Design Thinking and a Disciplined Production Yields Award-Winning Video Series
What does it take to produce award-winning video creative for higher education? For our team, led by creative director Mike Rubino, with support from Caitlin Hachman, it meant careful listening and disciplined execution. In total, we produced 20 commercial-length videos tailored to 20 campus locations, a monumental production completed in only six weeks. Not only did we pull it off — we made ads that deliver a compelling message.
Why the tight timeline? How did we do it? It’s one of those marketing agency stories from the trenches, and one we’re very proud of.
Last year, our education team was thrilled to welcome Ancora Education, a large system of postsecondary schools focusing on healthcare and skilled trades. During onboarding, we discovered that their previous agency held the keys to their creative assets (something we’d never do), and we’d be starting from scratch. The Ancora team needed to get into market quickly with new TV spots, or risk losing steam with new student inquires. This meant producing polished videos that speak to the programs of each location. Fortunately, we had a plan.
We’re accustomed to moving fast. Digital marketing in the higher education space means fast-paced creative production, constant monitoring, and day-to-day optimization. Even so, production for broadcast and streaming TV is a major investment. Careful planning up-front would accelerate the work later, yielding a streamlined, efficient shoot and editing process.
Great higher education marketing tells a compelling, human story.
Higher education advertising often shares program availability… and not much else. This is no surprise, given the challenges posed by compliance. But we knew that the courses and school features were only part of the story. Who could benefit from an education in the skilled trades? Why should they care? How could we establish an emotional connection with the viewer?
Rubino leads the agency’s Creative Center of Excellence. He’s also our resident expert in design thinking. His plan started with discovery on audience challenges: who are they? Where do they come from? What does an education mean for them? He didn’t want to rush into such a large production without understanding exactly what would resonate with the viewer. So, we called our partners at Ancora, who quickly organized around our shared goals. After 20+ interviews with campus directors, audience personas, and a rough storyboard on paper, it was time to refine our ideas, map them across campuses, and make some videos.
Winning Creative Meets People Where They Are
The Education Digital Marketing Awards judge entries based on creativity, marketing execution, message impact, technology application and innovative content. Level Agency landed awards this year for two distinct ads produced during this project.
We love winning awards, but shiny things aren’t the point. If the ads don’t drive student enrollment for Ancora, no amount of recognition will get us excited. Fortunately, they did.
- 6 Weeks
- 20 Spots
- 2 Awards
What’s Next in Higher Education Ad Creative
Level produced these ads for Ancora’s broadcast ad buys. Soon after, we built a strategy to phase in OTT/streaming ad buys. Why? They’re measurable, targetable, and can result in direct response. This approach paid off — these ads yielded:
- 69,000,000+ Impressions
- 150,000+ Site Visits
- 4,000+ Assisted Leads
Effective creative doesn’t require a massive branding agency or months of development time. With design thinking, careful research, and audience-first strategy, marketers and their partners can craft impactful ads in a relatively short amount of time. If you have questions about how performance creative could support your education institution or business, get in touch with us today.