School of Thought

Kaplan’s ‘Talent Campaign’ Introduces a Different Kind Of University

Innovative? Yeah, you could call it that. Or maybe trendsetting … what you’ve always wanted to advertise, but held back for some reason. Call it what you want, but Kaplan University’s new advertising campaign – the “Talent Campaign” – debuted Jan. 6 and its uses imagery and messages that speaks to the thousands of people who do not fit into the traditional student mold without speaking down to them. The central message is higher education is accessible to them, too.

“The new campaign makes a statement that the U.S. traditional higher education system doesn’t always meet the needs of today’s adult learners, mainly working adults struggling to balance jobs, families and education,” said Andrew S. Rosen, Chairman and CEO of Kaplan, Inc.

Kaplan released two 60-second commercials and a series of online and print ads. Kaplan’s debut ad, “Your Time,” features a professor standing before his students in a lecture hall. The professor begins by apologizing to his students. He apologizes for himself and the education system that has been failing students. The professor points out that the education system is steeped in old ideas and traditions, and that it’s time for a new tradition. He tells his students that talent is everywhere and that learning is not confined to the classroom. The ad concludes with the professor saying that it’s time for a university to start adapting to its students, not its students to the university. The ad includes Kaplan’s new tagline – A Different School of Thought – and defines exactly how Kaplan University is redefining the rules of higher education.

The second commercial, “Desks,” features school desks in various locations such as a beach, a freight elevator, a suburban street, a train station, the woods and mountains. The message of the commercial is that learning often takes place outside of a classroom.

Kaplan’s campaign follows an August 2008 study from the National Center for Higher Education Management. The United States currently ranks tenth behind other leading nations in the percentage of young adults with postsecondary education. In fact, the NCHEMS study found that the U.S. will need to generate 63.1 million degrees by 2025 in order to match leading nations like Canada, Japan and South Korea. If we keep moving at our current pace, we will fall short of that number by 16 million degrees.

An article in Forbes reports that baby boomers, those born between 1946 and 1964, make up about one-third of the U.S. workforce. And with 76 million of them set to retire by 2010, there will not be enough younger workers to replace them. The number of workers aged 35-44, those that are normally moving into middle management, is also expected to decline by 19 percent in 2010. The U.S. is not the only country suffering from a decreasing workforce. Middle-aged workers are expected to decline in Germany, the U.K., Italy, Japan and China, by as much as 27 percent.

Kaplan’s online and print campaign ads feature six concepts, plus one full page spread. Each ad features a different “student” and each have a targeted headline and body copy that applies to their unique situation. All of the ads point out the increasing importance of offering a more flexible, student-centered learning environment.

One ad features a full-time mother holding her young daughter. The copy tells mothers that they can be both full-time moms and students with Kaplan’s “flexible schedules along with a supportive online community.” Another ad features an older man saying that “any age is the right age to attend college.” Another ad highlights Kaplan’s graduate degree program that can give students an edge in the competitive work force. A final ad features a young woman with copy that speaks to Kaplan’s message of a university adapting to the way that you learn.

“At Kaplan University, we are rewriting the rules of higher education by offering students the opportunity to customize their education to meet their needs, and by providing resources and support to help them succeed,” Rosen said.

Fewer students are falling into the “traditional student” category. A traditional student, according to the National Center for Educational Statistics, is described as someone who enrolls in college full-time immediately after high school graduation, depends on their parents for financial support, and either does not have a job during the semester or works part time. This description has become the exception, rather than the rule. In fact, according to the NCES, about ten years ago, 27 percent of undergraduates met this criteria, leaving the other 73 percent to fall into the category of “nontraditional” student.

The NCES report states that about 39 percent of students are enrolled part-time in college versus 28 percent of students that are full time. Additionally, 44 percent of students are attending 2-year colleges compared to 31 percent that are attending a 4-year college.

The U.S. Department of Education reports that today there is a larger percentage of older students on colleges campuses. Older students are those over the age of 25. In 1970, only 28 percent of college students were over 25. In 1999, 39 percent of all postsecondary students were over the age of twenty-five.

All Kaplan’s ads in the “Talent Campaign,” both print and online, highlight the increasing importance of offering a more flexible, student-centered learning environment. The nontraditional student is quickly becoming the norm, and it’s important for the education system to adapt to meet their needs.

What YouTube Users are Saying

Rather than taking our word for the innovation in Kaplan University’s new ad campaign, here it directly from the online community. Here are some comments taken directly from YouTube users that show the advertisements’ success (FYI: James Avery, the actor who plays the professor in one commercial, formerly portrayed Uncle Phil on The Fresh Prince of Bel Air):


I love this commercial, it really shows us how the world is changing with technology… talent is being wasted and we need to do something about it.


This is an excellent spot. Education needs to be innovative and responsive to the times. Kaplan proves to be a leader in their field.

That’s an awesome ad.

I’m a student at Kaplan too and I think this commercial should really get people thinking! Kaplan OWLS Rock!


I go to Kaplan and I find this advertisement to be captivating and moving. I love it!

Cool, it’s James Avery! Did he lose weight or what! This is probably one of the best ads ever…

Inspiring commercial. Kaplan’s on the verge of a breakthrough. Well done Kaplan.

Nice and straight to the point.

Good ol’ Uncle Phil!! XD XD XD

awesome message he’s promoting BTW .

Very powerful message.

i just watched this commercial on Tv

and i had 2 find it online….



Its Time For Change!!!

Its Time To Think Diffrent!!!


As someone who just got into a very traditional medical school, I think this is very true. It is based on tradition rather than what the world needs.

Apologize? Steeped in tradition? And old ideas? Yes!

Its Precisely what’s wrong with so many highly regarded institutions from sea to shining sea.

This is a brilliant commerical and so true. We need to change our schools and come into the 21st century.

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