How Canada’s “Big Five” Banks are Utilizing Paid Ads to Reach Students

Content & Messaging
July 1, 2021
Financial Services

Key Takeaways

Product Strategy — Offer an Incentive: All of the Big Five Banks offer some sort of an incentive such as a cashback, giveaway contest, reward points, for students to open up a new chequing account. They use these incentive in their paid ad campaigns to drive conversions. 

Paid Search Tactic  — Bid on Branded Keywords: 83% of all the traffic from student searches are branded and can be attributed to these bank's powerful brand recognition across Canada. As a result of this, banks are bidding on their own branded keywords to drive up competitor's CPC on these keywords and maintain their search position. Furthermore, banks are bidding on their competitor's branded keywords to capture their traffic from them. 

Paid Search Tactic  — Bid on Student Related Keywords:  Consider bidding on related student keywords such as Canadian university programs and general student banking keywords to reach those just who are starting their exploration for a student account or just starting school. Use the incentive or promo in the headline to drive clicks. 

Paid Social Tactic  — Reach Students Through Paid Social Ads: Consider using Facebook, Instagram and/or YouTube ads to reach students. Promote your student incentives in the caption or in the ad text to drive conversions. Utilize links to your student-related blog content to drive the target audience to the website. Ad creative can be straightforward and promotional, humorous and engaging, or provide value by sharing informative information for students.

As of July 2021, the promotions that are being offered to students at the top five Canadian banks include:

Top Five Canadian Banks
RBC , TD , CIBC , BMO , Scotia
*Offer conditions vary by each institution

Two ways that the Big 5 Banks in Canada are using paid ads to target students are paid ads and social ads.

1. Paid Search

Banks have been utilizing paid search ads to compete with competitors and drive students to their student banking pages.

From June 2019 to May 2021, search keywords containing "student" drove nearly 5.1M combined visits. This traffic makes up approximately >1% of the total search visits. RBC made up 28% of this total traffic, followed by TD Bank and CIBC at 20%.

Competitive Traffic Share for Keywords Containing Student

Of these 5.1M search visits, 81.3% were branded search terms. To compete, these banks are bidding on each other's branded keywords and bidding on their own branded keywords to drive up competitors’ CPC and control their SERP.  

Student Search Traffic Breakdown

Top Branded Keywords:

rbc student account
scotiabank student account
rbc student line of credit
cibc student account
rbc student credit card
td student account
rbc student loan
bmo student credit card
td student line of credit 
rbc student banking

Top Non-Branded Keywords:

student line of credit
student credit cards
medical student line of credit
student loan
government student loans
student loan calculator
canada student loan
professional student line of credit
student credit cards canada
student bank account

RBC tests different text ad variants and aims to capture traffic which is searching for competitors, those who are just starting their exploration of student accounts or those searching for specific university programs. 

RBC - Search Ads

RBC, BMO and Scotiabank have been utilizing paid ads on Facebook, Instagram and YouTube to reach students. The campaign objectives for these social ads can be categorized into three buckets: increasing awareness, driving engagement and promotional.

2. Social Ads

Banks have been running paid ad campaigns on Facebook, Instagram and YouTube to increase awareness about their student offerings and drive traffic to their websites.

RBC launched their ad campaign, "60 Reasons to Open a Student Bank Account", on Facebook, Instagram and YouTube in November 2020 and ran the ads on and off until February 2021. 

Increasing Awareness

Ad #1, Ad #2

The campaign both increases awareness about their student banking opportunities and promotes their $60 cash incentive. These text based videos are simple and straightforward. 

Increasing Awareness

Ad #1 , Ad #2

Campaign Creative: Ad copy varies amongst ad sets. Each ad included at least one of the following reasons

  • Get $60 when you open a student bank account 
  • Send or accept money with ease
  • Bank from the couch with the RBC Mobile App
  • Check  your savings right from your phone

BMO ran awareness ads on Facebook and Instagram to promote their student accounts. The ad copy positioned the chequings account as an opportunity for students to “focus” on their studies and future (campaign ran in September 2020). Campaign ran in September 2020

Increasing Awareness

Ad #1 , Ad #2

In 2019, RBC ran a video campaign to promote their student cash offer with a series of videos about what students could buy with the $60 incentive. The campaign played off humour by poking fun of the frugal things students do to save money. 

Promoting Student Offers

Video #1 , Video #2 , Video #3

BMO and Scotiabank engaged with students by running social ads to promote their student scholarships and giveaway contest.

Driving Student Engagement

Ad #1, Ad #2

Scotiabank increases traffic to their student blog posts by boosting the articles on Facebook. These boosted posts received significant engagement with the “9 Ways to Study Better for your Exams” post generating over 800 likes, 83 comments and 341 shares. 

Driving Student Engagement

Ad #1 , Ad #2

Student Blogs: Other boosted blog posts from their student series topics were

  • Travelling after graduating 
  • Student budgeting 
  • Getting ahead of paying off student debt

RBC ran a paid video series on YouTube to engage with students by providing informative finance tips for students. These tips covered budgeting, mobile banking features, smart spending and planning for a gap year. The ads utilized a CTA to drive clicks to a related blog post on the RBC website about the respective tip. 

Driving Student Engagement

Video #1 , Video #2 , Video #3 , Video #4

In response to the spike in interest around retail investing amongst gen z and millennials in 2020, RBC utilized their "Finance Tips for Students" campaign creative to run informative videos ads on Facebook/Instagram.

Driving Student Engagement

Video #1, Video #2, Video #3, Video $4


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