Cheenu Agarwal

Vicky Kaushal is the perfect guy to resonate with Indians aspiring to move to Canada: Rachel Exton, PTE

PTE's VP of marketing talks about the organisation’s strategy to cater to the Indian audience, marketing channels and future plans.

India's expanding global footprint is evident in the recent surge of Indians pursuing opportunities abroad, including higher studies and jobs. According to a Ministry of External Affairs report, India boasts a vast diaspora, with 13.6 million Non-Resident Indians (NRIs), 18.68 million Persons of Indian Origin (PIOs), and nearly 32.3 million Overseas Citizens of India (OCIs) residing abroad. Each year, around 2.5 million (25 lakh) Indians embark on journeys overseas, marking the highest annual number of migrants globally.

Visa is a crucial prerequisite in navigating the path to international relocation across many countries. Pearson Test of English (PTE) aims to ease this process. It is an English language proficiency test accepted for study, work, and migration visas in countries like the UK, the US, Australia, New Zealand, and Canada. PTE has teamed up with Indian actor Vicky Kaushal to promote a worry-free experience of taking the test in the Indian market.

“Canada is a dream destination for many people in India and last year, we received approval from the Canadian Government (IRCC) for all economic visa categories including permanent residency and citizenship. Since a major share of our test-taking audience lies in Punjab and the northern states, Vicky Kaushal’s Punjabi appeal is just the right tool to elicit a connection with them,” says Rachel Exton, VP of Marketing, English Language Learning at Pearson.

Exton heads the Pearson Test of English division that falls under the English Language Learning (ELL) division. The test-taking organisation onboarded Vicky Kaushal as brand ambassador in January 2022. 

PTE’s audience in India

PTE’s target audience is strongly concentrated in markets like Punjab, Delhi, and Gujarat – which make up 80% of the PTE test takers. In addition, aspirants also hail in numbers from Maharashtra, Andhra Pradesh, and Tamil Nadu. The brand is targeting different states using digital advertising as well as outdoor advertising based on the destination they dream about. 

Exton affirms, “India is a big country and every region is slightly different, it can't be a one-size-fits-all kind of marketing campaign. We try to be really strategic with how we choose our out-of-home slots, and we're quite scientific about it.” For example, In Punjab and Haryana, PTE has placed billboards to educate about Canada’s visa whereas in Tamil Nadu, it placed billboards pertaining to the UK and the US.

Vicky Kaushal as the brand ambassador

PTE started its Do it worry-free campaign on a global level but the brand had to find a way to bring the message alive in India. It partnered with VMLY&R, a creative agency to plan its debut campaign for India.  

“And choosing Vicky was just a very natural choice and I think that he's right for PTE because he really embodies the idea of doing worry-free. He's a local boy well done so he can really speak from the heart to our test takers.” For PTE Kar, Befikar, the agency transpired into the idea of a whistle which symbolises a carefree and stress-free mindset. The Befikar sentiments are conveyed across digital and social platforms, with music by multi-Grammy Award winner Ricky Kej. Similarly, for Be Canada ready with one less worry, Pearson played on the same sentiment.

The two campaigns portray PTE as a faster, fairer, and simpler test. PTE gives faster results in 2 days while other tests usually give results in 6-8 days. It uses an evaluation system that combines responsible AI with leading language experts to make it free of human bias and a simpler experience of a completely computerised 2-hour, single-sitting test. 

Exton explains, “We don't put a limit on the number of tests one can have and we also provide preparation materials and practice tests. So if a test taker doesn't get the score they would want the first time we would always encourage them to try again.”

“Annually, 1M Indians (accounting for 1.8M tests including retests) sign up for English language tests with the intent of moving abroad, " she adds.

PTE’s marketing channels

PTE adopts a consumer-first, placing the learner at the core of all its products. The company relies heavily on digital advertising including YouTube, Instagram and Spotify. OOH advertising plays an important role in tier 2 and tier 3 cities, as Exton mentions that most of the test takers living in such areas learn about PTE while seeing billboards on their daily routes.

She says, “So if you take Haryana as an example, we look at where our students are based. So we look at the journeys that they take whether it's to school or work and we try to ensure that they see our billboards. If they go past our sites, they will see PTE again on their devices and that’s how we blend in technology with other mediums of marketing.”

PTE has built good relations with the agent network because over 50% of test takers in India go through an agent as it is a complex and quite stressful process. The organisation helps them to understand why PTE is the ideal choice for their customers and impart the benefits to test takers. It also works with Macro and Micro influencers based out of India as well as in destination countries like the UK, Canada, and Australia to drive consideration and preference for PTE.

PTE’s future plans

“PTE is recognised by 3500+ colleges and institutions around the world. Our dream is to become the number one organisation for test takers and I'm delighted to see that we are beginning to achieve that in some parts of India,” exclaims Exton. The brand is positive about working with Vicky for future campaigns and trying out new things to empower test takers in India.

Rachel Exton, VP of Marketing, English Language Learning at Pearson
Rachel Exton, VP of Marketing, English Language Learning at Pearson

A large chunk of PTE’s media budget is allocated to digital touchpoints, and it is now working on Pmax, a new tool from Google for digital marketing. The company is currently not investing in television channels, as the target audience is mostly 18 to 22-year-olds who spend time on social media and mobile phones rather than TV.

“We look at the 24-hour schedule of our test takers to understand where they are and what media they're engaging with. We want to get a high return on investment, so we use channels that work best for us. In the near future, we’ll check both quantitative and qualitative data of test takers to see if we should advertise on TV,” she further adds.

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