What we learnt from clearing 2018?


Clearing is one of the biggest, if not the biggest, event in higher education. Here at Crunch we’ve been working with our university clients for weeks preparing them for this hectic and rewarding day. But what are we seeing already? We have prepared an expert first-impressions synopsis exclusively to share with you.
Clearing hadn’t even been going for 24-hours and we already saw Clearing being more competitive than ever with CPC’s rising by at least 20% this year. Peaks have shown searches at 8am, with evidence showing some universities had already spent a good chunk of their Clearing budget as early as 7:30am.

According to UCAS just under 67,000 students found a university place through Clearing in 2017. That’s a whopping 10% (approximately) of all university acceptances! Clearing is an extremely competitive market and it’s vital that universities running digital advertising campaigns stand out. Rather than hastily accepting offers, students are taking time to research, review and consider applications. We’re on hand to raise the universities’ profiles and to drive applications.

A carefully planned digital strategy.

A carefully planned digital strategy is key to clearing success. It starts with building awareness before Results Day itself – ensuring potential applicants already have you in mind when selecting a university. Social advertising, across platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Snapchat play an important role in this phase. We’ve been connecting with students before they are actively searching for a clearing place. Programmatic is also another key tool, with messaging appearing to students no matter where on the web they are.

Clearing learning on -Level results day.

We begin to run clearing campaigns in July (when Clearing officially opens), but it really gets going on A-level results day. Anxious students who have not met their offers begin searching for courses that still have places. This is where we introduced Search Advertising, which enables us to connect with students while they are actively searching for universities to apply to. Both generic and course specific adverts may run, with course adverts being switched off once they reach capacity. This enables universities to focus on recruiting in priority areas.


The flip-side of Clearing is incorporating Adjustment into the A-level Results Day strategy. Last year Crunch saw an increased strategic approach amongst universities to the Adjustment process. A growing number of students are gaining better than expected results; therefore, qualifying for Adjustment. Universities should increase their focus on attracting students who are going through the clearing process, but not forget about those applying Adjustment.

Clearing 2018: What we saw.

Clearing started at 8am on A-Level results day, so we had a couple of hours to generate some insights: –Here’s a shot of the live feed from Google showing use of “Clearing” from 05:46 onwards on Results Day morning:

  • It took 4 seconds from the ads going to live to one of our clients receiving their first tracked phone call response – advertising in real time! Our insights also show Leeds Beckett University, Salford and Bristol gathered interest momentum early this morning.
  • Traffic peaked from 9am-10pm with 30+ universities changing to Max clicks with accelerated delivery during this time.
  • Mobile traffic peaked with a 76% of users on mobile.
  • Gmail campaigns showed a massive increase in traffic since 08.10am.
  • Aerospace and sports science were the most searched for courses with the University of South Wales and University of York for most searched institutions.

Interestingly, we saw that students were starting to look and consider league tables and search for courses rather than institutions directly!

Clearing doesn’t end on results day.

Clearing doesn’t end on results day, with students able to apply up until September. This is where retargeting, whether through programmatic or social platforms, will play the strongest part. Retargeting encourages students who have already viewed a university’s website to go back and have another look.

User numbers.

With 1,098 billion monthly and 902 million daily users, WeChat is certainly not to be ignored, and China is a country where UK institutions require a unique marketing strategy to entice the Chinese students. For more helpful tips on how to best use WeChat for recruitment purposes, or for help with other digital marketing activities, feel free to contact us.

Speak to us.

Contact our Ad-Ops team about a Clearing strategy, email sayhello@crunchsimplydigital.com