When it comes to holidays and digital advertising, there are countless “best practices” to follow. The most common notion surrounding advertising, especially online, during the days leading up and following a holiday is that performance will suffer due to increased competition, noise, and offline distractions. While this may be the case on some platforms or for certain verticals, we analyzed the performance of Facebook advertising across three campaign objectives within three different verticals to determine once and for all whether the myth is true (for 2015 at least).
We compared the click and cost-per-result performance on Facebook of three campaign objectives from June to December of 2015 and looked at the impact of five holidays: Fourth of July, Labor Day, Halloween, Thanksgiving, and Christmas. To fully understand the effect that these holidays had on digital advertising, we compared the performance of these campaigns two days prior to a holiday, two days after a holiday, the day of the holiday, and the rest of the year. Let’s just say the results were not what you’d think.
In order to ensure that our findings weren’t unique to a specific client or industry, we analyzed the performance of three campaign objectives (Mobile App Install, Clicks to Website, and Website Conversion) across three different client verticals: eCommerce, Real Estate, and Publishing. We looked at four main metrics when analyzing performance: CPC, CPM, Cost per Result (download, purchase, or site click), and Result Rate (the number of results divided by the number of ad impressions).
Overall, CPC was the only metric that drove poorer performance during the time surrounding a holiday. Compared to the rest of the year, the average CPC was 10% higher during the two days leading up to a holiday, 1% lower on the day of the holiday, and 8% lower during the two days following a holiday. One explanation for this could be that advertisers are vying for valuable impressions, in a sense inflating the cost due to the speculation of the upcoming holiday.
Impressions remained relatively consistent during the days leading up to a holiday as the CPM was about 1% lower during that span compared to the rest of the year. Surprisingly enough, impressions became less expensive on the day of a holiday and the two days following (12% and 13% less than the yearly average, respectively), which could mean the bulk of advertisers pull back their efforts during these periods.
The Result Rate saw the greatest performance variance between the days surrounding a holiday and the rest of the year. While the Result Rate was 9% higher during the days following a holiday and 20% higher on the day of the holiday, it was a whopping 31% higher during the days leading up to the holiday. While it’s difficult to attribute the strong performance surrounding a holiday to one element, it could be an indication of marrying user intent with the proper message at the right time.
Arguably the most surprising finding was that the Cost per Result was significantly lower on the day of a holiday and the two days surrounding it. Compared to the rest of the year, the Cost per Result was 20% lower during the two days leading up to a holiday, 23% lower on the day of the holiday, and 13% lower during the two following days. While there are numerous reasons as to why that could cause cheaper results during competitive times of the year, it demonstrates the fact that social advertising can be an effective digital channel when you utilize strong targeting, creative, messaging, timing, and technical setup.
In conclusion, the common misperception that advertising near holidays will yield less-than-stellar results doesn’t carry much weight, assuming that you know what you’re doing. Granted this may be a special case because Add3 is really good at what we do, but the data certainly suggests Direct Response digital advertising thrives surrounding popular holidays, especially on social channels. Advertisers shouldn’t shy away or take their foot off the gas pedal with a holiday coming up; in fact, accelerating budget surrounding a holiday could produce even stronger results.