ALO: Online advertising

One of the first things I did was to pull our online advertising in-house. Previously, it was not uncommon to spend $8,000 per production on an agency booking interactive banner ads and placing search engine ads on Google, Yahoo and Bing.

First, I applied for Google Grants. It’s a simple process for nonprofits, but it took a couple of months to be approved. Google Grants allows nonprofits to set up Google AdWords campaigns at no cost. It’s all in-kind advertising. There are a few limiting factors, but the biggest is perhaps the maximum cost-per-click (CPC) of $1.00, which makes you miss out on some popular keywords. Monthly “ad spend” will be capped at $10,000, but that won’t be a problem for 99% of the nonprofits.

Pulling Google AdWords in-house through Google Grants obviously saved money. But the biggest benefit is that you can use it as your own testing playground for ad content, especially if you can tie it in with Google Analytics e-commerce tracking. It was certainly interesting to see some ad content delivering more traffic than other ad content. But delivering more traffic doesn’t necessarily mean the ads are more effective, as you can see in the slides below.

Retargeting was introduced to me via our ticketing solution Paciolan. They helped set up a campaign for Turandot where we targeted consumers based on their previous Internet actions, in situations where these actions did not result in a sale or conversion. Basically, you visit the ALO website but don’t buy a ticket? Next time you visit Time magazine online, or any other media outlet in the network, and you might get served a Turandot ad. Compared to banner ads on local media websites, retargeting seemed to do much better. Paciolan reported a ROAS of $16 (the slides below only report what can be learned from Google Analytics, hence the significantly lower ROAS).

Facebook Ads are an interesting story. The CPM (cost per thousand impressions) is impressive for the campaign we ran. However, I didn’t see a positive return for advertising spending as reported in Google Analytics. This is somewhat understandable when you realize none of the ads drove traffic directly to the ALO website. Facebook ads seem to work best with a higher social reach (delivering the ad content to the social circles of your Page’s fans). Advertising is about frequency and reach and Facebook certainly delivers on that at a low cost. I certainly see value in that.

If we should believe Google Analytics, banner ads in local media seemed to perform far below the other channels. However, there are two reasons for not completely discarding them: 1) they are part of a print and online package negotiation; and 2) they do deliver a decent reach with prominent placement in media outlets that are frequented by the opera’s patrons (and Google Analytics will not have measured all the impact of that).