Universal Technical Institute leveraged TrueView in-stream ads for the first time to drive student enrollment at the school, achieving cost-per-lead cheaper on YouTube than on TV, and enrollment rates 10% higher on YouTube than on display.

April 2013

At Universal Technical Institute (UTI), it can be challenging to drive conversions and encourage students to enroll in the school. As Jeni Goodenow, Media Director at UTI, noted, "Our product is not cheap. In order to get someone to sign up, we need to give them a lot of information. The more we give them, the more engaged they will be."


The task of acquisition is made harder by UTI's focus on 18-24 year old males, an elusive demographic that regularly moves across devices and media platforms, making them difficult to track.

With these issues in mind, UTI has relied on both traditional and new media to reach its audience, including digital, TV, and out-of-home advertising. The school has also leveraged YouTube as a content hub where they upload student testimonials, tech tips, and campus videos to give prospective students more information.

The TrueView test

Knowing that their target demographic was a core audience on YouTube, UTI took their next step and began to run their first paid TrueView test on YouTube in 2012. In the words of Tom Garrett, Vice President of Inquiry Generation & Optimization at UTI, "If you look at their behavior on the Internet, you’ll see that watching videos on YouTube is one of our target audience’s highest ranking activities. Since that is where they are, that is where we need to be."

For the test, UTI uploaded their 60 second TV spots onto YouTube and supported them with TrueView in-stream. TrueView was the ad format of choice, because as Colette Noblitt, Media Strategy Director at ID Media, UTI's partner agency, put, "UTI is always looking to find their niche audience in the most efficient way possible", and with TrueView, advertisers only pay when the user chooses to watch their video.

UTI and ID Media then added targeting layers to reach 18-24 year old auto enthusiasts. Specifically, they used interest targeting to find those who were interested in auto, motor, marine, and collision repair online.

Campaign success

During the test, UTI saw their TrueView campaign achieve enrollment rates 10% higher than the rate obtained with display ads. "These increments can be enormously valuable to the our efforts, and to ultimately connecting prospective students with a path to a rewarding career," Tom emphasized.

YouTube was also more efficient than TV on a CPL basis. "It could be the ease of conversion path," Tom hypothesized. "If you look at what people are doing on their mobile devices, one of the things they're doing the least is calling... But with TV the primary means of fulfillment is the telephone. In contrast, on YouTube, it makes sense that you convert directly online."

If you look at (young men’s) behavior on the Internet, you’ll see that watching videos on YouTube is one of our target audience’s highest ranking activities. Since that is where they are, that is where we need to be.

Doubling down with TrueView

Since the initial success, UTI has moved on to their second TrueView campaign, for which they've expanded their targeting options to include motorcycle topics and music. They're also testing remarketing, and are paying more attention to follow-on views as a way of tracking their audience's behavior.

The team is also taking steps to uniquely leverage YouTube as a platform. They are for the first time producing creatives geared towards YouTube, using a URL instead of a phone number as a call-to-action, and linking YouTube users directly to their inquiry sign-up page. They are also testing multiple creatives on YouTube, beginning with five and narrowing that down to three creatives on TrueView. It's a valuable test-and-iterate strategy that is much easier to execute on YouTube than on other video platforms.

The future

UTI is now moving to make YouTube a more integral part of their overall media strategy. Their intense focus on results and efficiency will continue to steer UTI's marketing strategy and direction.

"We will very aggressively try new things. We have expectations of performance, and as it is with all direct response, you want to beat the average," Tom asserted. The UTI team balances this spirit of perfectionism with an admirable sense of openness and flexibility. "Our strategy will evolve wherever the media evolves it to," Jeni described. In this case, YouTube was the next natural step for UTI to take, and to continue to innovating on for future success in reaching their audience.