Bob Johnson's Blog on Higher Education Marketing

University of Phoenix... strong ad creative falters in follow-up

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In the last couple of weeks, interesting new ad campaigns have come from Kaplan University and University of Phoenix. Today's comments are for the Phoenix effort.

In a nutshell: strong up-front creative but weak integration of what follows with the original marketing theme.

The new online campaign first appeared on my LinkedIn page... a good placement given that Phoenix is in search of professionals who might need more education to advance their careers. The creative theme in the ad also is strong... portrait of an individual person's success story with the prompt to "Be a Phoenix." For some, that just might mean rising from the professional ashes of a career damaged or destroyed in today's economy. Or it might just mean becoming a Phoenix alumnus. Either way, it works.

Following the link in the ad brings you to a strong landing page at 

The landing page repeats and reinforces the "Be a Phoenix" theme as it should. And there's an important message that Phoenix has 15 years experience in distance learning. Nice to know when some schools are just starting out.

And so I completed the inquiry form. In doing that, one element appeared that I haven't seen before... a place to indicate my agreement that since I had given them my phone number (I always use a false number and that part of the response plan is not included in this review) and it was OK to call me. 

An email response came just seconds after the inquiry form was submitted. That's about as fast as it gets. Great response time. And that's also where things started to fall apart:

  • There's nothing in the email about the "Be a Phoenix" concept. If I click on one of 6 student images, I get to a curious page that isn't quite right. It does offer video stories based on the "Be" theme, but this page wasn't created just for people moving on from the email. It includes an opportunity to inquire again (is this a landing page for another campaign or for an online search?). It gives me a path to information about available programs and campus locations... but I already gave a program interest and a distance learning preference when I completed the first inquiry form. All in all the page at just doesn't fit as well as it might. The stories are good; much of the rest isn't relevant at this point.
  • The email is personalized by name but everything else is generic for any inquriy. This email should link me to more information about the program of interest that I told them about when completing the original inquiry.
  • In the center of the email is a link to a "Quick Start Guide to Becoming a Student" that leads to an 11-page PDF that has no content about how to "Become a Phoenix." I'd bet major dollars that this hard-to-read PDF existed before the new ad campaign and was first prepared as a printed document. For sure, the people doing the campaign creative didn't have anything to do with this. The PDF appears at 103 percent of the page size. You can't see an entire page at one time until shrink the page to 75 percent. Not everyone visitor will know how to do that.
  • A link at the end of the email also leads to

So what do we have here? A campaign with an impressive new creative approach to introduce people to the University of Phoenix brand. The message of "Be a Phoenix" seems strong. But like many online advertising campaigns, not enough time, energy, and money was spent on the follow-up to get maximum conversions from the initial effort.

The primary rule is simple... if you ask for and get important personal information like the name of the degree program I'm interested in and how I want to study it, then send me an email that builds on what I've already told you. Connect me directly to that program. 

And don't, for heavens sake, use the email to connect me to an 11-page "Quick Start" PDF that's hard to read, has background information of no interest, and gives me no chance to connect from that document to anywhere else at Phoenix. That's not a Quick Start to anywhere except maybe to another university. 


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