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The Do’s and Don’ts for Advertising to Gen Z On Campus

By collegemktgrp | February 12, 2016 | Brands/Advertisers

Marketing to college students on campus can be like navigating a minefield. Campus restrictions, fragmented media choices, ever-changing technology, and a student population that doesn’t sit still can all make a college marketer throw up their hands in frustration. It might be tempting to resort to mass marketing or the same tired campus advertising plan you’ve always done.

We are here to tell you there is a better way.

Consider these tips as you finalize your advertising budget:


  • Don’t buy any advertising without making sure your design and messaging are on target and beautiful. We have a marketing message worksheet you can use to help get you started.
  • Don’t spread your budget too thin by advertising on too many campuses. Pick the ones you want to “own” first, and expand once you see success.
  • Don’t assume that your brand is ready for “Brand Ambassadors.” Paying students to do your marketing on campus is hard to manage and usually doesn’t move the needle much.
  • Don’t waste your money on college newspapers. Print readership among college students is at its lowest point ever.
  • Don’t advertise on campus unless you can commit to being there for at least a semester. A quick ad blitz only works for short-term messaging like a grand opening or a movie release. To build relationships, you need to invest the time and be a part of campus life.
  • Don’t ask for too much. Making students jump through a zillion hoops is a turn-off. Gently lead them through the buying experience, asking for a little bit at a time.


  • Be real and authentic. Pandering to college students by using their slang will get you an eyeroll and put you on the pay-no-mind list.
  • Consider running mobile-only campaigns. Geo-fence college campuses, and serve your content to the primary screen Gen Z cares about.
  • Use real people with real stories in your marketing, and skip the celebrity endorsement. They want authenticity.
  • Make your information easy to find and convenient to consume. Gen Z is resourceful and will seek you out to learn all they can if they like what you have to say
  • Be quick and on point with your copy. Thought you had just a minute to capture Gen Y’s attention? Now you have a nano-second. Sorry.
  • Use technology that incorporates students’ mobile device in the here-and-now with traditional campus advertising like posters, kiosks, and campus events.
  • Use short, 15-second video spots (not commercials), image-only ads, and compelling stories to create an emotional connection.
  • Use college IP targeting with age layering to reach only the campus communities you want with your online display and video buys.
  • Take a chance, and try something you have never done before. To get noticed on campus, you need to push the boundaries of your comfort zone.

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