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4 back-to-college audiences you need to target this fall

As the summer heats up, so too does the planning for back-to-school and back-to-college campaigns. It’s one of the most important periods of the year for retail and CPG marketers, and the stakes are high. In this post, we share a set of audience and context recommendations that will help you deliver campaigns that cut through the clutter and reach back-to-college buyers at scale.

4 back-to-college audiences to target

Moms and first-timers

This audience features moms with children nearing high school graduation and, of course, the students themselves. As they approach their college journey, these shoppers are looking for all the essential items for a smooth first year in school—including monogrammed and personalized supplies.


More seniors in college are looking for places to live off-campus. They’re excited to find new homes—and all the freedom that comes with it. This audience focuses on those students.

It’s interesting to note that this audience has installed at least two “apartments for rent” apps on their phones and are constantly using their mobile devices to research, compare, and organize their moves. This segment is perfect for marketers trying to target young adults who like to spend their money on discretionary items to keep their first apartments trendy and fun.

College sports fans

Prepping for the back-to-college season means there’s a new season of college sports on the horizon. And this segment—cheering in their seats—can bolster any back-to-college campaigns you’ve lined up.

A self-dubbed “super fan” group, College Sports Fans is an audience that loves all NCAA sports. They attend games regularly and are such big fans that not only are they making online and offline purchases to support their favorite sports and teams, but they also love to comment on, consume, and share NCAA news online.

College returners

For this audience, it’s never too late to go back to school and finish their degrees! They’re looking to head back to college within the next 12 months and are sure to be stocking up on the necessities for this event.

Using context segments to target back-to-college shoppers

Another way to place your back-to-college campaigns in front of relevant audiences is to align with their mind-sets as well as with the content they’re viewing online. Contextual targeting allows you to capture attention by delivering your message alongside relevant, high-quality, and brand-appropriate content—improving the reach and performance of your campaigns.

Think about your audience’s interests in terms of going back to college, and ask yourself questions like:

  • Are back-to-college shoppers trying to save money? If so, are they interested in couponing?

  • What content will back-to-college shoppers be searching for online? (School supplies are top-of-mind, but additional items such as the best things to pack and blogs about what to expect might also be searched.)

  • If parents are now empty-nesters, what are they planning to do with their freed-up schedules? (Perhaps a new vacation or a house remodel.)

Use questions like the ones above to inform your contextual strategy. You should be able to identify specific segments and content interests to focus on which ones will help you reach your ideal audience.

Here are some contextual segments available in your chosen DSP* to help you get started:

  • Back-to-School

  • College-Bound

  • Parents of Young Kids

  • Savvy Shoppers Couponing

  • Travel

  • Home Property

The back-to-college season is buzzing with opportunities to engage your target audiences and drive action from your most ideal buyers. Use the audiences listed above for the best performance, and then expand your campaign with context. Understanding the multiple content interests of back-to-college shoppers will help you create a robust campaign that reaches your target buyers far and wide in relevant environments.

To learn more about marketing to college-age consumers, check out The 5 millennial types every marketer needs to know, Everything you need to know about marketing to Generation Z, and Reaching the right back-to-school shoppers using data.

* Contextual segments are listed under Grapeshot or GS_predicts in your chosen DSP. Ask your Oracle representative if you need help finding them.

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