Content Marketing Campaigns During Coronavirus

cpc content marketing campaigns during coronavirus cpm ads

When it comes to achieving peak campaign performance during the Coronavirus pandemic, there are a lot of levers you can pull, from adjusting CPC bids to targeting behavior. One of the most common levers that marketers reach for is creative optimization — adding variations of images and text to see what works best. The problem is that it’s incredibly challenging to figure out how to do it properly, and it’s often time-consuming. 

We've tackled the problem in a myriad of ways over the years, and we’re still hard at work on it (be on the lookout for a new product launch in the near future!). But there are some basics that we consistently test and put into practice to make sure we’re making the most of our customers’ campaigns to drive more revenue. That’s what I’m going to cover this week, so let’s dive in. For the purpose of this email, I want to look at a couple of specific factors that go into creative optimization: 

Number of creatives in a campaign Effective creative testing Ain’t Nothing But a Number If you’ve done any paid acquisition, you’ve most likely faced the age-old dilemma of how many creatives you should add to an ad set. This is something we’re constantly testing to make sure we’re truly maximizing campaign potential. In general, we can test a multitude of data points from CTR, to CPM, to CPA, and so on. But when accounting for the wide range of business goals that campaigns can have, what you want to really look at is the reach an ad has — in other words, how many people actually saw it. For our latest test, we used the same exact creative — post text, headline, and image — in every ad set, and kept the targeting and bids identical. 

The only difference between the ad sets was the number of creatives in the campaign. We tested 1, 3, and 5 to see which had the widest reach: As you can see, the winner is clearly 5 with almost 50,000 more impressions than the ad set with a single variation. Of course, there is a limit to this. Adding more and more creatives leads to diminishing returns and the best practice is to keep variations at 6 and under when adding a new ad set. So if you only have 6 variations to work with, how do you make it worthwhile? Bazookas, Not Razor Blades Creating multiple ad variations just to get those numbers up is not really going to be worth it in the long run. If you’re going to use multiple variations, the best option is A/B testing creatives to see what resonates most with your audience. 

When setting up multiple creatives in your ad set, it’s important that they are different enough that you can really learn something meaningful from them. In other words, you don’t want to test with a razor blade, you want to test with a bazooka. Let’s illustrate an example of this with post text examples we could use for an article ranking the best beauty products: 

Post text variation 1: These beauty products will make you feel like a princess. Post text variation 2: Times are tough, these may help ease the pain As you can see, these post texts are very different in terms of their approach to the content, yet they both express the value of the content presented. Let’s say variation 2 wins. That can be a signal for you to try an empathetic approach next time you’re writing post texts, or maybe test out more emojis. Of course, this doesn’t only apply to post text. The same approach should be taken with images as well. 

Don’t just pick two pictures of a woman smiling in close up. Use one picture with a smiling woman, and another showing only the product. Try one image where red is a dominant color and another that’s black and white. The more drastic the difference, the more you can learn from each individual A/B test, and the more you understand what your audience connects to most. Your best bet? Choose two images and two post text and mix and match them. That gives you 4 creatives total in your ad set, which is a good number in order to maximize reach and narrow enough of a test for the results to be meaningful. 

What’s Stopping Thumbs When I can, I like to share what we’re seeing that’s trending currently and driving scale. Here’s what’s been getting engagement over the last month: Emojis: For a while after the crisis hit, these were falling out of favor. But they’re been making a comeback lately, including some of the tried and true classics. First person language: “I’m a shopping addict,” “My mother loves these,” “We’ve been seeing this happen” and so on. including split screens: two images side-by-side rather than one single image.

Despite Spotify reporting an overall slump in ad-supported revenue for Q2, CEO Daniel Ek pointed to the platform’s podcast advertising business as a bright spot, telling investors that it "outperformed in the quarter, making it one of the strongest areas of growth." While the percentage of Spotify users listening to podcasts only went up by 2% from Q1 (19%) to Q2 (21%), the fact that the streaming service boasts nearly 300 million monthly active users means that podcast listenership increased by millions during the first half of the year. 

On the publisher front, things are looking up as well. According to Salon’s CRO Justin Wohl (whose interview with us you can read here), the outlet’s programmatic revenue this month is up 25% year over year. And while programmatic revenue is generally on the upswing, some content creators are opting to pursue brand deals to help their bottom lines. Thrillist, for example, recently partnered with Goldbelly, an online gourmet food marketplace, for a sponsored YouTube series called Send Foodz. Over the pond, UK sports outlets are also bringing in dollars by pivoting to branded content campaigns while facing delays in regular season programming.

In an effort to diversify revenue and provide more value to their audiences, publishers are increasingly building out partnerships that are on-brand, unique, and create opportunities to engage readers beyond the browser. The Los Angeles Times, for example, recently teamed up with LA-based chefs and sponsor City National Bank for a new virtual supper club initiative. For $175 per ticket, Dinner Series attendees will enjoy a three-course meal curated by some of the city’s top restaurateurs, followed by an online get-together where they can engage in thoughtful conversations with special guests that include Times’ food editors. 

Publisher Marie Claire UK, on the other hand, plans to bolster its partner revenue by offering beauty brands an online alternative to the in-person practice of sample giveaways. According to Marie Claire’s e-commerce director, the recently-launched Beauty Drawer program is a “no brainer,” and will allow its cosmetic partners to better reach prospective customers according to their personal product preferences. 

Group Nine-owned brand Popsugar is also making strides to diversify revenue by collaborating with Old Navy to launch a tween clothing line called PX x ON. Designed alongside help from a group of tween advisors, the brand aims to amplify the voices of the “next generation that is inclusive, culturally conscious and not afraid to stand up for what they believe in.”

Overall, though COVID-19 is still a part of our everyday lives, engagement around the topic is going down significantly, and publishers are promoting less of that type of content overall. Though politics is dominant (not surprising given that there are less than 100 days until the US elections), escapism is peaking as people are looking for respite among the continued bad news. All in all, if you can spare some positivity, now’s the time to promote it. Your audience will thank you. I’d love to hear what’s happening in your neck of the woods. Are you effectively testing creative variations?

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