How CDC Foundation drove record donations using dynamic creative

Using creative management platform VidMob, the CDC targeted viewers with variations of Facebook and Instagram ads that drove more than $16 million to the COVID-19 Emergency Response Fund.

When the COVID-19 pandemic hit the U.S. in March, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) Foundation needed to raise money, fast.

The country was woefully short on PPE for frontline workers and needed lab equipment and testing support to manage the pandemic. The CDC Foundation, a non-profit that supports the CDC and other public health work, also needed funds to put out important PSAs around mask wearing and mental health.

“When we launched the fundraiser in March, we were in crisis response mode,” said Terri Heyns, associate VP of communications at the CDC Foundation. “Our goal was to raise as much funding as possible to meet the needs we had at that time.”

The foundation teamed up with Facebook, which pledged to support advertising for the fundraiser on its platform and match all donations to the organization two to one.

To manage the campaign, Facebook introduced the CDC Foundation to VidMob, a creative analytics platform that targets different versions of creative to different audiences and optimizes assets to drive results.

“Our creative intelligence helps marketers understand which creative elements impact the results they care about most,” said Burr Purnell, director of social good at VidMob.

With the help of VidMob’s platform, the foundation was able to make small tweaks to the creative that drove significant results. For example, the platform found slightly tweaking the call to action (CTA) to pose a more direct ask for help and positioning it at the beginning of the ad increased click-through rates to the CDC Foundation’s site by 21%.

“Typically, we would have the CTA at the end,” Heyns said. “It was interesting to see how that made an impact.”

VidMob also helped the CDC Foundation understand which copy and messaging were driving results.

For example, ads that opened with the line “Make Giving Contagious” drove a 19% lift in click-through rates for Facebook in-feed ads, while copy that emphasized “all of us” are in this together outperformed copy that highlighted what “you can do” to give back by 61%.

Analytics also revealed in-feed ads on Facebook and Instagram had a 318% higher click-through rate than Stories ads, helping the foundation adapt its media strategy for the campaign.

VidMob produced six different ads for the CDC Foundation in six days, and adapted up to 16 different versions based on real-time insights, all within 48 hours. While VidMob relies on machine learning to identify frame by frame how different creative elements are driving action, it relies on human review and adaptation to tweak the actual creative.

“The technology can spot what needs to be adapted, and our creators and editors make those actual edits,” Purnell said.

The fundraiser, which ran on Facebook and Instagram for three months, ultimately received 188,000 donations that raised almost $17 million. The foundation was able to deliver seven million pieces of PPE to frontline workers.

“Being able to adapt creative messaging in real time was critical to the campaign’s success,” Heyns said.

“During an emergency, when things are happening quickly, you have to be able to make decisions fast with the best information at hand, and you need to adapt,” she added. “Having more real-time creative insights helped us be more agile in the approach.”

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