The number of undergraduate students at the University of Toronto (U of T) had increased significantly over the last couple of decades. There were now 70,000, making U of T one of the largest universities in North America. With this growth came a couple of things. Firstly, world-renown as a centre of research. Secondly, an undergraduate cohort that seemed a bit lost.

For the first time in its history, U of T made an investment in brand marketing to prospective undergrad students. Our starting place was to commission large qualitative and quantitative market research studies to understand the issues and inform our strategy going forward.

Despite U of T having been Canada’s top university for years, it was largely unknown to prospective undergrads outside the Greater Toronto Area (GTA). Those who had heard of it knew very little about it, other than its size and this had negative connotations. No one knew what U of T truly stood for.

The Marketing Challenge

How do you increase brand awareness of and engagement with your brand when no one knows about it?

The Marketing Solution

We developed a brand positioning that had two objectives: to make it clear that U of T is nothing without its students; and to help prospective undergrads feel empowered through experiencing the U of T brand.

Our advertising objectives were to put U of T on the map, to build perceptions of U of T, and to create an emotional connection with the brand.

Our advertising strategy had two distinct audiences and messages. To highlight U of T’s unique advantages in the GTA. To build U of T’s awareness and relevance across the rest of Canada. We used online advertising (Facebook, MSN Messenger, Yahoo Mail, Yahoo Behavioural Targeting, paid Search Engine Marketing (SEM), and advertising within the U of T and Faculty websites.

Our Year 1 campaign was based around the idea Can you…? You Can… and comprised 25 5-second ads.

Our Year 2 campaign was based on the idea of  The university of… The University of Toronto.

The Results?

Our campaigns significantly outperformed all other online ad campaigns in market and refreshed and strengthened the U of T brand, as determined via quantitative research and online metrics. And, importantly, increased intention to apply to U of T.

Year 1


U of T as 1st Choice

Year 2


U of T as 1st Choice