Who doesn’t like to watch a creative college ad once in a while? We certainly do and we would like to invite you on this tour of the best college commercials of 2019.
At first glance, one might think that the college advertisement should be super creative per se. However, take a pause now, close your eyes and remember how many hilarious or poignant college ads you can name? We know, not so many are there. There are two sides to it though: on one hand, the ads are primarily targeted to the ones who are going to pay, the parents. That may explain some of the dryness of a regular commercial in this domain. On the other hand, a good ad costs lots of money to produce and this is also a factor we have to take into account when talking about the cultural impact of this particular type of advertising.
Nevertheless, 2019 has brought us many fascinating videos where colleges competed in versatility, musical abilities, talent and fun. And we, at Kitcast, are absolutely in love with such creative outbursts and it’s our pleasure to introduce you to this rating where we collected those who absolutely nailed it with their college ads. So let’s go to a school of good commercials.
1. Stanford Medical School’s “thank you, next”
Is it an ad? Technically no. Can it impact the potential applicant’s decision to stick with Stanford Medical? Oh yes. Just hit play and you will understand everything.
This wonderfully produced video is in fact a parody of Ariana Grande’s “thank you, next” song performed by the students of the school themselves. Some kind of Glee but with real people instead of actors. It’s irresistible in its youthful charms getting you instantly into a college nostalgia (if you’ve already graduated) and buying you up on an idea to just apply to Stanford (if you and your parents are still thinking). Isn’t it what good ads should do?
Also, we can’t notice the fact that apart from being a good college representation video, it is also a cultural phenomenon that can inspire other universities around the country to do the same.
Thank you, Stanford Medical School, we’re already excited about your next (video).
2. University of Phoenix’s “Discover Your Wings”
Is it normal when you cry at the end of a college ad? We did after this one. In the 2019 entry, the University of Phoenix went full John Lewis and produced a brilliant tear jerking story of chasing your dreams.
The cinematic video follows a little boy who observes how her mother “discovers her wings” after taking a course at the university thus learning “how to fly”. It runs only 1 minute but what a minute it is. If you dig deeper, you will see that it’s not the first time the Arizona capital’s university went down the awesome ad road, they have been steadily doing that for several years now.
We would just add that from the marketing perspective, we would absolutely love if other colleges would turn to cinematic approaches in their ads. This University of Phoenix’s ad can be a great learning and inspiring point.
3. Caltech’s “Break Through: Infinite Possibilities”
There is something Interstellar-like in Caltech’s 2019 Break Through: Infinite Possibilities ad. First, the music here is absolutely goosebump-inducing, never failing to keep your spirit high throughout the whole 4 minutes running time. The same thing Christopher Nolan did with the help of Hans Zimmer in the director’s space-themed movie.
Secondly, the video is simply epic. Because it’s one thing when you see science-fiction on the screen, it’s another thing to have actual scientists to talk about their achievements that are actually changing the world. Black holes, molecules, quantum technology, climate modeling, robotics. Caltech is very good at it, maybe better than everyone else in the world right now. And this video works perfectly to present it.
It’s even hard to call it a college ad, it’s more a fascinating journey through humanity’s biggest scientific achievements, no less.
4. Tuft’s “A to Z“
What is the recipe for making an interesting and entertaining college ad? Follow the footsteps of Tufts and their A-Z, they definitely know it. In 2019 video introducing the Welcome Class of 2023, the school doesn’t go with a typical format of the commercials that simply state the facts about their institution, it creates a whole new format.
Following a one-take structure, the students of Tufts take turns (and letters) to tell you more about what it’s like to study there, one letter at a time. While it’s duration may seem a bit over the top with a whopping 8 minutes, as you are watching you notice that you simply can’t stop, you’re intrigued by each new letter and want to discover the whole alphabet of Tufts.
A perfect lesson in keeping the viewer’s attention and one of the confident college ad wins of 2019 for us.
5. Villanova University’s “What is Villanovan?”
Sometimes 30 seconds is enough to capture your attention. Villanova University uses the brevity to convey a simple message: “Ignite change. Go Nova”. Or in other words, “Villanovans rule”. What can be a better motto for a marketing campaign?
If you analyze the video, it’s not, in fact, much different from other college ads. But it’s the extra-rapid pace, high-quality visuals, punchy musical accompaniment and the overall epicness of it all that makes it work and stand out from the rest of classic college ads.
6. Duke University’s “This is Duke”
Another 30 seconds and another big win. Duke University’s fame in the scientific circles speaks for itself with 15 Nobel laureates and 3 Turing Award winners. It doesn’t need lengthy introductions. That’s why the video is very fast and on point. Also, it’s a bit different from Villanova’s approach, there is no voiceover here. Just “This is Duke” and several incentivizing imperative verbs. And it’s that “less is more” approach that makes the magic work. At the end of the video you just can’t miss the chance to check out the Duke’s application process, you want to belong.
This is Duke and this is some top-notch college marketing.
7. UC Berkeley’s “Baking her way to Berkeley”
Although this is not an ad, it still works to the benefit of Berkeley, California’s iconic educational institution that regularly tops all possible university ratings and is known for its excellence.
As far as the college ads go, it’s almost always about the success, getting higher, being better, reaching for the stars. That’s why this feature from Berkeleys is so different, it tells a story of failure (with the happy ending of course). The video follows the story of Anamaría Morales, the owner and founder of College Confectionista, a cheesecake business she started to be able to afford to go to college. The video is even more about the will to achieve better results, overcome difficulties and succeed.
The fact that it’s not so much about Berkeley itself but more about the significance of it in the life of a person who attends it is also a powerful messaging advantage to mention here.
We love such storytelling and we want it more from other colleges too.
8. University of Notre Dame’s “Many Voices. One Conversation.”
Sometimes it’s not about being overly creative, sometimes it’s all about choosing the right message, representing the right approach and sticking to it. The University of Notre Dame did just that with their “Many Voices. One Conversation.” ad. It’s simple in execution but it does a great branding job to this school, it tells you clearly what you will get in terms of values if you apply to Notre Dame. Straight to the point and very powerful so.
9. Mississippi State University’s “Where we ring true”
Choosing a college is one of the most important decisions of your life, why not making it the most epic one too? Making your hair instantly shiver, Mississippi State University’s “Where we ring true” ad is a motivational crescendo. Sounding like a poem, it builds and builds on the pace providing a pleasant catharsis in the end with the “we ring true” messaging. Quite possibly, it’s one of the most powerful college ads we’ve ever seen. Not everybody can afford to do such a commercial but Mississippi State wins our hearts with this bold move of this college advertisement perfection.