Building Turnout for the UK’s Biggest Ever Public Artwork

The challenge:

Arts events company Artichoke were organising a mass public artwork, PROCESSIONS, to mark the centenary of the first British women gaining the right to vote. The event aimed to bring together thousands of women in Belfast, Cardiff, Edinburgh and London to commemorate the brave stand women took one hundred years ago and celebrate our right to vote.

There were three parts to our brief:

    1) Find out what messaging would be most effective in inspiring people to take part in the event

    2) Use Facebook ads to get thousands of women to register to come to PROCESSIONS

    3) Deliver an email programme that would get people to recruit their friends, make banners to bring along to the event, and turn out on the day

What we did:

Facebook ads

Given PROCESSIONS had never been done before, we started the ads programme with no historical insights about what kind of ads would work. Our strategy was to work out an effective approach from the ground up by methodically testing every element of the ads programme: message framings, copy, images, placements (i.e. where the ad appears in Facebook and/or Instagram), videos, and audiences.

We started with messaging, identifying three different framings to test: “be part of an artwork”, “celebrate women’s right to vote” and “take part in this women’s solidarity event.” By testing multiple different copy variants within each of these framings, we are able to find out which framing – and not just which individual ad – worked best.

Once we’d established “be part of an artwork” as our strongest framing, we were able to test hundreds of different combinations of images and copy to find our best performing creative. We followed this up with audience and placement testing, identifying an arts interest-based audience of around a million women as our best performing. Instagram Stories placements proved highly effective too, so we diverted a significant portion of the ads budget there. Finally, in the last week of the campaign, we tested a “last chance to sign up / don’t miss out” framing which halved sign up costs in the final week.

Email Programme

Our email programme served three key functions:

    1) Mobilising registrants to get their friends signed up. We sent regular emails asking people to invite friends to join, reducing the overall cost per sign-up.

    2) Bridging the gap between the point of sign-up and the event itself to help maximise turnout rate on the day. We used actions which we know typically have high response rates to keep people engaged, such as a welcome survey (which 60% of signups took)

    3) As our primary channel of communication with people who’d signed up, email was crucial in making attending PROCESSIONS as simple and enjoyable as possible. We sent out event information emails that were personalised to the recipient’s location, as well as links to local workshops where people could make banners to bring with them.

The core of our email programme was an automated welcome series that was sent to everyone who signed up to attend. As we got closer and closer to the event, we added new emails and switched out old ones to reflect the changing strategic priorities of the campaign.

The results:

Tens of thousands of women and girls turned out on the day and the event received some great publicity. The digital programme formed a crucial part of the recruitment drive: 15,000 people signed up via our Facebook Ads, 100% of whom were women according to Facebook’s own analytics.

Our Facebook ads testing programme succeeded in reducing cost-per-signup by 40% from the start to the end of the campaign. Running such an extensive ads programme also delivered some important learnings, which will guide our approach to future projects. Watch this space!