Ranked "triple top 10" in the country and named 2020’s International University of the Year by The Sunday Times, Lancaster University is a campus-based university with a collection of colleges that offer close-knit support and a proud identity. As the digital landscape and an audience of young people evolves, the university evolved its advertising strategy to promote "online open days" and improve brand awareness. The university sought to boost brand awareness of its community and promote the online event to the TikTok community.
Lancaster University worked with student ambassadors to create a series of In-Feed Ads using student-generated content and TikTok trends to generate mass exposure for its online open days. It ran them using TikTok’s self-serve auction platform, TikTok Ads Manager, to maximise a tight budget and stay completely flexible. It created numerous ads, with different objectives (from brand awareness to landing page views), targeted audiences and assets, to broaden the campaign and remain reactive, serving up relevant content to the right audience.
The way the auction platform works is based upon biddable In-Feed Ads that brands can target, retarget or exclude to/from highly-specific audiences, en masse. The ads are paid for using bids – the maximum cost per outcome a brand is prepared to pay – within a set budget per day or campaign. TikTok’s algorithm then does the rest, finding the best way to spend the budget. It’s specifically handy when dealing with tight budgets, because it maximises the goal metric (reach, impressions or equivalent) in the most efficient way possible, to the right audiences. It also offers total flexibility to manage every campaign, depending on how effective the results are throughout, without an external agency.
To showcase the best of its community, Lancaster University handed the creative reigns over to its students – these were ads created for young people, by young people. The ad creative was focused on boosting awareness for the online open days, and harnessed TikTok trends like dancing, reversed video and much-loved filters and effects. Lancaster University strongly embraced the creativity of the platform as well as TikTok’s "Don’t Make Ads, Make TikToks" motto. After all, when you’re trying to attract the best young talent, why not create like they do?
The campaign exceeded expectations, especially as a non-agency campaign on a particularly tight budget. Receiving 10M+ impressions and 9M+ engagements across all ads, the TikTok community clearly connected with Lancaster University’s approach. Over 90,000 users clicked through to the landing page, showing that the ads sparked mass interest and intrigue.
Cat Prill, Marketing Coordinator at Lancaster University, said: “The results of the campaigns have really surpassed Lancaster University’s expectations. We’ve loved sharing the great work our students create and allowing them to speak for the brand, and having flexibility and control over the campaign has meant we can really maximise performance and spend.”
As these results show, research really does pay off.