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
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
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
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.’