University marketing is real intricate; different UCAS phases and deadlines, conditional offers, results days and last-minute student decisions create a windy, non-sequential path that’s difficult to interpret.  

On top of that, Universities themselves have a huge internal battle galvanizing their many faculties, budgets and stakeholders to come to a single, agreed marketing plan, and take it from us, 14 courses = a lot of cooks. 

In early 2020, University of South Wales tasked S3 Advertising to unite its departments, budgets and channels to plan and execute a compelling student recruitment campaign, driving applications for 2020 enrollment across the board.  

As a relatively new institution, formed just 7 years ago, today University of South Wales offers over 500 courses. Previous marketing campaigns (latterly devised and executed by S3) worked hard to establish the new University amongst competition, giving it a distinctive visual identity and compelling tone of voice. 

For S3 Advertising, the task of 2020 was to build on these brand foundations and begin to explain exactly how USW’s educational provision offers something different. We knew the answer would lie in the unique courses, syllabuses and teaching methods, but packaging this into a single idea that we could effectively land in a recruitment campaign? 

Faculty immersion sessions, stakeholder workshops and huge amounts of desk research uncovered USW’s natural strength – its practical, hands-on approach to learning. 

Interrogating USW’s courses and teaching methods from Engineering to Law, Teaching, Film and Business, the same words kept cropping up again and again - ‘hands-on’. Our research revealed that every single course had a practical or work experience element (either real placements such as for Teaching, or mock simulations for courses like Law). 

A defining feature that set the university apart from more traditional, academic institutions, ‘Hands-On learning’ also provided a compelling advantage to students in the real world as more and more employers seek graduates ready to hit the ground running. 

Our strategy was to unite all our recruitment activity for 2020 under this one brand idea of ‘Hands-On learning’, whatever the faculty or course. And creatively, our executional approach dramatized this idea, with a concept that didn’t just present evidence, but actively challenged our target audience to take part themselves. 

We used a simple Comms Model to map out all the different channels we would use to bring this brand idea and creative to life, ensuring every piece of activity had a clear objective and would work simultaneously to achieve our overall recruitment goal. 

Building on USW’s established bright, powder paint visual identity and positive, invitational tone of voice, our creative executions challenged prospective students to engage in our campaign and really imagine what it would be like to study at the University.  

Using commanding language and energetic, immersive audio and video footage, we produced a suite of creative assets that applied our confident concept to 14 different courses across all 4 faculties of USW, inviting our audience to ‘Practice it, Live it, Teach it, Make it, Coach it, Play it, Experience it, Launch it, Use it and Do it’. 

Working to the objectives defined in our Comms Model, we selected highly targeted channels such as 4OD and SkyGo VOD, Spotify and TikTok, alongside Digital display, search, social and re-marketing. We also tactically rotated long and short copy throughout the campaign to ensure that we were always-on, without blowing the media budget solely on more expensive long format spots. 

A campaign that boosted brand perceptions and beat industry benchmarks. 


USW: Boosting brand perceptions through consistency

Beating benchmarks with a single brand idea across 14 courses, 4 faculties, 5 months and 10 channels…

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