Lastminute.com is putting the vast bulk of its digital ad spend into Facebook, over Google, following a three-month trial to compare the effectiveness of each platform on the travel company's customer acquisition strategy.
Despite lingering questions over brand safety, measurement and fraudulent traffic, the online travel giant has come to the conclusion that Facebook is the best place to invest its digital ad dollars.
The reason for the shift was two-fold; firstly, it rates Facebook's data for allowing it to optimise ads and secondly are the campaign automation tools Facebook has offered to almost instantly develop hundreds of different creative iterations of assets.
"It’s about the data that the platform owns and the data that we can use to optimize," Marek Lacina, director of programmatic marketing, recently explained to The Drum.
Having internalised its own buying and planning in 2016 after ending its relationship with Manning Gottlieb OMD, Lastminute.com has upped its annual media revenues by 40% over three years.
Despite some hesitance internally on this latest experiment with Facebook, he said the outcome has meant that its team are no longer overwhelmed with “operation work” like inputting data or writing copy.
“They have more time to think of the strategy and the bigger picture and looking at the business from a more holistic point of view,” he said. “We're more effective in terms of time and cost and the message that we want to get to our customers.”
Last month it served 3,000 ads on Facebook compared to a handful on Google.
Incoming traffic to the website, and then booking conversations, were the metrics it benchmarked.
A 20% increase in Facebook spend delivered a 200% increase in traffic to its site.
“It's easy to get cheap clicks but what matters to us is the quality of the traffic. We saw a great increase in incoming traffic by investing a bit more. Bounce rate metrics also improved,” Lacina continued.
“That then gives us a lot of space to profile audiences which is another big project we're working on – a unifying audience management system so we can feed the people in the funnel and profile and customise the message. We trialled it in the UK and we saw it working so now we're rolling out to all the markets to all the brands. We see this as the approach that works.”
But it’s not the only area it’s investing more with Facebook. Lacina said the platform is also becoming the go-to as it funnels budget into influencer marketing. It’s in a “pilot” phase of working with more ‘micro-influencers’ – those with up to 10,000 followers – and ‘medium’ influencers with over 100,000 followers.
“We know influencer marketing is working and we want to see how much we can stretch it. So, we started working recently with small and medium influencers and if we see there is a case that the proof of concept works then we'll move to bigger influencers,” he said.
“There is a new tool that Facebook is offering that's called Collab Manager where you can see based on Facebook data what the portion of fraud or fake accounts that's following the influencers. So now we can actually see that within Facebook and connect to them through Facebook, but then all the collaboration is done directly with the influencer.”