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British Gas achieves powerful results with Responsive Search Ads

British Gas is Britain’s biggest energy provider, supplying gas and electricity to 12 million homes in the UK. The company empowers communities to use energy efficiently and keeps Britain’s homes running smoothly. This utility company was able to improve its advertising efficiency and performance with the power of Microsoft AI.

When Microsoft Advertising announced the beta of its Responsive Search Ads (RSA) product, British Gas was one of the first European advertisers to test it. The product worked so well that RSA now accounts for 14% of all British Gas traffic on the Microsoft Search Network, with a 44% higher click through rate (CTR) than standard search campaigns.

Replicating efficiencies seen in Google

British Gas likes to take part in product betas generally, but there was a strong desire to be one of the first to test RSA on Microsoft Advertising. “We’d seen great results for British Gas when we tested RSA on Google Ads,” commented Mediacom’s Head of Search Claudia Ziegenbein. “We were getting a higher CTR with RSA than with standard text ads, so when the Microsoft  Advertising pilot came up, it was a no-brainer to want to be on it.”

Having brought over all RSA campaigns from Google, it was time to give Microsoft AI a chance to test and learn on the British Gas creative. The team started by using around 10 of the available 15 headlines they could use in the product and then let the campaigns run so that the algorithms could test different headline and description combinations and permutations.

“You have to hold your nerve with these at the beginning,” said MediaCom’s Senior Search Planner Buyer Louie Boffa, “because the temptation is if it doesn’t perform immediately that you need to start making changes. But the AI is just learning, and once it starts to work out which combinations work, then it will optimize the campaign properly.” 

Over an 8-week testing period between September 9 and October 20, 2019, RSA performance started to pull ahead of standard text ads. By the conclusion of the testing period, the CTR for Responsive Search Ads was 44% higher than British Gas’ standard campaigns.

Responsive Search Ads are a win-win for all involved: “I would say the biggest help with RSA is the time-saving. I don’t have to do ad copy testing manually anymore. That in turn has helped to improve the account performance, and ultimately lets British Gas show more relevant ads to its users, so everyone is happy,” said Boffa.

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