“Dare to think beyond IIMs”.
That’s the slogan made famous in full-page advertisements by Arindam Chaudhuri, sporting a ponytail and fancy eyeglasses, as he asks students to consider his Indian Institute of Planning and Management, or IIPM, in New Delhi.
Chaudhuri, who almost single-handedly started the trend of business schools advertising in newspapers, explains in a column in a magazine which his group publishes that he means no disrespect to the venerable Indian Institutes of Management; “...despite IIPM’s campaign, I have nothing against the IIMs; rather, all I have is sheer respect”.
The IIPM ads reflect how more business schools, especially private ones, are using the media to spread their message and, more importantly, attract students in a crowded arena.
Information blitz: The focus of the ads is to fill seats rather than boost the image of the institute. Others target students with consumer products, such as cellphones.
Colleges announce vacant seats and weekend admissions fairs; agents and counsellors say they are available for “BBA/MBA American degree”; and companies in test preparation promise “proven coaching for SAT*GMAT*GRE*TOEFL”.
Advertising by education sector as a category is up, though no separate numbers are available for spending by business schools, according to data by Mumbai-based television measurement agency, TAM Media Research. TV ads doubled, while print saw an 18% rise in advertising from the education sector in January-May, compared with the same period last year.
The number of advertisers grew threefold in the last three years in print. The largest advertisers were Chaudhuri’s company, Planman Consultant India Pvt. Ltd in print, and Sadhana Academy of Media Studies in TV.
Among educational advertising, institutions were the largest advertisers, followed by other categories—vocational training institutes in TV, and test preparation or coaching centres in print. Media planners say that advertising by educational institutions is big, and getting bigger.
“Aspirations are driving the business,” says Basabdatta Chowdhuri, chief executive of Madison Media Plus, the media planning and buying arm of home-grown media specialist Madison Communications Pvt. Ltd. “There is a feeling that your life can change if you have the requisite education”.
But this sector also has experts puzzled with fragmentation; thousands crowd available space.
“In other categories, there are usually three or four market leaders,” says Chowdhuri. “Every second institute offers an MBA”.
And there’s that other fundamental question? Are ads true? Are there really 100% job placements? Are students earning in crores? Are most going overseas? Is the faculty really all from Harvard? If so, why are they advertising?
Most educational institutions still spend on advertisements largely to fill seats, very few have ad campaigns designed to boost their image. “Most advertisements seem to be targeted to potential students. Employers’ perception is based on much more direct interactions,” says Ravi Kiran, CEO, Starcom South Asia.
Advertising experts cite Delhi-based Amity University’s current ad campaign on television as a corporate campaign designed for high impact. The university won’t give an exact number but confirmed spending in the crores on annual advertising.