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#1: Message & Video Development

Prior to launching the social campaign in 2018, we partnered with ‘Ōlelo Community Media to sponsor a new anti-vaping category in their popular youth video contest. We also presented an anti-vaping presentation to six Hawai‘i high schools and challenged their media classes to participate in the contest. SeaRider Productions helped the classes with some technical production to get them off and running. In addition to message testing in focus groups, our in-person presentations allowed us to see firsthand which messages youth responded to and which were less effective. This built-in message testing was invaluable as was having the youth script and produce their own video content. They know what messages are most likely to work with their peers.

#2: Microsite Creation

As we were message testing and presenting at schools, we began the design of our campaign microsite, We wanted a site that was a bit edgier than what we typically produce as a public health institute. It needed to be video-forward and feature highly shareable content. We also knew that once we captured a young person’s attention, we had a precious opportunity to convert them into “believers” with compelling facts and news stories that added credibility to our message. Via specific landing pages for each Snapchat video ad, we were able to see how long site visitors spent with us and, for those who stayed for longer durations, what content caught their attention. The regularly updated news stories and “get the facts” page were very successful at keeping youth on the site for a longer duration.

#3: Selecting Social Channels

In Hawai‘i, Snapchat, Instagram, and Youtube are the social channels of choice among youth. We decided against YouTube as Google doesn’t allow targeting below the age of 18. With youth adoption trending younger (middle and even elementary school), we committed our energy and budget to Snapchat and Instagram. Note that while Snapchat is fairly easy to get ads up and running, Instagram (owned by Facebook) will likely flag your ad up to 24 hrs after it starts running and will pull it down. Facebook’s artifical intelligence isn’t smart enough yet to differentiate between ads run by our side and those run by the pro-tobacco and pro-vaping crowd. The process to get it back up and running can take days and several appeals. Ultimately, it is worth the effort as Instagram proved to be VERY effective for us in reaching young people.

#4: Optimizing & Retiring Ads

Three-Day Testing. We created 2-3 variants of each of our ads, using different headlines and subtext. We ran each for three days and chose the strongest to run until the ad started to lose steam. This A/B testing allowed us to test different ideas and then invest our budget in ads that had the best reception among youth.

Retiring Ads. Despite what we were willing to pay per ‘meaningful engagement’, we decided that once our average cost per engagement tripled, it was time to pull the ad. For example, when ‘Formaldehyde’ first launched, we were running an average of 10 cents per engagement… we pulled it it when it reached 28 cents. While the latter is still a pretty good price, the near tripling of the price is a sign that the ad was losing steam and it was likely time to retire it. Your decision to pull an ad or leave it running will likely depend on the amount of funds you invested in the ad. In our case, our ads were youth-produced and cost us nothing but staff time. If we had paid thousands of dollars to produce an ad, it might make more sense for us to keep it running quite a bit longer.

Campaign Results (So Far)

192 k
Meaningful Engagements w/ Youth (13-21)
14 cents
Average Cost per Engagement
69 k
Website Visits (longer than 30 seconds)
59 sec
Average Time Spent on Website
123 k
Watched at least 50% of Instagram Video
97 k
Watched at least 75% of video on Instagram
3.4 k
Shared the Video on Instagram
20 k
Organic Vimeo Views

How We Measured A Meaningful Engagement

We knew that we wanted to be conservative in how we measured engagement. For example, we could easily have touted that the 140,000 Hawai‘i youth on social media saw our ads ~7.3 million times, but that big number is a bit misleading. Just because they saw our ads doesn’t mean they noticed them or spent any time on them. For our team, we decided that a meaningful engagement would meet one of the following tests:

  1. Shared  or commented on the digital ad;
  2. Watched at least 50 percent of the video ad on Instagram (meaning they spent between 15 and 30 seconds on our ad);  or
  3. Spent at least 30 seconds (our typical video ad length) on our website.

Ultimately, we decided that sharing or commenting (#1) should not be counted as those youth will already be captured by #2 or #3. We also decided to assume that youth will see multiple videos from us and that the drop-off rate will likely increase as more videos are presented to them. We, therefore, decided to divide all meaningful engagements by a factor of 2.4 to estimate the percentage of Hawai‘i youth we have reached in some meaningful way.