How an Owl Increased Our Retargeting CTRs by 430%


You may have noticed that your retargeting campaigns lose steam as time goes on. Without changing ad copy or the look of your banners, audiences get accustomed to your ads, click-through rates go down, and view-through conversions take longer to bare their fruit. This was happening to our BFM retargeting campaign about a month ago. We had been running the same ads for a quite a while and it was becoming difficult to squeeze more juice out of our non-converting audience. Our click-through rates (CTR) overall had dipped to an all-time low of 0.07%. Ouch. It was time to mix things up.

Enter the Owl

We don’t spend a lot on retargeting (it costs very little to target our audience), but it is a major area of opportunity. And I hate lost opportunities. I decided to use some humor and found the image of a small, inquisitive-looking owl, wearing a straw hat. To that, I added a few lines that a used car salesman would throw out, provided by fellow BFMers David Dweck, Matthew Smith, and Bill Ryan. In the end, the ads appeared to work, increasing average CTRs to over 0.3%, a relatively good number for our campaign. Here are the ads that I created, which got us immediately more responses, and ultimately, more conversions.

Funny banner ad

We created a number of ads that peaked the curiosity of our audience. Many clients called in saying how entertaining it was to be followed around by an owl. That was the first time we’d received such praise for ads.

Funny banner ad

There were multiple sizes created so that we could have two different messages sometimes show up on the same page.

Owl retargeting ad

The free leather upgrade really got people clicking.

free leather upgrade with every website

We made light of the fact that we were “following” people around. The “I am not following you” banner had the highest click-through-rate.

Funny banner ad

We marked current events with the ads: after the earthquake on the East Coast, we created an ad referring to it, as well as during hurricane Irene.

Funny banner ad

All of these ads sent users to this landing page. Notice the continuity in the usage of the owl.

Landing page for retargeting campaign

The results

As a result of our “owl” campaign, click-through rates increased dramatically, while conversion rates remained surprisingly steady. I was sure they would drop. What did drop were the percentage of view-through conversions. This could be attributed to audience saturation or the lack of strong branding on the owl ads.

As with our previous campaign, I’ll soon need to update our current owl campaign to feature more diversity. I will test something else out and write about it here. Last time I mentioned how I was able to increase form fills on our Request a Quote page.