What do a rampaging dinosaur, a dancing duck and a dismembered slacker have in common?

They’re all the stars of online videos made for or based in different universities, each of which has received between two and five million views on YouTube.

“Get. Their. Attention.”

Not just a timeless pearl of business wisdom from the laser-brain of David Brent, but also a maxim upheld by marketers everywhere pretty much since the year dot.

From Lord Kitchener jabbing a digit directly at YOU, to Eva’s “Hello boys” come-on, to the current era of online virals, the first stop for most ads has been to stake as compelling a claim as possible for the attention of their target audience.

And while the vast majority of video ads from the higher education sector favour a more obviously informational approach than that just described, there are still some which dare to rip off their clothes and shout “LOOK AT ME!”, as we will see in the case studies below.

But for any university pondering whether to chance its arm at creating its own viral video hit, a pivotal question it should consider is how it values a smaller, targeted audience versus a bigger, broader viewership (the latter of which can, of course, never be guaranteed; around 2% of YouTube videos score views of 100k-plus).

What is evident from the below examples, though, is that if a viral is your ultimate aim, then any concept requires not just luck with viewers and support once released, but also total commitment from all involved, and maybe a bit of bravery too.

CASE STUDY # 1: The University of Glamorgan, ‘T. Rex in The Atrium’ (2.3million views)

A bit of a granddaddy amongst university virals, first put online in 2010, the title says it all really.

Created by BA animation students at Glamorgan as part of their course, this Cardiff-set homage to Jurassic Park sees the titular Tyrannosaur getting cranky… and some undergrads getting turned into jumbo nibbles.

CASE STUDY # 2: The Central Institute of Technology (Perth, Australia), ‘It’s a Snap’ (2.3m views)

The facilities tour is a staple video for universities but, earlier this year, Aussie filmmakers/actors Henry and Aaron served up a tour video with a twist.

How so?

Well, teleporting between locations for starters… and it’s this gimmick which gives the video its hook, as a careless reappearance triggers a blackly comic bloodbath.

CASE STUDY # 3: The University of Oregon,Gangnam Style Parody’, (5.7m views)

The 2012 answer to the Macarena, the distinctive dance linked to PSY’s K-pop monster hit ‘Gangnam Style’ has spawned a legion of online parodies, including plenty from US colleges.

But it’s Oregon’s lampoon, starring its mascot, Puddles the Duck, which has snagged by far the largest audience – a triumph attributable to the online following already cultivated by the University, the timeliness of the parody (launched in August, it preceded the tsunami of subsequent spoofs), and support from PSY himself.

Take a look at our own student recruitment work here

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