College TV Ads Don't Have to Look the Same

Quick. Think about a school commercial. What does it look like? What do you see on screen? Do you see images like this?

Or this?

What about this?

Now, this isn't an indictment against videos that use these b-roll elements in their spots. I've used them myself on various projects.

Rather, I bring this up, 1) to acknowledge that a certain genre of video (like a school commercial) will, more often than not, contain common elements, and 2) to challenge all of us as video producers, advertisers, and marketers to find that which differentiates our clients from their competitors, and to create content that turns right, when everyone else is turns left. 

The problem with school videos that use similar visual elements, music, talking points, etc. is that there's nothing in the spot that differentiates one school from another. You could simply take the same spot and just replace the logo at the end. Always ask: what's unique about this client?

For some schools, the answer might be attitude. Consider this spot from the University of Oregon. It contains some of the same b-roll shots you see in other school videos, but the difference is in the scripting and in the edit. The piece has a definite edge, giving you the impression that the university has a distinct energy that's slightly rebellious; an energy that breaks the mold, blazes new trails, and impacts the world. It leaves you with the feeling that Oregon is a place that defies the norm.

The differentiator for another school might be results, like this spot from the University of Dayton. In essence this spot says, "Here's what we've done. Here's what our people are doing." Here's the impact we're making." They point to real-world results. And, if you look quickly, you will see some common elements from other school commercials, but they executed the spot with an animated, infographic look, which is eye-catching and different.

Or consider this spot from Georgia Tech. They chose to focus on their reputation as a well-respected engineering school. But instead of showing students working in labs, or manipulating some advanced 3D object on a computer screen, they opted for a more creative approach. The result? They still communicated their message and stayed true to their core differentiator, and the spot is distinctly Georgia Tech.

Or you could completely ignore all of the above and do something like this: