Graduate program pushes T advertising campaign


Hongyu Liu

An Emerson College advertisement at Downtown Crossing station.

By Henrique Rocha, Beacon Correspondent

Boston commuters have seen an unfamiliar sight at MBTA stations over the past weeks: screens of blue, green, and white advertising Emerson’s graduate programs.

The ads, which illuminate the platforms of North Station, South Station, Downtown Crossing, and Government Center stations—are a new foray for the Graduate Admissions Marketing Department. It places Emerson on a similar stage as other Boston-area institutions like Suffolk, Tufts, and Boston University, all of which regularly advertise in the public transit setting.

The choice of location aims to promote the college’s graduate program, which has nearly doubled in the past six years from around 700 in 2014 to 1,400 in 2020, to its target audience. Namely, the campaign targets working professionals, commuting to and from work—the graduate program’s primary demographic, according to Senior Assistant Director of Marketing and Communications for Graduate Admissions Katie Frank. 

“We chose those locations due to the relevance of marketing and advertising agencies around the city of Boston,” Frank said. 

The campaign, which kicked off on Sept. 20, promotes four of the college’s sixteen masters-level areas: sports communication, strategic marketing communication, political communication, and public relations.

“They’re awareness ads more than anything,” Frank said. “They’re an announcement to the community.”

“We market individual programs and a portfolio of programs,” said Director of Marketing Samuel Woodson. 

The campaign also marks the first time that the college has run “transit ads”— a common practice among local institutions of higher education. However, they reflect the marketing department’s increased focus on digital content.

Because the college has already pursued year-long ads on various social media platforms, streaming services, and other online platforms, Woodson said that the MBTA ads were not much different.

“The world is digital, students are on digital platforms, so we meet them where they are,” Woodson said. “These are all coordinated with this transit advertising approach,” he added. 

Frank agreed, saying that the actual ads themselves were not limited to MBTA stations, but were instead part of a “multi-layered campaign.”

“We have the same language as these ads on Youtube, Spotify, and Instagram,” she said. “It’s all the same message just to bring it all into one package.”

Frank also noted that the advertising window has corresponded with higher traffic on the college’s website—especially to the pages of the particular degrees that were advertised. 

“For the most part, we see some pretty positive boost to our leads as a college from these different campaigns that we run,” she said.

Emerson’s ads will continue to run until Nov. 14, Frank said. After a brief hiatus, they will resume on Dec. 27 and will run until Feb. 20 of next year.