Connected TV

How to Create a Top-of-Class Campaign for Graduation Season

From graduates to supportive friends and family, here is your guide to creating campaigns that reach a higher level

How to Create a Top-of-Class Campaign for Graduation Season

7 Min Read

That time of year is almost upon us—every May, millions of college graduates around the country don their caps and gowns, walk across the stage to collect their diplomas, then celebrate with friends and family before entering the workforce. This year, over 2.02 million students are projected to be awarded a Bachelor’s degree in the United States. Additionally, it’s projected that 989,000 will get their Associate’s degree and 836,000 will get their Master’s degree. That’s a lot of college graduation parties—and the number across all three groups is expected to keep climbing throughout the decade.

For advertisers, graduation presents multiple opportunities depending on your industry vertical:

  • CPG brands: Graduation parties
  • Travel and leisure: Post-graduation trips
  • Technology, company recruiters: New graduates entering the workforce
  • Everyone else: College graduation gifts

Despite this milestone event for young adults impacting many different industries, many marketers don’t recognize the opportunity of graduation season. When polled, most people show that they’re willing to spend between $50 to $100 on high school graduation gifts—and upwards of $100 to $500 for college graduation. That’s not factoring in the costs of catering and decorating parties, traveling out of town to visit graduates, or post-graduation summer trips.

In this final edition of our spring seasonal guides, we’ll take a look at the opportunities awaiting brands this graduation season – and how you can start capitalizing on them today.

We’ll cover:

Marketing the Perfect Gift

Despite this milestone event for young adults impacting many different industries, many marketers don’t recognize the opportunity of graduation season. Last year, $5.9 billion was spent on graduation gifts, following years of increase since the early 2010s.

Family and friends want to celebrate the young graduate’s hard work, and while money is still the most common graduation gift, many relatives still want to provide something tangible for the graduate to open. Personalized gifts or mementos are always timeless, but in recent years there has been a rise in giving the hot items that Gen Z graduates covet—TV subscription services, videogame consoles, headphones, movie tickets, clothes, handbags, other electronics, and more.

It’s clear that as the number of college graduates continues to rise, so too will gift-giving spend. And while clothing and electronics brands are clear-cut winners, the top spot behind cash belongs to any brand that sells gift cards. Gift cards—occupying a great middle ground between people who want to give cash but also want to give a gift to open—are wonderful revenue generators for brands. Not only do they make shopping easier by bypassing supply chain breakdowns, but they also convert future loyal customers by ensuring the gift recipient returns to the store to make a purchase.

By guaranteeing that the graduate either sets foot in a physical store or visits a digital storefront, brands have a golden opportunity to shape future buying habits and become a trusted brand for the young adult during the formative years ahead.

Getting Your Brand Invited to the Party

While spring marks a fresh start and opportunity to simplify and streamline our lives with a “less is more” approach, we also think the “do more with less” adage rings true for advertisers during this time. MNTN Performance TV is a digital advertising channel that was built with efficiency and performance in mind,  with audience targeting, prospecting and retargeting capabilities, and customizable real-time reporting housed on a single user interface. We’ve also bolstered our service offering with our recently launched Creative as a Subscription and QuickFrame by MNTN acquisition, which essentially combines creative and media buying together that speeds up the creative process of getting a streaming television ad creative up and running.

Graduation parties may include:

  • Food and beverages from popular CPG brands
  • Music/entertainment
  • A venue to host the party
  • Decorations and party supplies
  • Cake or other deserts from local bakeries or grocery chains
  • Additional supplies like backyard games

For brands both local and global, graduation parties mark an opportunity or reinforce buying behaviors, gain new loyal customers (especially younger Gen Z audiences who may not be as familiar), and be a backdrop of a landmark life event—reinforcing favorite brand perception and leading to future sales and/or loyal customers.

How to Set Up a Graduation Campaign for Success

So we’ve determined that graduation season hosts a growing number of opportunities for brands targeting gift-givers, party planners, and graduates themselves. Now how do you reach everyone? With such a diverse group, a one-size-fits-all strategy won’t work. For instance, gift-givers typically skew older, with the 45-54 (parents) and 65+ (grandparents) crowd far outspending the lowest group—the 18-24 segment (friends). Audiences in these categories respond to ads differently and even consume media in different ways. This is why solutions like MNTN Performance TV are an ideal option, allowing you to break up audience segments and go after specific demographics with creative that appeals to them. You could run CTV ads that target and speak to the gift-giving grandparents, another that targets the party-planning parents, and a third customized ad that speaks to the Gen-Z fellow graduate.

Here are some tips to help you drive site visits, revenue, ROAS and more, during this season.


Access over 80,000+ third-party, qualified and in-market audience segments thanks to our integration with LiveRamp and other data providers.

  • Gift givers: Target friends and family looking for that perfect gift for the graduate in their life.
    • Branded Data > ShareThis > Life Event > University Graduation
    • Custom Categories > Graduation Gift Buyers
    • Branded Data > V12 Data > Holiday & Seasonal > Graduation Gift Buyers
  • Party planners: Put your brand at the center of the graduation party experience by targeting the family organizing the event.
    • Branded Data > Audigent > Fandom > Life Event > College Graduation
    • Branded Data > Lotame > Home & Family > Party Planners
  • Graduation trip: In lieu of gits, some graduates go out on a graduation trip with friends or family. These segments help reach these post-school travelers.
    • Branded Data > ShareThis > Intent > Travel> Graduation Trip
    • Branded Data > Lotame > Travel > Summer Travel
    • Branded Data > ShareThis > Travel >Car Rental & Taxi Services
  • Tomorrow’s workforce: Whether you’re trying to recruit new hires or target entry-level workers with electronics and office supplies, this segment reaches post-grads.
    • Branded Data > Cross Pixel > Career Services > Employment Search > Entry Level Positions
    • Branded Data > 180byTwo > eCHO B2B Intent > Human Resources > Recruitment, Hiring & Onboarding
    • Branded Data > Cross Pixel > Career Services > Employment Search > College Graduates

Timing and Budget

With graduation typically happening in mid-to-late May, there is still plenty of time to get campaigns prepared for deployment. Regarding timing, you’ll want to have your campaigns up and running around the start of April and have them run through mid-June. This widens your audience pool and drives awareness, as well as continues to net anyone who’s throwing a late graduation party (perhaps because they spend graduation week attending too many parties themselves to throw one).

Since MNTN Performance TV allows for both prospecting and retargeting campaigns in one platform, your brand would benefit from determining the right audience and campaign objectives—whether it’s driving new customer acquisitions or increasing brand awareness. Using these goals, you can set aside the majority of ad spend on upper-funnel (prospecting) or lower-funnel (retargeting).

For advertisers with bigger media spend like national CPG brands, there is a great opportunity to increase ad spend across prospecting campaigns, allowing you to collect a large enough audience to serve retargeting ads. For advertisers with bigger media spend like national CPG brands, there is a great opportunity to increase ad spend across prospecting campaigns, allowing you to collect a large enough audience to serve retargeting ads. By running these retargeting campaigns around the start of May, you catch any last-minute shoppers.


Creating and launching TV advertising campaigns used to take the same time and effort as writing a college thesis, especially in the linear TV and cable TV advertising world – but not anymore. Platforms like MNTN Performance TV offer a one-stop shop to get your campaign created, deployed, and served to the target audience with minimal time and effort. Our Creative-as-a-Subscription™ offering enables advertisers to create multiple ads that target multiple audiences—from graduates to grandparents and everyone in between. Further, these ads can be tested to ensure your message is hitting all the right spots with fully integrated A/B creative testing right in the platform itself. 

While other brands sleep on the opportunity that is graduation season, savvy advertisers know there’s no better time to strike. And those same clever brands are also relying on MNTN to create high-quality, optimized creative at speed to drive the performance marketing metrics that matter most on Connected TV.