education

Kaplan Launches $21M Effort In First Quarter

Kaplan Kaplan University is launching a three-month, $21 million-plus campaign comprising two 60-second national TV ads, as well as print and online elements.

The ad campaign extends Kaplan's "Talent" campaign from last year with the fundamental message that the distance-learning university is the right fit for people who don't fit the mold of the traditional college student. The second phase spotlights stay-at-home moms and dads, full-time workers, and people who are deciding somewhat later in life that this might be the time to crack the books.

The Davenport, Iowa-based company's debut 60-second ad shows a college lectern, but it's not in a classroom. Rather, it appears in places like an office cafeteria, a ski slope, and in the fountain of a town square. The students at the lectern talk about their desire to unlock their talents.

The second of the two TV spots shows a range of Kaplan students of different ages, professional statuses, and ethnicities in places like a shopping mall, an executive office, a sports arena, boxing gym and -- in the case of a flight attendant -- a commercial aircraft boarding ladder. The campaign, via Ogilvy & Mather, keeps the tagline, "A Different School of Thought."

Linda Mignone, VP of brand and strategic marketing at Kaplan Higher Education, tells Marketing Daily that Kaplan's message -- that there are other ways to learn than the traditional classroom environment -- has been "hugely important to us, because traditional students are only 16% of the total population of students enrolled in higher education programs today." Kaplan Higher Ed, with 150 programs, is oriented to portfolio development, which is meant to give students credit for life experience, per Mignone.

Kaplan, which started with 34 students in 2001, now has 63,000 students both online and on its campus in Iowa. The university also has 70 brick-and-mortar facilities across the country.

Mignone says while the education category overall has been affected by the economy, distance learning has had a boom as people spend money to boost their marketability. "People are rethinking what they have been doing and what they want to do in the future: gain skills, finish a degree or get advanced degrees, so there's huge interest." She says Kaplan Higher Education saw a 35% growth in enrollment in the first nine months of 2009.

The January timing is also critical because, says Mignone, now is when people are looking forward. "The first quarter is a time when people are thinking about what comes next," she says.

The ads, targeting 29- to-54-year-olds, debut Tuesday night on Fox during "American Idol" and at the same time on NBC's "The Biggest Loser." The ads will continue on ABC, CBS, NBC, ABC, Fox, History, TBS/TNT, TLC, USA Network, BBC America, History International, Weather Channel, Travel Channel, Comedy Central, E!, MSNBC, and others.

Print ads will run as full-page spreads in The New York Times and The Washington Post. Ads will also run in magazines like Newsweek, Family Circle, Real Simple, Self, Oprah, Shape, Fortune, and others. The company says the digital buy includes AOL, Oxygen, FoxNews, iVillage, Turner Networks, VideoEgg, and Adconion.com.

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