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University of Reading

creative case study

Developing a new brand proposition and impactful campaign.

Revolutionising student recruitment


The client

The University of Reading is a public university with more than 150 years of history. The University has 17,000 students from 150 countries, with two overseas campuses and dozens of international partnerships.

The University offers more than 250 undergraduate courses and 150 postgraduate courses in the arts, sciences, social sciences, humanities, and business.

“Bell is a well established and respected agency. Their work is creative and original. Bell has the strength to get under the skin of a brief, finding options and solutions through their design. Account Management is excellent – they are a dynamic and enthusiastic agency with attention to detail and an excellent customer focused approach to projects. Bell is an outstanding strategic design agency and I would recommend their services without hesitation.”

Karen Smalley
Head of Brand - University of Reading

The challenge

Bell has been the University of Reading’s main contract agency since 2014. In that time, they have helped transform an institution that many students considered a ‘second choice’ – if they considered it at all – into a clear ‘first choice’ University.

The solution

We were commissioned by the University of Reading to improve their student recruitment uptake. An acknowledged world leader in many subjects, the University had an image problem. It wasn’t perceived negatively, it simply wasn’t well known and was perceived as a second choice University. We helped reposition the way students and influencers viewed the University.

We developed a new core brand proposition: LIMITLESS, which became the foundation of the new visual identity: bold, challenging, confident. It featured striking, thought-provoking images, a new campaign typeface and modern icons and infographics. The Year 1 campaign focused on the outstanding and interesting research driving the University, anchored by the key message ‘Are You Ready?’.

We evolved the campaign in Year 2 to take into account student concerns about their future prospects, challenging them to ‘Get Ready’. The brand was consistently conveyed across a multitude of marketing channels, including print and digital advertising, online, out of home, station takeovers, event materials and merchandise.

The achievements

Applications increased over the first 2 years, by a cumulative 14.4%, six times the 2.4% national average. The campaign also achieved a click-through conversion increase from 15.2% to 51.3% YoY and digital impressions from 4M to 21M YoY.

For two years running, Open Day registration was closed well in advance as registration capacity was reached. Additional Open Days were needed. From a safe second choice, the University has clearly transformed into a clear first choice.


Increase in applications over the first 2 years


Increase in click-through conversion (from 15.2% to 51.3% YoY)


Increase in digital impressions (from 4M to 21M YoY)

Our creative

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