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Ad Spotlight: Hastings College

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At the core of every business is a story that is often told through advertising. Today, those who leverage storytelling in video advertising are likely to stand out among the crowd of their competitors.

But how does a story evolve from an idea to a 30-second video ad? Follow this journey as brands dive into each step of their creative process in our Ad Spotlight interview series.

Kicking off this series are Michael Howie, Director of Marketing, and Ross Struss, Communications Coordinator, from Hastings College. Their ad on Hulu highlights how Hastings College has embraced remote learning in response to COVID-19.

As an institution that prioritizes and excels in mentoring, our focus is on students and helping them find their way.

Tell us about Hastings College

Michael Howie, Director of Marketing

What do you do?

Michael Howie: We are a small residential private college in south central Nebraska. As an institution that prioritizes and excels in mentoring, our focus is on students and helping them find their way.

How are you different from your competitors? What makes you stand out?

Michael: The way Hastings College approaches technology, books, scheduling, and travel differentiates us from other universities.

Every student receives an iPad and Apple Pencil at no additional cost. All books – physical and digital – are also included in tuition. Our block schedule (two-week or seven-week) allows each student to take 1-2 classes at a time.

We emphasize travel as a key differentiator, with a two-week travel class included in our curriculum. In the face of uncertainty related to the pandemic, we are pausing travel for the next school year and will resume for the 2021-22 school year.

When Mike let me know that Hulu approached us, I jumped out of my seat because this was the perfect time to reach viewers at home across so many demographics.

Why did you choose Hulu Ad Manager to help you tell your story?

Ross Struss, Communications Coordinator

Ross: It’s important to note how much we wanted to be on Hulu over the past few years. Before it didn’t work with our budget since our budget is not huge and we diversify as best as we can. We recognized that there’s so many people from so many age groups who use Hulu, so we really wanted a chance to advertise on Hulu.

When Mike let me know that Hulu approached us, I jumped out of my seat because this was the perfect time to reach viewers at home across so many demographics. It’s not business as usual, but we’re trying to keep things as normal as we can. We always knew that Hulu would be a great advertising platform for us.

Audience

Who is your audience?

Michael: Our marketing targets high school students and their parents.

What are words or phrases you want the audience to associate with your brand after watching the video?

Michael: “Hastings College” is high on our list since we are building brand recognition.

Ross Struss: We also want to be synonymous with “hope” and “reassurance,” particularly among high school seniors who are exploring college options. Even while everything is in flux, they can still talk to us, and we hope that fosters a sense that things will be ok.

Michael: Hastings is a close-knit community in Nebraska with a population of 25,000. We want that sense of community to get through to our audience. Alumni who saw the ad reached out to us, which was exciting.

Message

What is your primary message in this ad?

Michael: The main elements of our marketing messaging are technology, books, travel, and affordability. In light of the current situation, we set out to make a script that focused on these talking points (minus travel) and also emphasized virtual education.

We wanted prospective students to know that we wish we could have them visit the campus and that while they can’t visit in-person at the moment, they can schedule a virtual visit now.

Using similar messaging on multiple platforms made the writing process easy. We were thrilled that we were able to put something together over a couple of days.

What is your call to action?

Michael: Visit Virtually. We wanted the audience to sign up for a virtual visit of Hastings College.

Hastings College

Tone

Which audience emotions do you address?

Michael: We reinforce that we are here and we are open. For parents in the audience, we made a point to communicate our commitment to student safety.

We also emphasize that private college can be affordable, hence the video graphic in the ad touting available scholarships. While we updated the ad to reflect the times, we wanted the ad to still look familiar and aligned with earlier ads.

As for students, “Go Somewhere” is not an official tagline, although we frequently use this language.

It means go to Hastings College, go travel through our study abroad program, go somewhere in life after college, and so on. We’re all about helping students go somewhere.

We wanted to display a sort of ‘normalcy’ to reassure students that things are going to be ok and that we are still operating.

What brand cues do you utilize to establish your brand identity?

Michael: Focusing on the beauty and vibrancy of our college campus was a conscious decision.

We wanted to display a sort of “normalcy” to reassure students that things are going to be ok and that we are still operating. This meant avoiding gloom and doom, so no dark, empty buildings and somber piano.

The upbeat music bed is the same one we’ve used for 5-6 years in all our ads. Same goes for the ad’s end card.

Creative Process

We start with the voiceover (VO), which becomes the baseline for the story. From there, we use our brand template and elements such as our tagline, logo, and music bed to keep our audiovisual identity.

Walk us through the creative development process for your video ad – ideation, planning, script writing, production.

Michael: We start with the voiceover (VO), which becomes the baseline for the story. From there, we use our brand template and elements such as our tagline, logo, and music bed to keep our audiovisual identity.

We thought about how we could use the b-roll footage that we already have. We looked for what had the right energy, the right light, and the right movement. Thankfully we were able to produce, shoot, and edit everything in-house.

We do use outside VO talent and have our go-to talent so the voice stays consistent. That brings our cost to $100 and staff time.

How should a business approach the challenge of telling its story in 30 seconds?

Michael: Start with the words. The script is important, but it has to be clear, not flowery. Avoid using extra words – keep it simple and to the point. Keep paring down the script until you get it right.

Collaborate among your team to be clear and concise. Establish a strong foundation of message: know your messaging pillars and talking points. In our case, for example, we added virtual visits to our messaging.

Once you have nailed the message, make sure your visuals match your words.

What are the qualities of a successful video ad from your perspective?

Michael: Clear audio and crisp visuals are must-haves. Be consistent with both.

Ross: Without a pleasing voice at an appropriate volume, viewers will tune out. Having a clean-looking ad is also important – use high-quality video and don’t splash a lot of words on screen.

Learn More About Hulu’s Self-Service Advertising Solution

Thank you for sharing your insights, Michael and Ross! We look forward to what’s ahead for Hastings College.

Looking for a way to capture the attention of the highly engaged Streaming TV audience? Learn more about Hulu Ad Manager, a more affordable way to appear next to TV’s biggest hits and show Hulu’s extensive viewer community what your company has to offer.

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