Some of the best work in marketing comes from a client allowing its agency to get under the hood of the business and challenge the original brief. This was the case for Halfords-owned Tyres On The Drive and its agency Bind, who started out with a brief to use paid search to sell more tyre fittings and ended up with a planet-saving idea. And The Drum Search Awards Grand Prix for their efforts.
Tyres On The Drive is a business with 70 vans across the UK acting as mobile retail units, deployed in real-time to drivers desperately in need of new tyres. An issue it was facing, however, was that some days, some of its vans were left without any jobs while others spent all day driving between jobs spread far apart throughout their set zones.
And so the agency started its search for the perfect solution by heading out in the vans, explains Bind’s joint managing director Max Hopkinson.
“The team spent three days changing tyres and quite literally getting our hands dirty! And it became immediately obvious that shortening drive times between customers was an opportunity. Drive time was dead time and it stopped the vans fitting – ie, making money.”
Halfords’ head of marketing and digital, Ryan Vince, also puts the key to campaign’s success down to “the intimate knowledge of the mobile business’s commercial drivers“, adding that Bind “looked beyond the obvious clicks and bids to develop a strategy that reflected the underlying drivers of commercial success”.
It was at this point the team also realised that reducing the cost of dead time would result in fewer miles driven, making a contribution to sustainability efforts.
“Reducing drive times would not only allow vans to sell more, but they would drive fewer miles in doing so,” explains Hopkinson. “And while, in all honesty, we didn’t start with an environmental objective, once we realised there could be one we used this as fuel to rally the wider team behind the project. It was a proper win-win.”
The solution was ultimately about matching consumer demand with van supply, but by using data in a creative way. The supply needs of the vans changed often, so the brand needed to be able to change its paid marketing needs in real-time too. With paid search the main channel for achieving impact, the agency went about creating technology that used the van’s routing data to inform the decisions around search ad buying.
For example, when a van had zero bookings, the search ads could target the van’s entire geographic area. But once it made a booking, this geographic zone was then reduced, allowing the van to then do more jobs within a shorter distance. Once its jobs for the day were full, search ads were turned off, creating a media saving as it wasn’t serving ads for a service it couldn’t fulfil.
Hopkinson says: “We rolled the solution out to three of the seven hubs we operate out of, giving us a natural test and control group. After three months we analysed the differences in job density and saw the test group increased by 13%. This translated into a £2.8m sales win when annualised. We were blown away, agency and client, and the end customers knew nothing about it.”
In addition to the incremental sales increase, the ability to turn ads off when the vans were full drove a further £154k savings. And from an environmental point of view, the vans were driving 621,000 fewer miles thanks to the campaign and the technology.
Vince says that while the campaign only focused on paid search, it also helped to then filter customers into the Halfords ecosystem, creating additional value.
“Our mobile business is growing because it is convenient and it is taking share from competitors, so acquiring new customers through Google search is the top of the funnel focus for us. Customers are then introduced to the Halfords group’s full range of motoring services via our single customer view marketing database as we support them through their motoring lifetime.”
Fundamentally, the success of the campaign came from the way the agency and client worked together, says Hopkinson, who explains that the agency was given access to the business, almost akin to working in-house.
“We spent a lot of time in the client’s business working with teams outside the marketing department,“ he says. “It ultimately became a change management challenge as we were coordinating ops, technology and marketing client people. The client chief exec, Ray Fernandez, was also very involved which was key to getting buy-in.
”It was a hard but wonderful experience. A lot of the Bind team have client backgrounds and it felt more like being client-side again. And the Tyres On The Drive people treated us like colleagues instead of a third party. The project has 100% made us a better agency.”
The discussion around client-agency relationships is a long and winding road for the industry, with many agencies perhaps feeling like they’re in need of a tyre change themselves. This example helps to drive home the argument that at least allowing agencies into the business to look under the hood can help surface inventive ideas. A strong relationship was the engine behind the success of this campaign.
The accidental impact on the environment is also something that many briefs should seek to explore in a less accidental manner in the future. The second engine on this campaign was a smart use of technology and using this to offset environmental damage, which should be something the wider industry seeks to emulate in its intentions.