Harnessing Connected TV for higher ed campaigns


Have you noticed the convenient shortcuts to Netflix, Amazon Prime or Disney+ which now appear on modern TV remotes? What seemed to be a quick click to the latest streaming craze has now accelerated a fundamental shift in how we consume entertainment. A surge of TV watchers are now ‘cutting the cable’, that is, canceling cable TV, and it is predicted that there will be 80 million cord-cutting US households by 2026.

As cable bows out, streaming capabilities of connected TVs (CTVs), i.e. televisions that have access to the internet and have the capability of streaming video content, are becoming more comprehensive than ever. This could be through a video game system, like an Xbox or Playstation, or directly through the TV with wifi capabilities itself. In 2022, an estimated 87% of US households had at least one connected TV. 

Why does this matter to marketers? Well, platforms like Netflix, Hulu, Disney+ and others are introducing advertising-supported video-on-demand (AVOD) models. Now, users can pay less for their subscription but agree to be delivered ads as the trade-off. This is the nexus where the glamor of TV ads meets the precision of digital marketing. 

CTV advertising is past the tipping point, with a recent report suggesting that 95% of marketers plan to increase or maintain their CTV advertising spend in 2024. With AVOD subscriptions growing across all platforms, university marketers now have the opportunity to capitalize on the new battleground for student’s attention. 

The demographics of CTV users

Younger generations are more likely to ‘cut the cable’ than their elder generations. Over 60% of adults 18-34 are either cable-cutters, or never had cable in the first place. That number is set to rise even further, as Gen Z viewers become older and start subscribing to their own CTV services. While across the board CTV usage is dominated by younger people, it's imperative to keep track of how the market begins to segment for optimal ad placements for higher ed.

For example, Amazon ran a study to uncover the buying personas of their connected TV audiences. The majority of Amazon CTV users (67%), were between the ages of 18-44. Despite a broad age range, the fact that 75% are homeowners and 60% are married would indicate a Millennial or even Gen X audience. This suggests a more fertile ground for professional certificates than undergraduate programs. The moral of the story here is to look at where your audience is first before choosing the best platform to use for your campaign.

Once you’ve decided on the right channel, you can segment further with audience targeting. To help with this, media buying companies have already begun hoovering up partnerships with all forms of streaming services. YouTube has a huge market share, with a reported 8.1% of all TV usage. As with anything Alphabet, the data it collects enables for some highly accurate targeting capabilities.


Best practices for CTV advertising


Calls to action

A slight issue with CTV advertising is that audiences aren’t necessarily in a position to click or fill out a form as they settle in for movie night. One interesting solution to this call to action is to embed a QR code within your advertisement in which prospective students can quickly scan with their phone to take them to a specific landing page. This also helps in A/B testing ad creatives, as you can use different UTM tags to assess the effectiveness of different assets. 


Omni-channel marketing

It’s important not to use CTV ads in isolation. Given the low-intent at the time of watching TV, it’s important to not view this as a strictly conversion activity. A good way to integrate this channel within the wider marketing strategy is to use the QR code to lead to another engaging asset. For example, a quick CTV ad showing the beauty of your campus with drone footage, which includes a scannable QR code that drives them through to a more comprehensive campus tour.



The length of your advertisement depends on the platform that you choose to advertise on. YouTube CTV ads work in the same fashion as desktop and mobile ads, as it’s all served through Alphabet’s DV360 platform. On Netflix, brands can also buy 10, 20 and 60 second spots. While on Disney+, the ads are either 15 ,30, or 45 seconds long. No matter the platform, the principles of short-format storytelling apply. Have a strong hook, keep visuals engaging and be as personalized as possible.


Frequency controls

One concern that marketers may have, is the blowback of seemingly intrusive advertising while prospects are relaxing in front of the latest episode of Bridgerton. But fear not, as the advertising providers will give you access to frequency controls. That means you will be able to determine how many times an advertisement is shown to a user per day, week or month. Ramping up frequency in key consideration stages of the cycle would be a good idea to stay top-of-mind for prospective students. It’s worth bearing in mind that users of AVOD services have signed up for ads, so it won’t come as a shock to them to see your brand in their living room.


Like a fashion trend from the 90’s, it seems advertising habits are about to come full circle. As the focus for the last decade has been on social media as the mecca for Gen-Z and Millennial advertising, CTV offers a fresh perspective on a tried and tested medium. The biggest and most beneficial difference this time will be the ability to micro-target audiences on their online behavior and demographics, making advertising more relevant and interesting for all.

If you’re wanting to explore the opportunity CTV provides for university marketing, get in touch to start building your CTV strategy.