Despite serving 1.3 million students and families, the 35-year-old national nonprofit Communities In Schools (CIS) had set a “pretty low bar” for brand awareness according to Amy Labenski, CIS’s director of digital marketing.
Specifically, they didn’t have any.
“We weren’t reaching the general public,” she said.
Labenski joined the nonprofit, which focuses on youth issues like school dropout and homelessness prevention, a little over a year ago. Prior to her arrival, CIS had a skeletal communications team with a little bit of PR and interns that oversaw social media. But for the most part, there was no emphasis on digital media. Until now.
“I embarked on a complete redesign of our website, and started working with the agency CauseWay and other partners to buy digital banners,” said Labenski.
Video played a big role because CIS wanted to share student stories to drive advocacy and especially donations.
“We had limited time, people and budget, so we really needed to get out there to where we needed to be in an effective way,” said Labenski. “CauseWay brought in (agency) MRY around April or May and we looked for other places we could be in digital. Being able to very specifically target our audience was imperative.”
CIS targeted older individuals with higher household income and the wherewithal to support the organization, and considered video view histories and content categories they were most likely to be interested in. Community In School’s agencies selected Tremor Video’s demand-side platform (DSP) VideoHub to reach its desired audience of donors and advocates, setting domain lists, geotargets and open parameters in order to reach viewers most likely to engage.
Additionally, working with agency MRY, VideoHub’s creative services team helped tailor an interactive video unit specific to Communities In Schools’ needs.
“We created a super preroll express unit (SPRX), which went above and beyond your standard preroll and included testimonials, additional content and social sharing, so it was a really high impact unit,” explained Neeraj Kochhar, head of buy side platforms for Tremor.
Besides managing CIS’ video assets and messaging, MRY also collaborated with Tremor on campaign flights and reporting.
Because the VideoHub DSP emphasized metrics CIS was interested in, such as a better engagement rate, Kochhar said the nonprofit could identify which exposures drove engagement and what key signals – DMAs or time of day, for instance – contributed the most.
For instance, after a three-week campaign flight that began last summer, CIS found large (typically around 400 pixels or higher) and extra large video players (500-700 pixels and up) had engagement rates of 2% and 5%, respectively. Thus, the DSP focused its bids around larger players and increased engagement by 50%, Kochhar said.
Optimizing mid-campaign contributed to a 75% video completion rate and engaged time spent at 62 seconds, more than double the rate of watched time spent at 27 seconds.
In the campaign’s aftermath, CIS wanted to learn how “paid media drives earned media equity,” said Labenski (though it doesn’t measure the effect of social amplification, yet).
Kansas City outperformed all other DMAs with an engagement rate of 6% despite the campaign’s national focus.
“One of the students had a really engaging story and she was involved in most of the video ads we placed,” Labenski explained. “Her local CIS affiliate in Kansas was incredibly supportive of what we did and got involved with local media, public service announcements [and her own social networks]. It was really about word of mouth association.”
Initially, the nonprofit planned a yearlong campaign, but because performance is strong, “we’re planning on refreshing our creative with the agencies a lot more this summer and will update the campaign,” Labenski said.