Marketing Education Services, Jason Katcher, Google

Jason Katcher
Head of Education & Recruitment Advertising
Google

Jason has spent the last 3 years helping drive the for-profit education sector within Google’s North American advertising division. His team oversees relationships with the majority of the marquee players in the private sector education, helping customers and agencies navigate the Google ecosystem to connect with potential students in a cost-effective, transparent manner. Through direct response and brand marketing channels, his team continues to serve as both media partner and advisor to schools in the dynamic world of digital marketing. Joining Google in January 2005, Jason helped to establish the inside sales focus around Google’s Local business practice mainly to real estate, automotive and employment business models. Before joining Google, Jason spent 3 years in the traditional media business publishing a government recruitment trade magazine which helped to connect large defense contractors and federal agencies with military personnel transitioning back to civilian life. He also spent 5 years in the financial services industry with Investec Ernst, a South African based investment bank after graduating in 1996 from The University of Michigan, with a B.S. in Psychology.

Rahul- Please share more about your work as the Head of Education & Recruitment Advertising at Google. What are your strategic priorities for next three years?
Jason- Several years back, we made a conscious effort to start connecting more with ad agencies in the recruitment advertising space to help them understand how platforms like search could help their customers compliment their digital job board strategies. As more companies saw the value of direct marketing channels like Google we saw increased traction across the sector. However, as the economic conditions took hold in late 2008 and corporations began controlling expenses more tightly, our team focus shifted to helping educators connect with the large numbers of people re-entering that ecosystem after being laid off. After analyzing the education landscape our division we turned our primary focus to the pure private sector players. As a result we were one of the few bright industries in media over the last 2 years as more people looked to furthering their education with a bleak employment picture.

Due to these conditions, our customers have aggressive growth plans which has kept us very busy keeping them on the cutting edge of how they can better tailor their marketing strategies. We anticipate over the next few years that we will continue to deeper our ties with private sector schools where they not only continue to leverage our advertising platforms, but move more of their needs to Google. This includes moving business to the “cloud” via Google Apps, tapping Local aspects and becoming evermore involved with mobile technologies. In the end it’s all about more efficient marketing and overall partnerships with our customers producing a better end user experience that helps those looking to enhance their personal franchise by pushing their education forward. With Obama’s hope of every American completing one year post-hs education, we hope Google can continue to play a role in helping those who want to pursue that path.

Rahul- What are the top two trends you are witnessing in online advertising in education domain?

Jason- As many people know the predominant marketing model in this sector is the reliance on lead generators to drive potential applicants. This has been the model for quite some time. However, over the last few years these schools become much savvier with respect to driving qualified traffic with the realization that quality always trumps quantity. As a result they have come to truly realize the power of platforms like search, display and video. More importantly that these channels do not work in a vacuum, but rather are all complimentary and very transparent. The question then becomes what is the optimal media mix which can help them reduce their dependence on more opaque models that do not provide the same insights. We expect this trend to continue as these schools reduce their dependency on more traditional methods.

Importance of brand competition to get stiffer. More players in the space are emerging with non-profits, traditional schools and community colleges pushing more offerings online and getting involved with distance learning. This trend is not slowing down and our customers understand that their brands will continue to play a larger role in who decided to attend their offerings over another’s. Due to this, we are actively engaged with our clients and ad agencies on understanding how they can put their brand voice out to the world through digital media. Search is the core component of direct response, but display advertising and video are how they can tell their story in a visual setting. You have already seen this with brands like Kaplan University challenging the state of traditional learning by launching mass TV, print and digital campaigns. That lifted awareness for them in a large scale but also raised awareness of the entire sector. I imagine you will see more of that over the coming year.

Rahul- In general, for-profit education sector had been more open to the concept of online advertising. Please share your experiences with traditional not-for-profit educational institutions and what opportunities and challenges you see there?
Jason- The private sector has certainly been the early adopters in the space. However, this was mainly due to the nature of their business models. If you are trying to promote or market an online offering you need to be using that medium to showcase it. But there are many good examples of non-profits taking advantage of online marketing. Berkeley, Stanford, Columbia and others have been building strong digital presences for a while now. Keep in mind that the barrier to entry has also been lowered significantly by new technologies, especially YouTube and other video sharing sites. When you see someone like Salman Khan create the Khan academy in under 5 years namely due to the availability of YouTube, it makes the argument of needing a well known brand or deep pockets to build your online following hold less water. To put it in perspective, the largest active school system is the University of Phoenix with over 400,000 students at any given point and Khan academy gets nearly the same amount of monthly unique visitors. It’s simply incredible. I would summarize it the following way. For those looking to get more deeply integrated with digital marketing you need to experiment, measure, implement and scale. Follow those 4 tactics and I think you will be ahead of the game.