7 New Year’s Resolutions for Your Next Paid Media Campaign

We’ve run a lot of paid media campaigns at BSD over the past few years.

Our work with both established non-profits, such as The Movember Foundation, and sophisticated political machines, like Forward Majority, has taught us countless lessons about how to run digital advertising campaigns that create conversation, grow supporter lists, raise money, register voters, and get out the vote.

So, how can you resolve to make the most of your paid media campaigns this year? Here are seven places to start:

1. Target long-term value, not short-term clicks.

Today, everyone understands the value of hyper-targeted media buying. After all, the more targeted you are, the more audience-driven you can be. But veteran campaign managers of sophisticated paid media campaigns in 2019 will know that targeted media buying isn’t just about acquiring cheap conversions — it’s about acquiring the most valuable conversions for the lowest possible cost.

If your highest value donor segment were comprised mainly of 30 year-old social justice warriors in specific areas of London, DC, and Shanghai, then it’s a smart strategic move to put your budget there, even if there are cheaper options available. When the data speaks, you have to listen.

2. Place outside bets.

Having a sophisticated data operation is integral to your paid media campaign’s success. But while you should allow it to lead you, you shouldn’t allow it to blind you. In 2016, BSD managed a large-scale media campaign called Fix Britain’s Internet, designed to lobby the UK’s telecoms regulator, Ofcom, to end British Telecom’s monopoly on rolling out high-speed fibre-optic internet. The campaign was a phenomenal success; people all over the UK sent more than 100,000 messages to Ofcom demanding the end of the monopoly, and Ofcom actioned accordingly.

But it was no easy fight. BSD conducted exhaustive research into audiences, identifying eight core segments who we thought would be most interested. However, a few weeks into the campaign we discovered that an entirely new audience cohort was out-performing our original eight dramatically. We shifted strategy immediately, diverting budgets to the new group. It was this decision that won us the campaign.

Today, because of this learning, we always look to reserve at least 5% of our campaign budget to spend on outside bets to uncover entirely new cost-effective investments.

3. Choose the platform that’s right for your objective.

Reports of Facebook’s death have been greatly exaggerated. As I pointed out in another recent blogpost about Facebook, the platform and media company faces a number of challenges, but their hold on the advertising market is strong, sharing with Google a projected 73% of all digital advertising spend. And there’s a reason for that. On almost every project, we’ve observed that the cheapest and most valuable ad conversions come from Facebook and Instagram.

I would add one caveat, however. As was reported by Recode, people are spending less time on Facebook than ever before. Meanwhile, Facebook is trying to scale back the amount of content you see from brands, at a time when digital advertising spending is at an all-time high. This means that there’s more competition for a more limited amount of ad real estate, which could push up your costs (notably CPMs).

However, assuming your goals are data-capture or fundraising focused, our experience tells us that, right now, you’ll still likely get your best results with Facebook. If your objective is to drive preference for a candidate, product or idea, chances are you’ll deliver more cost-efficiency on Instagram or YouTube.

4. Measure what matters.

KPIs matter. Too frequently organisations find themselves tracking the wrong things, like basic vanity metrics. Before you begin your media campaign, you need to determine which metrics are most valuable to track. Is it really the total number of likes and comments your favourite piece of content receives? Probably not. More likely, it’s the amount of qualified traffic it sent to your site, the number of new supporters it helped you acquire, the volume of attributable conversions it drove, and the short and long term value of those conversions.

Looking at the right metrics doesn’t just put you in the best possible position to optimise your programme, but it’ll also give you the hard data you need to justify a greater investment in your programme.

5. Harness the power of automation.

Long gone are the days of pulling a CSV file from Facebook, throwing it into Excel, building charts manually, and sharing PDFs with your colleagues. Today, with services like Supermetrics and Google Data Studio, you can build a workflow that automatically extracts data from media platforms and inserts it into pre-built graphs and charts in a live, sharable campaign dashboard.

We’ve found that by adopting this modern approach to measurement, we have more free time to uncover additional insights from the data itself. On the Movember campaign, we were looking at our automated dashboard throughout the day, generating new learnings and optimising accordingly. That’s what a modern paid media campaign looks like.

6. Invest more in UX and landing page testing.

You can run the most rigorous test-and-learn advertising project in the world, but without UX and landing pages that convert traffic efficiently, you’re throwing your money away. On a recent global media campaign for a large non-profit, BSD recommended a donation page optimisation that outperformed a control variant by more than £8,000. Incredibly, the organization forecasted that they’d raise more than £1 million more the following year because of this test. Only through constant testing will you find that million pound optimisation.

7. Maximize your moments.

All great campaign managers have one thing in common: they pride themselves on their discipline. They use assets and resources intelligently, and understand the importance of maintaining consistency in their messaging and design. But veteran campaigners don’t just prepare for the things that they can control, but also the things that they can’t.

The history of digital campaigning is littered with inspiring stories about how digital teams have capitalized on unexpected moments, raising incredible amounts of money through rapid response communications because they had the experience to recognise an opportunity when they saw one.

Last year, BSD worked with an advocacy organization in the political space looking to grow their supporter list. We made the strategic decision to launch our campaign just as Donald Trump’s visit to the UK was announced, at a time when there was huge public appetite for resistance. Doing so led to the lowest cost per signup we’ve ever seen on a media campaign. Our final piece of advice, therefore, is to learn to recognise a moment when it appears, and, better still, to have the discipline to plan for its arrival.


Launching a campaign of your own? Let’s talk.