Not long ago, I was summoned to Bluefrog’s deepest darkest basement to be briefed on a new job – a job that our lovely studio trafficker Gabriel assured me would, “Only take an hour. If that. It’ll be a piece of cake.”
20 or so minutes later I traipsed back up the stairs to our creative floor. I sat at my desk, scratched my head a few times and thought, “Someone has lied to Gabriel.”
You see, my brief looked a little like this:
Actually I take it back. My brief looked exactly like that!
By now some of you might have copped on to what this brief was actually for. Yep, you guessed it. My journey to the basement had been a visit to my lovely, albeit vitamin-D deficient, digital colleagues.
They wanted me to write Facebook ads.
“Oh God”, I thought. I am about as digitally unaware as anyone under 30 can be. But worst of all, I’d spent the best part of five years in charity fundraising writing long copy letters, feedback pieces, newsletter articles and well... you know... wordy stuff. How could I convince anyone to do anything in 135 characters? Only people who are seasoned Tweeters know how to do that. And sadly, I’m not one of them.
But this was an ‘easy job’ with a couple of hours allocated to it, so I didn’t have time to whinge – I had to get started.
I pscyhed myself up. I reckoned this was what they call ‘real advertising’. A whole other world of writing rules was about to be thrown at me. Less is more and all that jazz. I would channel all my short, snappy lines and SELL. Suddenly, I was starting to feel excited. This job might not be so bad after all...
The client was The Scouts Association. I knew them pretty well given I’d just helped write their new website (take a look at it by clicking here) which was aimed at getting more 16 to 25 year olds to volunteer as Scout leaders. With 32,000 young people wanting to join the Scouts but not enough volunteers, the need was crystal clear. And now, our Facebook ads would hopefully drive lots of people to the site where they could find out more information and sign up. The Scouts needed 160 volunteers, so a target of 300 applications was set.
All we needed now was the copy. Gulp.
So I just wrote one. Quickly. Then another. And another. Then I made a couple permutations of those, and so on and so forth. And let me tell you, it was slightly addictive and also quite fun!
But there were definitely some downsides too. I was surprised to find how quickly 135 characters gets used up. (I almost just did it in those last two sentences...). Plus, it was hard not to go on and on like I usually do. I had to ask desk buddy and art director Tom to move the word count tool to my toolbar. My technical failings meant I couldn’t do it myself.
And so I wrote, rewrote, thought of a more '16-year-old' way of saying it, and then wrote it again. In the end, I took about three pages worth of 135 character ads back down to the basement for design and testing, here’s one they whipped up in no time:
Quite pleased, and surprisingly, having thoroughly enjoyed myself, I thought my job was done. I expected to hear news of whether or not my ads had worked in a few months time, so off I went to do my more usual routine of long letters, etc.
Now, I’ve always liked direct marketing because it’s measurable and you get a sense of achievement from knowing you’ve succeeded in raising the funds, hitting your ROI, or recruiting the desired number of donors. But with Facebook ads you really do get instant gratification.
The digital chaps had some results five days later. “It’s too soon,” I thought. This must mean they were awful. I convinced myself I’d failed miserably, and was ready to be told I was never going to be briefed on another digital job again.
Instead they showed me a snazzy excel type page with lots of stuff on it I didn’t really understand like CTRs (click through rate), imps (impressions) and average CPCs (cost per click). Yet after that quick tutorial, I was sold – this was cool. But I wasn’t the only one. So were a few 16 to 25 year olds, apparently.
Yep, the ads had worked. People had looked, clicked and then actually signed up.
We scrutinized which words were working and which weren’t. We could tell that titles like ‘Fun Work Experience’, and ‘Bored? Volunteer’ were working better than ‘Are You A Leader’ or ‘Kick Start Your Career’. We were able to target specific age groups, genders, lifestyles and networks too. And unlike direct mail, where once it’s gone it really is gone, with these ads we could change them in real time and see whether it was worth it. Fabulous.
But most fabulous of all were the final results. Our ads did the trick. Instead of the 300 applications we thought we’d get, we got closer to 500. So right now The Scout Association is enjoying the largest yearly increase in adult volunteers for over 20 years – and our little ads (literally) helped them get there.
So next time you have to write a paragraph explaining to a donor why they should give, volunteer or campaign, see if you can do it in 135 characters. If you can, maybe you should give Facebook Ads a try too?
Thanks for listening,
Joanna Gaunt (Bluefrog Creative Guest Blogger - Aline's on holiday, by the way)
Oh, and here are some of the other ads we tested.