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Lessons from Christmas Paid Media Campaigns 2022

Desk full of paid media reporting documents representing lessons learnt from Christmas Paid Media Campaigns in 2022.

What have we learnt from Christmas Paid Media Campaigns?

A few months have passed since our Christmas fundraising campaigns and appeals have ended. Now the dust has settled, we’re taking a step back to review how well they’ve performed and what lessons we can take. From campaign design and technical set-up to best-practice ‘pre-campaign’ processes, we’ve shared our findings to help charities with their festive fundraising appeals. 

We know many charities struggled with generating digital donations during the 2022 Christmas period, especially on platforms like Facebook. We were no exception to this trend and had to work exceptionally hard and innovate to achieve the results we did. That’s why we wanted to share our lessons with you, to help enhance your future campaigns. Whilst it may feel early to be considering 2023 Christmas campaigns, now is actually the ideal time to start having initial conversations. Getting a good head-start in the planning process is key to getting the most out of the crucial period.

2022 Christmas Campaign Results:

Overall, we had a wide range of results. We’ve sampled some of these below using anonymised client data. The below graph contains the Facebook and Instagram campaigns we worked on (in addition to 1 Display campaign, E) plotted next to their target Cost Per Acquisition/Donation (CPA). 

Paid Social Campaigns Performance (*Not adjusted for cookie/data loss)

Graph displaying target CPAs and actual CPAs for client Christmas paid media campaigns*Black lines indicate the CPA when adjusted for cookie data loss.

Notes: There are of course, some big caveats. The sample above covers a wide-range of charity causes, charity size, different levels of spend, slightly different timings, and even promoted different fundraising products, e.g. single donations, monthly donations and sponsorships. The main purpose of the graph though, is to illustrate the huge range in CPA, despite operating within a very similar timeframe, industry and overall approach. Bearing this in mind, the breadth of results seen is a learning in itself.

We’ve also included Paid Search performance below, using Return-On-Ad-Spend (ROAS) which again show a wide range of results. All of these were above their targets, and all but 1 were a positive ROAS. 

Paid Search Campaigns Performance (*Not adjusted for cookie/data loss)

Graph showing target ROAS and actual ROAS for client Christmas paid media campaigns 2022

Top Lessons

Cookie/data loss

The first thing we want to highlight is the impact of cookie and data loss. Limited data sets impact machine-learnt optimisation for ads, which ultimately has a negative effect on overall performance. It also has the potential to drastically change the overall reported results. 

This is most notable with Clients B and C, which had the strictest cookie policies. When we added this data ‘back in’, by comparing platform clicks vs Analytics sessions, as well reviewing the CRM data – their CPAs halved. This massively changes the narrative, highlighting the importance of reviewing all available data before making decisions and drawing conclusions. 

High Cost-Per-Click (CPC)

CPC’s were generally higher than usual across all Meta Ads campaigns, not just fundraising, whereas conversion rates were still strong (and in-line with our projections). This suggests that even if your targeting and strategy are successful at gaining conversions, it’s costing you twice as much to secure the site traffic. A number of factors outside of advertisers control have impacted this:

  1. The Winter World Cup brought more advertisers, with large budgets into an already saturated marketplace. 
  2. Opportunities for more granular targeting have decimated over the last year. This has caused target audiences to be broadened and an increase in competition due to more charities entering the same auctions.
  3. Tightening budgets, which has seen things such as new creative being dropped. Reusing old creative, without variation, can lead to a poor click-through-rate (CTR). In turn, this increase the CPC Facebook wants you to pay.

Paid Search Success

As you can see from the above graphs, Paid Search has continued to be a top-performer. It’s the channel to use as a foundation for any acquisition campaign.

We recommend capitalising on the optimisation opportunities by using Google Search Ads 360 (the premium level of Google Ads). Its utilisation of Google’s Floodlight Tracking improves automated bidding strategies, attribution and reporting. 

Paid Search can also ensure you capture users who have been triggered by your other advertising (such as OOH, Radio or Display Ads).

Recommendations

Enhance Technical set-up

We have discussed many of the below points in our previous blog about rising Facebook CPAs (we’d definitely recommend giving this a read for more in depth insights). The key takeaways, are:

  • Include a range of creatives (formats, style and messaging) to test across the campaigns duration. Don’t limit yourself to newsfeed placements. You should also ensure you include Christmas-specific messaging, especially in the run-up to Christmas eve.
  • Avoid changes and duplication where possible. Campaigns where we were splitting into multiple smaller campaigns, with different split-tests, and lots of unplanned stop/start changes, struggled most. Creating a set campaign timeline and testing matrix in advance can help minimise this.
  • Review Attribution.  We have started moving more campaigns over to a click-only based attribution windows. This is especially effective when there is a high click-to-conversion rate, and low consideration period, which lends itself to a user making an impulse donation at Christmas. You can compare the attribution windows for your Christmas campaigns (or any similar campaigns you have run) to see when your conversions are occurring. This means you can see whether they happened within 1 day of an ad-click, within 1 day of a view or within 7 days of a click. You can do this by adding in a custom column (top right of interface) and then clicking ‘Compare attribution settings’. Screenshot of compare attribution settings window showing 1-day view, 1-day click, 7-day click and 28-day click options.

Refine pre-campaign processes

We would also recommend factoring in some important pre-campaign steps, which we have found to impact how smoothly a campaign launch is. Below, we have shared our best practice suggestions (timings are just examples):

  • Ensure briefs are sent at least 1-2 months prior to launch. These should include details on budgets, objectives/targets, key messaging, timings and all other key considerations.  This ensures enough time to discuss the approach, develop a campaign plan, agree key timings/phases and any allows for any required testing.
  • Ensure landing pages have been considered and sent at least 2-4 weeks prior to launch. Being prompt with landing page details allows adequate time for us to review the user-journey and provide any conversion rate optimisation feedback. It’s also vital to check that tracking for key actions is working as early as possible and to allow time for pixels to start collecting data if needed.
  • Ensure creatives are delivered on-time, at least 2 weeks prior to launch. This gives us time to provide any feedback to help enhance the creatives, time to upload and check their approval from Meta, and ensure launch dates can be met.
  • Aim to get campaigns live by early November. Starting 1st December is often too late, This does not allow enough time to gather insights, pivot a campaign if needed and be ready for the peak period. We also usually suggest pausing campaigns after the 24th, as we often see performance drop off significantly after this date. However, it is worth considering contingency budget, to allow the campaign to continue into January if needed.

Final thoughts on 2022 Christmas Paid Media Campaigns

While it’s been a challenging year for Facebook Ad campaigns and fundraising in general, we plan to continue testing our paid media across the year, taking onboard the shared learnings. We’ve been implementing many of the steps mentioned above and from our last blog, and have been seeing some promising results.

We’re already looking forward to the start of planning for Christmas 2023! If you would like to discuss plans for your 2023 Christmas campaigns, we’d love to hear from you and discuss how we can support your Paid Media needs. Email us at hello@upriseup.co.uk or you can drop us a message on our contact page.

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