With entries open for October’s inaugural International Performance Marketing Awards, this series looks back at the winners of the Awards’ UK ceremony in April, gathering insight into the mechanics and inspiration behind the industry’s newly-decorated campaigns and companies.

Today, we’re talking to Claire Stanley from Home, this year’s winner of the Best Travel & Leisure Campaign award in collaboration with First Cymru at the Performance Marketing Awards 2017.

First of all, let’s have a recap. Could you give us a quick overview of the campaign that won you an Award?

Claire Stanley: First Cymru operates an award-winning Swansea University bus service, but when a competitor arrived on the scene, First wanted to protect its market share by selling season tickets amongst students.

We recognised an opportunity within Facebook, leveraged extraordinary levels of geo-targeting and overlaid detailed audience profiles to defend and grow market share.

Tell us about why your campaign pushed boundaries within this specific category?

CS: By referencing hand-drawn maps, we manually replicated university bus route maps within the Facebook Ads platform using mile-by-mile geo pins to determine the “active” area.

Cross referencing this geo-targeted area with “fields of study” information from the Swansea University prospectus meant that we could reach the clear majority of Swansea students, including those who didn’t indicate their University directly on their Facebook profile.

Working closely with our studio, we refreshed the creative in the final weeks of the campaign with ‘last chance’ messaging, playing on students’ ‘typical’ relaxed attitude and the impending end of the ticket offer to drive engagement.

How do you see this particular area developed within the last 12 months, and how did your campaign reflect this development?

CS: Focusing in on the student travel and leisure audience, students continue to spend more time consuming digital media channels, specifically mobile. We have also seen students taking an even more discerning view on advertising.

Our campaign marked the first social media advertising campaign for First Cymru. We worked hard to ensure our ads were relevant to our target audience in an attempt to break through that discerning barrier and therefore drive performance for First.

Tell us about why your client chose you for this campaign, and how the initial conception of the campaign came to fruition…

CS: We had been working with First Bus on other campaigns prior to the Swansea Student brief. We were selected because we were prepared to take on challenges that other partners would shy away from. Specifically, manually mapping our route maps into the Facebook platform and reading through Swansea University prospectuses to get a better understanding of our audience.

If there is one particular part of the entire campaign that you believe your company has done better than anyone else, what would it be?

CS: The element of the campaign that stood out was the granularity of our geo-targeting. Having been provided with local bus routes used by Swansea students, we set about ‘digitising’ this information by plotting geo pins along the route every mile within Facebook. Over 100 geo pins were placed in order to accurately target our core active area.

What was the hardest part of executing this campaign successfully?

CS: The toughest part was manually collating the data points such as geo pinning route maps and collating the fields of study from the University prospectus.

Time to be honest; where do you feel your campaign fell short of the mark, whether you overcame those hurdles in the end or not…

CS: We had the opportunity to introduce even greater creative message granularity. We had plotted out routes individually, meaning we could have added even more relevancy to our ads but didn’t have the time to generate this level of creative.

The Facebook ads generated a lot of positive conversation within the comments section. There were a number of opportunities for community managers to increase engagement within the ads, but we were not set up to handle this at that time.

Finally, what for you is the most exciting trend or development in performance marketing right now?

CS: Machine learning is definitely going to improve our performance campaigns. First Bus is integrating with automation platforms across search, display, social and video. As these platforms develop and mature, we are expecting further growth in our performance campaigns.

Entries for the International Performance Marketing Awards close July 4. Download the entry pack for more insight into the regional and channel-based categories that could see you, and your overseas teams, crowned international performance champions.