How data-driven creative spurred Global Citizen’s recovery goals

Creative and performance agencies used YouTube direct response ad formats to drive sign-ups for Global Citizen’s five recovery goals.

As the world navigates multiple ongoing crises, Global Citizen is asking people to do their part by pledging to help the nonprofit achieve its five recovery goals: to help end COVID-19, curb the hunger crisis, resume learning everywhere, protect the planet and advance equity for all.

Global Citizen turned to YouTube to get the word out, which in turn called on 10 of its agency partners — five performance agencies and five creative agencies — to team up and build campaigns that would drive sign-ups on Global Citizen’s website. 

On the creative side, YouTube selected Alma and FCB in the U.S., BBH in the U.K., Suno in Brazil and Ogilvy in India to work on the project. Performance agencies included PMG and 360i in the U.S., Jellyfish in the U.K., Blinks Essence in Brazil and Interactive Avenues in India. 

Each creative agency was paired with a performance agency to create an ad to drive sign-ups for one of the five goals, using direct response ad formats on YouTube. These included video action campaigns, skippable or non-skippable video ads with a clear call to action and discovery ads, immersive display ads on the YouTube homepage and watch-next feed, the Google search “discover” page and Gmail. 

These formats ensured that the ads were designed to inspire action for Global Citizen from the ground up, said Sadie Thoma, director at Google Creative Works in the U.S. 

“It’s a way for us to partner with an organization doing significant and important work, and also to partner with our agencies to show the power of storytelling to drive action,” she said. 

Google briefed each pair together on the goals of the campaign and how its ad formats work, with the intention of keeping them close and connected throughout the process. 

For Alma and PMG, which worked together to drive sign-ups to Global Citizen’s advance-equity-for-all goal, working together was easy thanks to frequent and early communication. Because the campaign needed to be delivered on a tight timeline, Alma brought PMG in early to the creative brief, so it could see the idea develop and provide feedback. 

Then, the agencies communicated about how the media plan might impact the message, and vice versa. For Alma, that led to more in-depth discussion about the story arc of the creative, such as when to introduce Global Citizen’s brand and where to position the CTA. For PMG, it meant looking at different creative cuts to understand how custom audiences would respond to the message. 

“We decided [PMG] needed to be involved early on, in phases that, traditionally, performance agencies might not be,” said Isaac Mizrahi, co-president and chief operating officer at Alma. “We had open channels where they could impact the brief and the creative product.”

Collaboration was made easier by the fact that both organizations knew they were working together for the greater good, said Parks Blackwell, VP of marketing and client development at PMG. 

“Collaboration is tough across agencies, but when you have an opportunity to come to the table for something as powerful as global equity, you remove all preconceived barriers and notions,” she said. “There was just no ego; it was purely about Global Citizen and making a difference.” 

It was also helpful that the project was pro bono, so there were no fees or ownership issues to squabble over. 

“The roles and responsibilities were clear in that the ultimate goal was the client and the message,” Blackwell said. “Sometimes that can be a bit muddied when you partner on a for-profit client.”

Still, working hand-in-hand throughout was new for both Alma and PMG, as creative and performance agencies typically hand off the baton to one another. For Alma, the biggest challenge was making sure that creatives didn’t feel like their craft was being imposed on, Mizrahi said.  

For Global Citizen, the collaboration paid off. Over two months, the campaign drove 34,000 people globally to sign up as Global Citizens, a 220% increase over average sign-ups. It was Global Citizen’s most successful digital acquisition campaign in the past year. 

Part of the success came from pairing YouTube’s video action and discovery ad formats, rather than using them as separate tactics, Google’s Thoma said. Some 60% of advertisers who use the formats together see more conversions at or below the original CPA. When the formats are used in combination, campaigns drive conversions at a 28% lower cost.

“When you change the process and ways of working to bring creativity and storytelling closer to performance and media strategy, especially with an objective of driving action, you can see the power of what can be done,” Thoma said.  

As for Alma and PMG, both agencies agree that creative and media work better when they work in tandem. 

“Media can’t work if the creative isn’t right,” Blackwell said. 

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