Advertising Campaigns: The Bishop Strachan School - Gold Award

2008 Circle of Excellence Awards Program
Category 40a. Advertising Campaigns
The Bishop Strachan School
2007-2008 Advertising Campaign
Gold Award

Rachel Yeager
Assistant Director
Marketing & Communications
298 Lonsdale Road
Toronto, Ontario M4V 1X2
(416) 483-4325 ext. 1750

Objectives of brand program and campaign:
  • Establish clear, consistent image;
  • Differentiate BSS from competitors within category;
  • Attract increased number and quality of applicants;
  • Infuse excitement into the brand to support fundraising;
  • Attract best faculty/staff
Market Research:

The Strategic Counsel, an independent market research firm in Toronto, was hired to conduct a major qualitative and quantitative research project - a follow up to a 2003 study - to examine the current imagery of BSS and perceptions of the school’s performance, and to assess the ways in which the school’s image and performance had changed since 2003.

Research Objectives
  • Overall purpose of research
    • To explore current image of BSS and its performance among parents.
    • To assess ways in which the school’s image and performance had changed since 2003.
  • Specific research objectives are defined in 4 parts
    • To understand the motivations that drive sending a child to an independent school
    • Assess parents’ overall impression of, and satisfaction with BSS; and,
    • To identify BSS’s greatest strengths and weaknesses relative to its key competitive set of independent schools for girls.
    • To track changes in parent satisfaction relative to those measured in a 2003 survey.
Research Methodology
  • Parents of current students participated in an on-line survey
    • Invitations to complete the survey were emailed to 750 parents
    • A total of 298 parents completed the survey
    • This represents a response rate of 40%.

The project team led by the Director of Marketing & Communications included representatives from faculty, staff, parents, Old Girls, Advancement and school leadership. This ensured that not only insights from these groups could be harnessed to guide the process, and create ambassadors for the new positioning.

Key Insights:
  • Brand equity exists in nurturing, ‘whole girl’ environment;
  • Opportunities exist to improve parents’ awareness of some activities and achievements at BSS, including changes to curriculum and the achievements of graduates.
  • No barriers to what girls can achieve with a BSS education

With exceptional experiences, a passion for learning, and a world view, our girls are inspired to think and act independently and pursue all their dreams and goals.

Brand Promise:
Girls can do anything.

Send your daughter to BSS. The world needs her. With the right education, girls who want to change the world become women who do.

Marketing Plan Highlights:
  • Ongoing relationship with award-winning Canadian advertising team to develop brand style guide and ad campaign;
  • Hired media buying agency to develop media plan with objective of penetrating target markets for day and international students from key catchment area;
  • New ad campaign launched in fall 2007 – “Send Your Daughter to BSS – The World Needs Her” theme;
  • Activities within the school driven by the teachers to engage student thinking around “world needs her” theme.
Budget: CAN $501,368.00 total department budget.

By using a media buying company to assist with media plan and purchase, we were able to maximize dollars by eliminating publications that did not yield enough exposure to target group. We also added targeted, large-circulation international publications to our media plan, such as the South China Morning Post, to reach key audiences for our international programs.

We decided to narrow the number of outlets, increase the ad size for page dominance, and increase frequency in fewer publications to make best use of budget and create biggest impact. Outsourcing creative and other elements of the program made more efficient use of dollars by focusing exclusively on the project and not staffing up within the school incurring incremental infrastructure costs.

Creativity and Innovation:

BSS’s current advertising campaign features a series of tough, hard-hitting social issues that are sadly, the reality of the world we live in. We are trying to convey the fact that BSS takes these issues seriously and encourages its students to confront the complexities of the world they live in with a view to making it better. We've addressed global warming, clear cutting and breast cancer so far, with more on the way as the campaign evolves.

We hope this campaign stimulates dialogue around what an educational experience should entail in today’s environment. We are taking risks, but that is what we do at the school every day. We respect our girls’ desire to learn about the world and seek to prepare them to become the women who will lead us to a better place - maybe even be the one who finds a cure for breast cancer.

We thought it was important to portray the school as a place where girls are inspired to step up and embrace their responsibility to the community, and where they are encouraged to see the world as it is, beyond the safe confines of our campus. This is not a closed, insular community, but rather one that looks outward and cares about what happens to our planet and our fellow human beings.

We have seen nothing like this ad campaign within the category. We deliberately stayed away from multiple students, uniforms, displays of sports or technology and the clutter of too many descriptive features without a unifying message. The use of lined paper and the notebook concept gives an immediate visual cue that we are talking about school and it translates in a simple, elegant way to all of our other promotional and communications materials.

We bought page dominant spaces in The Globe and Mail, Canada’s national newspaper, to run throughout the school year instead of just around fall Open House dates. We also bought transit shelter space in the immediate neighborhoods in which the Big 4 girls’ schools reside. This put our message in the street, in the communities, in an unusual and powerful way.

Results to Date:
  • An increase in Senior School applications;
  • Noted improvement in ‘fit’ of applicants;
  • Record number of applicants to the Junior Kindergarten entry year.
Post-Launch Research and Testing

Approximately six weeks after the complete campaign series was launched, a market research team from The Strategic Counsel was hired to conduct focus groups to track the messaging strategy and impact. Key findings included:

  • The breast cancer ad is effectively communicating its message, and is just as effective as any other execution within the campaign.
  • The power of the central message in the campaign, overall, has the greatest impact with repeated viewings, which supports the need for a frequency media buy to maximize the impact of the campaign.
  • Overall, the BSS campaign worked in communicating a distinctive positioning, when tested against the ads of other prominent girls’ schools, with BSS’s ads strongly communicating a social values message.

Internally, the teachers have used this campaign as food for thought and discussion in their classrooms. It has also been studied in Business and Media courses.

Since the launch of this phase of our campaign, we have seen other schools in our competitive category adopt similar approaches and variations on “the world needs her” theme. We have been a driver of change and innovation in this area and continue to be a topic of conversation in ways we have never been before.