Study: ‘TV Ads are Most Effective for Students’, But Wait…

Study: ‘TV Ads are Most Effective for Students’, But Wait…

24th September 2012

Social Media for many is the holy grail, especially when you are targeting the youngsters of this time. The generation which is now in college is ‘only online minded’ is the assumption many marketers have. So you don’t have to look at TV, just target them on Facebook, right? Well maybe not. A research from Barnes & Noble College Marketing shows that students personally feel that TV ads are most effective.

But hold your horses, before running to your media buyer and ordering those new TV ads you always dreamed about producing, there are some ‘buts’ to this. Students may feel that when it comes to advertising, TV is strongest, but maybe that is because they don’t want advertising but commitment and engagement on Social Media.

What is the research?

The research performed by Barnes & Noble is quite extensive. It is called the “2012 College Marketing Report” and is based on a huge survey of the Barnes & Noble College Next Gen Research Panel, a network of more than 7,500 college students from campuses across the United States. You have to keep in mind that Barnes and Noble has got stores on many campuses in the US. This gives them access to about 5 million students.

That means they have a nice number of students to do research on. Now as always with research there are things you should keep in mind. For example the answers given might not actually be what people actually do, answers in many cases can be ‘politically correct’. Next to that it is about how questions are asked (they can be suggestive) and finally, how are the answers interpreted. And especially that last part is important.

The Research Results

Let’s take a look at some of the results, but with a thinking cap on.


The most eye catching result of the survey probably is the fact that 42 percent of the students still say TV ads are the most effective form of advertising. That could lead to the conclusion that ‘Social’ is out and that all sorts of conclusions from the last years can go straight into the garbage bin. But it is important to combine this answer with a few other ones.

Another question for example was about advertising on Social Media and especially Facebook. Here 55 percent believes that Facebook is not a good place for brands to advertise to them. And the same goes for texting, “61 percent do not believe a text message campaign is a good way for a brand to connect with them”, the report says.

If you combine that with yet another question about advertising, which shows that 63% of students are not interested in QR codes on ads, you could say that even though TV is the most effective one of advertising, the entire principle of advertising is not in line with what students want.

Being social and involved

That conclusion could be supported by some other answers on different questions. Students do admit that they are very active on Social Media and especially Facebook: 65 percent of college students engage with brands via social media at least weekly, primarily on Facebook – and a third do so at least three times a day.

65 percent of college students engage with brands via social media at least weekly, primarily on Facebook

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What also becomes clear is that they are most motivated by brand loyalty as a key driver of social engagement (26 percent). In other words: they want to be ‘triggered’ by the brands.

Friends are important

The most important answers are all related to the ‘viral’ element of marketing: word of mouth. The biggest influencers for students are… their friends. 59 percent say that their purchasing decisions, both online and offline, are mostly influenced by their friends.

Most students say that their purchasing decisions, online and offline, are mostly influenced by their friends

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Combined with that is the fact that college students also want to be those influentials: “More than two-thirds (68 percent) of college students would be interested in becoming an on-campus student brand ambassador, while half of students would like brand ambassadors to help during move-in.” The research says.

Students want to be engaged and want to be engaging, use them as brand ambassadors

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Conclusion: don’t advertise, market

So what can be concluded from this research? Not the fact that it TV is the best way to advertise. We should try and forget that. What is most important is that students don’t want advertising, they want to be marketed to. Advertising is not the way to go when it comes to students, not on TV and especially not on Social.

Brands should be engaging with students, sharing with them, listening to them and making them their brand ambassadors. Get them involved!


Written By
Bas van den Beld is an award winning Digital Marketing consultant, trainer and speaker. He is the founder of State of Digital and helps companies develop solid marketing strategies.
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