Universities are beginning to market themselves like businesses

It’s still strangely unfamiliar to see universities behave like the businesses that they are.

In 1977 American lawyers were granted the right to promote their businesses through broadcast advertising. It took a while but you started to see advertising on local stations and then, some years later, nationally. (Much of it quite awful.)

It sort of feels like that for Universities today. Not the ‘awful’ part and not the advertising part (universities have been advertising for decades) but the fact that 2015 almost felt like a watershed moment where universities started to use video to promote themselves more like businesses instead of like… universities.

This video is an good example.

Education is undergoing fundamental change as technology is allowing the sharing of knowledge at an accelerating pace. While Universities still hold a monopoly on granting degrees they no longer hold a monopoly on knowledge. The second largest investment most of us will make in our lives isn’t quite the slam dunk it used to be. As a result, universities will continue to evolve and look for any means possible to differentiate themselves from their competitors (fellow schools.).  To the review…

This video was created as part of a large publicity campaign to raise awareness of the BI Norwegian Business School. The campaign was promoted across Europe.

Arne Wellberg, Head of Marketing at the school summarizes the goal for the campaign: “We needed a campaign getting attention to Oslo among international students. Many young people across Europe have surprisingly little knowledge of Oslo and all the possibilities, the activities and the fun the city has to offer.”

At over 1 million views I think we can give this campaign a ‘mission accomplished.’

The production values in this video are as good as it gets. From, the filming, to editing, the epc music selection, cinematic colouring, directing… everything about this video was top notch.

Shakespearean actor Nick Haverson was a perfect choice as pitchman and is a big reason (IMHO) for the success of this video. He delivers with a passion and enthusiasm that makes you want to keep watching. You have to – you want to see what comes next, right up to the big aerial finale sequence.

Did the contest this video supports really matter? Not for any reason other than to serve as a purpose for this well executed publicity campaign.

“Where’d you get your degree?  “At BI Norwegian Business School”  “Oh, lovely… contest winner?”
“Du ser kjent!!” (‘You look familiar’ in Norwegian)  “Please, just leave me alone….”
“So how are the application numbers looking?”  “Excellent – mostly ‘contest’ type people, but, you know… the numbers are good.”

So if this video is so well done – which it is, and if it attained its business objective of raising awareness for the school – which it certainly did, then why do I still have reservations about it?

Is it because it used a contest to get students to attend a business school? Imagine if the program of study was for a profession like medicine. Would a contest still be a good idea (‘paging doctor Lucky…)? Is it because I’m a snob and think all university promotions should be boring? Maybe… and no, but there’s something about the video that gave me pause.

Are lawyer promotional videos standard practice today? Absolutely. Are they seen as improving the profession – “Have you been maimed in a horrible accident? – Call Us Now: 1-800-actionman”. Not so much.

The educational landscape is evolving quickly and the billion dollar enterprises that serve it (universities and community colleges) have to keep pace.




Jimm Fox


Jimm has been working in video and marketing for the last 25 years agency side, client side and in video production.

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