Ben Leftwich | June 16, 2016

Setting ​paid search strategy for creative campaigns

There have been internet tomes dedicated to how to configure paid search, or pay-per-click (PPC), campaigns for everything from eCommerce, to the B2B sales funnel, to mobile app installs, but few on how to use PPC to support a creative campaign launch.

Creative campaigns differ from typical PPC campaigns because the copy and keywords become more important to support the overall campaign. At the same time, it’s crucial to balance PPC best practice and not lose the performance of an account simply because the ad copy doesn’t drive conversions at the same rate of previous ads.

I’m going to be brutally honest up front now: if you have a PPC account that you’ve been testing, optimising, and changing using a planned approach for a long time, creative campaigns could completely screw with your account performance. The campaign ‘big idea’ may not fit nicely in a 25 character headline limit, and even if it does, it may not contain any of the keywords you know are the top performers.

Even if the campaign big idea does work with all the restrictions around PPC ad copy and keywords, how do you make sure it’s relevant to the searchers and not a waste of their time and your money if they click?

There’s, of course, endless debate on how you could handle this scenario, but here’re three approaches that you may want to consider when you launch your next creative campaign.

Approach 1: Modify Ad Copy for Brand Keywords

Your brand keywords are more than likely the highest performing keywords in your PPC account, and obviously, most closely associated with your brand so you want to use this technique with care. As its simplest, you’ll want to add new ad variations to your brand campaigns that incorporate your campaign core messaging.

This approach will likely get your new creative platform a good amount of visibility, but it might also crash the click-through rates (CTRs) on your ads if not handled with care. As a result, depending on your budget and ad volume, watch this approach with care. You may only want to run these ads for a short period to get more campaign visibility and then go back to your usual brand ads fairly quickly.

If you’re lucky though searchers will have seen your campaign offline or somewhere else online and be more ready to click on these brand ads because of their connection to the campaign. That’s the benefit a strong campaign platform can have on PPC.

Approach 2: Separate PPC Campaigns with Campaign Focused Keywords

This approach works best when you’ve developed a unique phrase or word for your creative platform. Think Sprint’s ‘Framily Plan’ or ‘Where’s the Beef?’, a word or phrase so interesting that people can’t help but search for it to find it what it’s all about.

What’s great about made-up words or phrases in creative campaigns is they not only drive search online which can then be associated with a specific brand, but also get stuck in people’s heads, which is what every advertiser is trying to accomplish.

Here’s the risk though for PPC advertisers: people simply click on your ads to find out what the hell you’re talking about, and don’t actually buy anything. Again, why it’s important to always watch your PPC campaigns closely and make sure you’ve assigned a given budget and KPIs for your campaigns before they launch.

Approach 3: Use Paid Search to Accentuate the Campaign Creative

This last approach is tricky to understand and even trickier to do successfully. Basically, you have to hope and pray that the campaign creative you are developing lends itself to being supported by clever PPC techniques.

Snickers is likely the best recent example of this approach. In short, Snickers bid on misspelled keywords and wrote ad copy that said: it’s hard to spell correctly when you’re hungry. This approach was an elegant way to support their ‘You’re not you when you’re hungry’ campaign, not only reminding the searcher of the creative campaign, but getting their attention, and spending a limited amount of money in the process by bidding on misspelled keywords.

There’s no hard and fast rules for how to structure PPC campaigns given this approach as it’s completely driven by the campaign big idea, but if you are able to work closely with the creative team to figure out a way to use PPC to drive home the core concept of a campaign all the better.

Summing up

There’s no question that more approaches exist to help support a creative campaign launch with PPC, but these are three big techniques that will help most marketers.

A tension will always exist between data-driven marketers and creative-driven marketers, the key is to find out where the two can intersect with smart PPC techniques, ad copy, and keywords to help drive bottom-line revenue.

At the end of the day, the most clever PPC approach or most awe-inspiring campaign creative doesn’t mean much if it doesn’t move the business forward.

Ben Leftwich

Account Director