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Varsities may not hike print ad spends post-covid

New Delhi:Educational campuses are gradually opening up, but the education sector, a big advertiser, is likely to focus much on online advertisements and is unlikely to return much to print media in 2021.

Universities and colleges believe that online ads, the power of which became evident following the coronavirus outbreak, allow them customization and better reach to the target audience and is also less expensive than other forums. Thus, this is likely to constitute 80-90% of the ad spending, which is almost 30% more than earlier.

The consideration for print is largely because of the credibility it lends to education brands, the institutes said.

“Since the beginning (2014), our marketing budget has been a mix of online and offline advertising. Print advertisement was around 20-25% of the total marketing spend for the year 2019. This drastically changed during the pandemic. For 2021, we are anticipating that the print ad spend is likely to remain between 5-10% as we see more traction for online campaigns,” said Rakesh Sreedharan, head of admissions and marketing at Mahindra University, the education venture of the Mahindra Group.

In the higher education and professional training space, “students are largely online, they are consuming more internet than newspapers…whether it’s good or bad is a different debate”, said Vijay Thadani, co-founder and board member of NIIT University. “If one wishes to reach them, online advertisement is the medium to be in. However, serious education players realize that pure online publicity is counterproductive. Online platforms do not lend credibility to serious education brands. For credibility, print advertisement is the best,” said Thadani, also the vice-chairman and managing director of NIIT Ltd.

India’s higher education sector is quite large, with 51,000 colleges and universities. Industry experts argue that universities spend on average between 50 lakh to 2 crore a year. If even half of the colleges and universities spend just 50 lakh a year, the market will be worth more than 10,000 crore. After the covid-19 outbreak in India in 2020, newspapers stopped reaching people for almost one to two months, and institutions started looking at online ads in a much bigger way, said Chocko Valiappa, managing director of Vee Technology Ltd and Sona Group of professional colleges in Tamil Nadu.

“The cost of an online advertisement is much less than in other forums. It also allows customization of advertisements according to need and target. Also, the shelf life of print ads is less as it is an everyday product. For us, the online ad spend is going to increase and print ad spends of a normal year such as 2019 is unlikely to happen in 2021,” said Valiappa, whose institutions are expected to spend four-fifth of their advertisement budget online.

The year 2020 was a tough one for educational institutions, and they will hesitate to spend more on advertisements in 2021, said Naresh Jadeja, registrar of Gujarat-based Marwari University.

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