Take Advantage of Traditional Media in Your Higher Ed Marketing Campaigns

With impressive customer reach and targeting capabilities, cost-effectiveness, and measurable results, digital marketing channels are increasingly chosen for marketing campaigns over traditional media channels. Driven by a belief that digital channels are superior, some colleges and universities following this trend are missing out on valuable opportunities to connect with prospects, parents, donors, alumni, and other important target audiences.

“While digital buys can target very specific audiences, traditional media still carries a lot of weight and power in driving the consumer to the website for more information,” says Krista Clark, a media specialist with more than 20 years of experience in the industry. “Media buying is the executional aspect of the media plan. However, it is more than just the actual purchase of advertising space or time; it is understanding the target audience and the product itself. It is understanding people’s media viewing habits and how the target audience goes about their daily business, how they react to the world around them.”

Combined with your digital marketing efforts, traditional media like TV, radio, print, direct mail, and outdoor advertising can increase your higher ed marketing campaigns’ visibility and provide valuable opportunities to connect with your intended audiences – and encourage them to engage.

Data shows that many people are becoming increasingly frustrated with digital noise – yet another reason to explore other avenues to advertise your brand. A recent HubSpot survey found that 57% of participants disliked ads that played before a video and 43% didn’t even watch them. Turning to more traditional media options gives your college or university opportunities to cut through that noise.

Let’s delve into the various traditional media channels and discover how they can be effectively used in higher ed marketing.


Billboards provide a larger-than-life canvas to showcase your message. In today’s digital age, digital billboards offer vibrant and dynamic displays that can be updated with ease. Consider positioning traditional or digital billboards strategically in high-traffic areas to promote your college or university’s notable recognition and unique programming.

Sample strategy. Use billboards in busy downtown areas or along high-traffic roadways to promote:

  • S. News & World Report rankings
  • Online and hybrid degree options
  • Course offerings unique to your region
  • Notable student or research outcomes


While streaming TV is certainly more popular with your prospects – especially Gen Z – cable TV permits highly targeted advertising based on geographic zones and specific demographic audiences. By selecting networks that align with your target audiences’ interests, such as local networks and cable channels that broadcast live sports or focus on pop culture, you can ensure that your message reaches the right viewers. Remember that cable TV is often purchased in tonnage due to its fragmented viewership, so plan your media buying accordingly.

Sample strategy. Specifically target audiences to promote:

  • Online and hybrid degree options, which are especially important for attracting nontraditional students
  • Degree programs and course offerings unique to your region
  • Exciting research and innovative programs that would benefit from sponsorship, philanthropy, industry partnership, or alumni involvement


Over-the-top (OTT) streaming platforms have gained immense popularity, and they offer precise targeting capabilities. With OTT, you can reach viewers based on ZIP code, county, age group, and other parameters. Take advantage of analytics to understand viewers’ preferences and behaviors, and tailor your ads accordingly. Platforms like Netflix, Hulu, Paramount+, and YouTube can help you connect with audiences across multiple devices.

Sample strategy. Specifically target an audience to publicize:

  • Your campus features and overall brand message
  • Short student testimonials
  • National rankings and regional differentiators
  • Flexible course options and programs unique to the region
  • Compelling research or events


Traditional radio advertising remains a trusted and effective medium for reaching a diverse audience. You should also consider streaming radio, which offers advanced targeting options. By choosing the right radio format – such as talk shows or podcasts focused on comedy or sports, podcasts hosted by well-known celebrities or influencers, or music stations popular with your target demographic – you can engage listeners during their daily routines. Thirty- and 60-second commercials allow you to convey your message effectively, and leveraging local deejays or podcast hosts as voice-over talent can create personal and trustworthy testimonials.

Sample strategy. Consider sponsoring a podcast segment, or creating your own, to promote:

  • Thought leadership among your faculty
  • Compelling programs, events, or research
  • Your college or university’s efforts in timely topics like mental health, diversity and inclusion, and higher ed affordability


Magazine and print advertising provides tangible experiences that captivate readers’ attention. Consider partnering with publications focused on wellness, local and independent businesses, or food, or other niche publications to target your desired audience effectively. Craft visually compelling ads that convey your graduate outcomes, innovative programs and degree options, national recognitions, and forward-thinking focus to leverage the unique benefits of print media, and consider your own print publications to distribute at key times to alumni and potential donors and partners.

Sample strategy. Promote your higher ed brand through:

  • Short student testimonial ads
  • Outcomes snapshots
  • Ads promoting national rankings and unique program offerings
  • Inspiring student, alumni, and faculty stories


Despite the rise of digital communication, direct mail remains an effective way to reach potential customers. Tailor your mailings to a specific demographic or ZIP code to increase engagement and response rates.

Sample strategy. Consider using direct mail to enhance your brand by:

  • Introducing the school to prospective students and directing them toward you digital communications
  • Inviting prospective students, partners, or donors to a campus tour or event
  • Sending thank-you’s and impact reports to donors


Transit advertising encompasses various mediums, including buses, taxis, bus shelters, train station posters, and digital screens. These channels offer extensive exposure to both pedestrians and drivers, making them hard to miss. By strategically selecting train and bus routes, you can target specific geographic areas and demographics effectively.

Sample strategy. Promote your college or university by advertising:

  • US. News & World Report rankings
  • Graduate outcomes
  • Notable research stats
  • Campus locations
  • Online and hybrid degree programs


“While digital buys can target very specific audiences, traditional media still carries a lot of weight and power in driving the consumer to the website for more information,” Clark says.

At Lightstream, we specialize in managing all aspects of media marketing, including traditional and digital channels. We understand the unique benefits that each medium brings to the table and can help you craft a comprehensive strategy that maximizes your marketing impact. What’s more, we don’t charge markups, ensuring transparent and cost-effective media buying.

Ready to harness the power of traditional media in your higher ed marketing campaigns? Contact us today to learn more about our services and start reaching your target audience effectively. Together, we can create a winning strategy that combines the best of traditional and digital media to more effectively engage your audiences and achieve your marketing goals.