Education is at the heart of our society. From academia to professional training, the following report uses Flowin’s AI technology to study the advertising efforts of some of the largest organizations in the Canadian education industry.
Figure 2: McMaster Facebook Ads
Figure 3: Continuing Education ads from Saskatchewan Polytechnic
Flowin’s AI models identify emotions within ads. When we ran the collected advertising data through our tool we learned how each organization and the industry as a whole uses emotions in their advertising.
Based on initial observations positive emotions, such as Approval and Admiration were expected, however we were surprised to see Disapproval appear as the third most used emotion.
The percentages in the above graph represent the importance of that specific emotion within overall advertising strategies in the education industry.
Our model identified Approval as a general positive sentiment. Reviewing ads that contained the Approval we found that this sentiment was often found in descriptive copy. One way to view this emotion is as the absence of any other emotionally strong language.
Unlike the general positivity of Approval, ads that contained Admiration made use of more extreme positivity. Words like “great” and “perfect” are often found in this type of ad copy.
As the second most heavily used emotion, it seems that the use of the superlatives are very common and the copy of our organizations.
Disapproval was identified by the AI model as the third most used emotion in the ads studied. Reviewing specific ads, we found that the model identified negative phrasing as Disapproval. Wording such as “It’s not too late…” was used across organizations.
The model also identified that phrases such as “No coding necessary” which are used to promote accessibility were also very popular by online course providers.
As you can see the AI detected disapproval through the word ‘disagree’ regarding the freedom convoy.
Some other examples of disapproval in ads included:
While the top 3 emotions highlighted above were mostly used across groups and organizations, there are a few emotions, which were used very rarely, yet nonetheless offer insight into the copywriting tactics explored by different organizations.
4 emotions which only had a few uses were Love, Pride Realization and Desire.
In the case of Love, one specific Online course more often made use of copy that emphasized the love a student could have for the course content. The nature of MasterClass’s courses are as much entertainment as education.
Once again MasterClass offers a unique copywriting tactic focused on the awards of their teachers. Flowin’s AI identified Pride in the use of words such as “winner” and “award-winning”.
Realization seems to be an emotion that the model identified when the ad copy made surprising uses of time. Ad copy such as “weeks not years” or “27 Minutes” were tagged with Realization.
The use of Desire in ads was present when advertisers appealed to the student’s aspiration.
The above is an important graph demonstrating that the different groups, even with one same industry, emphasize different emotions in their advertising copywriting.
Most interesting from the above graph are the clear differences between the strongest emotions in each groups ads:
Advertising fatigue can occur in two situations. When an audience sees one specific ad too many times or when an advertisers’ ads are too similar to ads they’ve already seen. It’s for this reason that we recommend advertisers to study the most commonly used emotions within their own group and others.
This understanding provides opportunities to differentiate one’s ads and in so doing avoid advertising fatigue.
We studied ad copy for words like certification or diploma. To have an idea of which organizations made the most use of these qualifications we graphed the percentage of ads that used these words for each organization.
As shown below with BCIT and Sask polytech taking first and third spot respectively, technical colleges, which offer short certifications as their main program, were most likely to use certification within their ads.
This graph shows the relative use of these certification related words. As you can see the community/technical schools and online platforms dominated with organizations not listing having no ads relating to these words.
Below are a couple examples of trade schools promoting their diplomas and certifications offered that would help students in the workforce.
Next we ran the ad copy through a technology word catcher which included many common programming/computer buzz words such as python, or data science.
We expected the online learning networks to dominate this space, while this was the case for Linkedin Learning and Udemy, MastercClass never mentioned these tech-related keywords.
Since computer science skills are very popular and university computer science degrees are very popular, we expected universities to score higher here than they did.
This graph shows the relative use of technological buzz words in the ad copy. Many organizations highlighted these technical programs although the online platforms scored the highest on this front as expected. Organizations not listed had no ads relating to technology.
Here are three different styles of ads all produced by Linkedin learning which scored highest in the technology buzzword category. It is apparent that the tech interested subsection of the population is an important target group for this company.
We ran another test on self-promotion in ads. We also compared self-promotion to the use of superlatives, such as “best” and “greatest”.
Organizations not listed did not score on either metric. You can see online platforms often scored high on both fronts but the traditional educational parties favored brand mentioning over use of superlatives.
As we expected, there is a clear correlation between the use of superlatives and self-promotion. Online course providers were most likely to make use of these ad copy elements in their ad copy.
As seen by the graph online platforms like LinkedIn Learning repeatedly mentioned their brand name as seen at the bottom of each ad copy. Below is an example of masterclass using superlatives, in this case best, to demonstrate its superiority to other online courses.
Here you can see the results of our analysis on the urgency emphasized. Again organizations not included had no ads relating to this topic.
Finally we tested the use of wording signaling urgency. A pressure to act now and purchase the course is an instance of urgency we encountered very often. We tested urgency through the presence of words like ‘limited’, ‘now’ or ‘hurry’.
We expected online course platforms to dominate this section, however were shocked to see udemy with such a very small portion of ads to convey urgency. In fact, most organizations make use of urgency in less than 10% of their ads. This shows how, counter to intuition, time pressure may not be an effective marketing tactic.
The ad on the left shows McMaster University’s use of urgency in the ad copy “we must take action now”. The Udemy ad on the right shows a call to action more related to the conversion of the ads “ Enroll now”.
In the sentiment analysis of emotions we found the least used emotions particularly relevant to organizations within this industry. Advertising fatigue, which is the boredom or negative associations that arise through repetitive viewing of the same ad can occur when all educational organizations rely on the same top emotions. Therefor use of the relevant yet less used emotions captured in our sentiment analysis are particularly relevant when creating captivating, impactful advertisements.
In terms of our other functions we found universities did not use some of the key elements found under trade school and online learning ads. For example urgency was used highly in online course providers but didnt make an appearance in university ad copy.
Additionally we noticed that while online educational platforms highlighted their short run outcomes from completing courses such as a certification or respect from employers the universities did not highlight similar perks. For example universities, like online platforms, provide technology focused programs (although they do not score high on the tech buzz word function) and may provide short term gains such as internships or direct career connections from the school. We found through these functions that universities could potentially gain marketing power through adopting some of the online platform’s advertising techniques.
Throughout this research we discovered many interesting questions that the data couldn’t fully answer. First off a key question arose of the legality surrounding use of superlatives. For example what makes a program justified in saying ‘we are the best excel course’. Is this something we can advise industry participants to say without relevant statistics to back the claim up from a legal standpoint.
We also found the general use of positive emotions from University brands such as Curiosity, Desire, Excitement, and Gratitude. We would like to explore whether this was a deliberate choice and tied to brand guidelines or something that occurred through random chance or conformity to norms within the industry. While this question focuses on universities this same question arose with regards to the other organization groups with their respective top ranked emotions.
Finally we wanted to explore the legitimate use of certifications. In a similar vein to legality surrounding superlatives we questioned how online courses proved legitimacy of their certifications. For example how might university or trade school differentiate their qualifications from those received in an online course.
We hope to connect to industry experts to continue to refine our research and determine the root cause of some of these questions in which the data didn’t easily answer. However through the AI sentiment analysis we got many important insights for companies which would provide a guildlight in producing unique and relevant ads to any given industry.