CAMPAIGN DIRECT: Businesses woo academic world in hope of future rewards. The student brigade offers a vital revenue stream that many companies now tap into, Eleanor Trickett says

It is traditional that during the month of September, one cannot open a broadsheet newspaper without coming across lists of university places still up for grabs and worthy articles about how your average 18-year-old can still keep a grip on their finances after receiving more money than they’ve ever seen in their lives.

It is traditional that during the month of September, one cannot

open a broadsheet newspaper without coming across lists of university

places still up for grabs and worthy articles about how your average

18-year-old can still keep a grip on their finances after receiving more

money than they’ve ever seen in their lives.

Student hardship is one side of the coin, granted. But the fact remains

that first-year undergraduates are entering a new financial and

lifestyle bracket: that of the discerning consumer.

What better time, then, for manufacturers and services to think about

how they can get that student pound early, and retain loyalty long after

the innocent freshers have graduated into high-earning, high-spending


One such company to spot the wisdom in this is Radio Rentals. It noticed

a sales blip in sign-ups at the beginning of the academic year, and

decided to capitalise on the fact that students generally feel

cash-happy in their first few days. Given they need a few creature

comforts, such as a TV, VCR and washing machine, OgilvyOne’s highly

targeted, time-sensitive campaign makes sense.

The campaign has a narrow timeframe, running for the first two or three

weeks of the student year.

This meant OgilvyOne had to clearly identify areas in which the message

could not fail to be noticed. The first, and screamingly obvious, place

was the student bar. But instead of just running posters saying ’Why not

rent a telly?’, the agency wanted to talk to the marketing-savvy

students in their kind of language.

Beer mats were the answer. The account team diligently researched

popular student drinking games and put them on the mats with the

advertising message on the reverse side.

The student bar idea extends to the men’s loos. Posters above the

urinals enquire ’Splashed your trousers again?’, and go on to reassure

that Radio Rentals can rent you a washing machine for a ’piddling’

pounds 3.50 a week.

On the way home from the bar, the message kicks in again if the student

fancies a takeaway. Adlids reinforce the message by announcing ’You’ve

got the dinner. Now get the TV’ and ’Take away dinner stains’, depicting

the washing machine offer.

The final two elements of the campaign are slightly more conventional,

yet still integrated creatively and strategically.

A risque press ad in the lads’ mags shows a pristine pair of Y-fronts on

a washing line and the headline, ’Pass examinations with no marks.’

Another shows a handful of scantily clad babes which gives the message

that if you have a washing machine, you can ’get their kit off’.

Finally, a postcard simply says ’Become a rent boy’.

’Throughout the whole campaign,’ explains John Owrid, a management

partner of OgilvyOne, ’we are looking for ’moments of truth’ - the times

that people are up for considering a commercial proposition. The

timescale is crucial and the freshers period is ideal.

’In only three weeks we are trying to get people to sign a deal that

will not only take them through to next June, but encourage them into

the idea that renting is something from which they can get great value

even after graduating.’

In response to the keen interest that so many advertisers have paid to

students throughout the years, the National Union of Students offers

selected brands an official endorsement each year.

The NUS’s involvement with the brands it endorses is a close one, with

working parties put in place to advise on appropriate incentives, iron

out problems with the offer and negotiate the possibilities of tailoring

the product to suit the student budget more.

Barclaycard is a product that has been consistently endorsed by the NUS,

despite most broadsheets advising against credit in their ’how to be a

student’ features.

Joanna Wells, the marketing manager of the NUS, explains: ’Although many

people advise students against getting a credit card, Barclaycard is a

relatively safe option with a low credit limit.’

And the association is a clear example of how the dialogue between the

student and the brand works as, after one such consultation, the APR was

brought down.

Not all brands can tap into students’ cash. Proposed endorsements have

been vetoed by unexpectedly strong feelings from the students against

the company in question.

The NUS had once agreed a loyalty card scheme with McDonald’s, but the

idea proved highly unpopular with the students they consulted for

ethical reasons.

Endsleigh Insurance Services is probably the brand most closely

associated with students, having been set up in 1965 in association with

the NUS after concern that traditional insurance companies seemed

unwilling to protect the belongings of long-haired, dope smokers who may

forget to lock their room in the hall of residence.

But the association doesn’t end with graduation, says Andy McKell, the

marketing supervisor of Endsleigh. ’It makes sense for us to look at how

to service the graduate population, and there are many ways in which we

can continue to provide what they need.’

Right up to the point when ex-students are settling down and need

traditional home insurance, Endsleigh offers protection for backpackers

and people buying their first car.

’Both Barclaycard and Endsleigh have products for both undergraduates

and graduates,’ explains Wells, ’and helps them through that

no-man’s-land time of post-graduation and pre-employment. And it is true

that this kind of relationship will keep people loyal to those


’They are taking a long-term strategy in not demanding much money out of

the students but trying to ensure they stick with them when they’ve more

cash to spend.’

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