially have a magnetizing effect on students entering the college search. By looking at these billboards, students can look at an institution’s diverse student backgrounds and the opportunities available after attending the university.

 

3. Mississippi State

Mississippi State taps into another vital part of many institutional marketing plays: college sports.

This is a tried-and-true way to boost brand recognition to individuals inside and outside of your state. Several years ago, Athletic Business published an article that dove into how the University of Alabama’s success on the football field played directly into hitting wins in the enrollment office. Students feel drawn to the pure excitement and school spirit that a winning sports team brings to a college. This initial draw can drive growth in other departments at a college. 

If you have a college sports program of which your school is particularly proud, especially when that team is seeing success on the field, take full advantage of the increase in name recognition and make that team a front-facing image. Seeing how this increase in school spirit can boost on-campus excitement from current students and increase overall brand awareness to potential students, we view this as a win-win strategy.

4. Texas Wesleyan University

Small but mighty is the approach that Texas Wesleyan University took with this billboard advertisement.

The College of Healthcare Professionals Beyond noted that developing skills, building a professional network and broadening a student’s perspective of the world are some of the most important reasons to pursue a college degree. Despite these reasons having their merit individually, the bond between all of these reasons is centered around one thing: making yourself known. 

Texas Wesleyan University taps into that sense of individuality and community-minded atmosphere with this billboard, forwarding the idea that the smaller school increases personal recognition and allows future students to think of themselves as more than just a face in the crowd. If your institution prides itself on small class sizes and a greater emphasis on personal relationships between students and teachers, this approach will set you apart from the state schools and other big colleges in your area.

5. University of Missouri 

Go big or go home is the overall message from the University of Missouri’s recent billboard campaign.

Sure to capture the attention of any driver, this campaign uses massive black and gold billboards spaced apart to spell “M-I-Z-Z-O-U,” utilizing one billboard per letter. Viewers see the brand message conveyed multiple times over repetitive signs, increasing the chance of catching the attention of prospective students and parents alike. This strategy also allows Mizzou to cover a larger area and attract a significantly greater audience than one billboard. 

The individual letters are eye-catching, and Mizzou sneaks in quick-hitting messages, such as “There is only one Mizzou” and “SEC Country.” The final billboard ends with the message “#Mizzoumade” next to an oversized “U,” further funneling prospective students to take an interest and participate in the university’s online presence.

6. University of Notre Dame

If there’s one thing synonymous with Notre Dame University, it’s football.

Here, Notre Dame utilizes its impressive athletic department not only to showcase the individual players and provide a doorway to interact directly with them via their Twitter handles but also to demonstrate that individuals who come from all walks of life are proud to attend Notre Dame. Harkening back to Depauw University’s “Gold Within” strategy, this billboard does a great job showing that everyone is welcome to join Notre Dame’s community. These two catchall marketing strategies are a great combination in attracting the attention of prospective students and their parents.

7. Indiana University

We know that this isn’t your traditional roadside billboard ad, but it generates just as powerful a statement. Remember, location is important if you want to tap into a particular audience.

This campaign at Indianapolis Airport is a great example of how to develop a sense of community around being an IU college student. Placing the display at the airport makes a lasting impact on students arriving for college tours or those beginning to explore what they want out of their college experiences. The banner provides all the necessary information for prospective students to connect with the college on social media, providing a hashtag to channel school spirit through photos and videos—a great and free advertising strategy that every college should use.

As these seven advertisement campaigns demonstrate, there are many ways an institution can use billboards and banners on roadways, airports or bus terminals. There are reasons why billboards stand the test of time, even in an era where everyone has digital screens in their pockets: billboards are simple, reliable and guarantee a captive audience.

Ryan Schwartz

Ryan Schwartz

Reporter


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