A Strategic Approach to Raising Awareness with Hard to Reach Audiences


Minerva is a global university with a unique approach to higher education that focuses on experiential learning. The university has locations spread out across seven countries on four continents. Students spend one semester in each location attending online classes, allowing them to explore the surrounding cities.

Minerva partnered with Media Cause to increase brand awareness and become recognized as the world-renowned higher education institution that they are. Their goal for this campaign also included increasing the number of undergraduate applications from qualified students worldwide for the Fall 2023 enrollment cycle.

The Outcome

As a result of our campaign, we drove 980 applications and 991 quality leads to Minerva University ahead of the Fall ‘23 enrollment cycle, providing more students with access to unique higher education.


Total Application Starts


Email Leads


Link Clicks to the Landing Pages
The Challenge

Minerva University is a small school with less than 700 total undergraduate students, no physical campus, and a low acceptance rate of under 2%. They have struggled with brand awareness among potential applicants and attracting top students. Qualified applicants familiar with Minerva are also more likely to choose a more well-known and prestigious school.

An additional challenge they face is effectively and legally reaching their target audiences. Due to privacy laws and policies, targeting any users under the age of 18 is difficult. Reaching qualified students in their underage audience is even more challenging.



The Strategy

We deployed a full-funnel strategy to introduce Minerva to high-school-aged students, share information with them, and ultimately encourage them to start an application. We focused our efforts on areas with families more likely to have the resources to attend the school.

Throughout the campaign, we tested a variety of platforms, targeting tactics, and ad types. Through our learnings, we optimized the most effective tactics:

  • Used a variety of platforms that are popular with that demographic, including Instagram, TikTok, and Snapchat.
  • Tested several different targeting options, like interest and lookalike, and optimized towards those that performed the best. 
  • Evaluated static, GIF, and video creatives to find which the audience preferred to engage with.
  • Bid on Google Search keywords related to competitor schools.
  • Employed lead form ads to quickly capture user information and add them to an email campaign.

Platform Selection

We ran ads on many platforms popular with the target audience. We found that some were better at driving applications, while some were better at raising brand awareness. 

We discovered that TikTok, Snapchat, and YouTube were the most effective platforms for driving a large number of impressions and link clicks at a low cost. 

Google Search, Facebook, and Instagram were the most successful at driving applications. 

Since driving applications was Minerva’s main priority, we doubled down on these tactics and reallocated the budget towards the platforms most effectively accomplishing this.

Audience Targeting

We tested different targeting strategies on social platforms, including lookalike audiences, interest and lifestyle, and broad demographic targeting to reach high school students and their parents in each target country. Once we analyzed which of these ad groups were performing the best, we shifted our original budget to favor them.

We also used first-party audiences to build retargeting lists. We found great success marketing to these users, as they were exceptionally responsive to our ads. Within Instagram, in particular, we were able to drive a large percentage of application submissions via the remarketing lists.

On Google Search, we targeted broad keywords given the university’s lack of brand awareness. Relevant keywords relating to international education and the names of competitor institutions were effective at both increasing brand awareness and applications.

Creative Ad Testing

We tested various ad types across the platforms to see which our audience found most engaging. Ads with movement, like GIFs or videos, performed best in terms of clickthrough rate.

We also used in-platform lead form ads in Meta to capture interested students’ contact information efficiently. Those students then received a series of emails to help them begin an application.

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