How 'stealth' advertising can grow your revenue

Topics: Administration and Finance, Facilities and Operations, Space Utilization, Revenue Enhancement, Alternative Revenues

Shana Owens

Shana Owens, Senior Consultant

Oct. 30, 2014

Many universities shy away from on-campus advertising, fearing that garish ads and sponsorships could distract from their mission or even damage their reputation. No prospective student, after all, dreams of taking English 101 in the Center for the Arts and Humanities.

But increasingly, innovative universities are zeroing in on “stealth” opportunities for advertising, event sponsorships, leases, and other alternative revenue.

For instance, rather than erecting a gaudy billboard above the campus entrance, some institutions are offering “micro-signage” in places such as bus kiosks, parking garages, bike racks, and student union flatscreens. In some cases, micro-signage vendors will cover maintenance and equipment costs and provide campus leaders veto power over content—providing a virtually risk-free revenue stream.

One institution reported $20,000 in micro-signage revenue, in addition to more than $50,000 in avoided renovation costs. Its vendor also provides free access to a set number of advertising panels for campus-event advertising.

Turning vacant rooftops into cell antenna revenue

Cell antennae offer another opportunity to turn your unused space into “stealth” dollars. In fact, the cell phone industry coined the term “stealthing” for the practice of covering antennae with foam facades so they better blend in with surroundings. Several institutions have used these facades to discretely add cell antennae to rooftops and tap into lucrative cell leasing agreements.

You don’t have to wait for AT&T or T-Mobile to approach you. Third-party specialists known as “cell-coverage brokers” can meet with regional radio frequency managers on your behalf to identify coverage gaps. The broker then proposes the new on-campus antennae to fill in those gaps, ensuring that you maximize your rooftop leases. (As a bonus, you’ll finally have five bars of coverage in your office.)

One 10,000-student university, for example, already had seven cell antennae leases. With the help of a broker, the institution added three more, began charging electricity and networking fees, and installed interior antenna arrays, for a total of $354,000 of new revenue each year.

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