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British Gas improves performance with Responsive Search Ads

  Article , Success stories

Utility company drives efficiency with power of Microsoft AI

Bringing Britain smooth running homes

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.

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.
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.

Claudia Ziegenbein, MediaCom’s Head of Search

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.”

RSA had proved an efficient product on Google, and to replicate the efficiencies made in Google Ads, MediaCom made use of the Google Import functionality in Microsoft Advertising to bring over all of their RSA campaigns.

Letting AI find the best combinations

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.” 

For the first two weeks of testing, performance was quite low. But over time the performance improved and started to find strong ad creatives that delivered the right message at the right time to British Gas customers. 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.

Expanding the reach of automation

Off the back of the successful test, the plan is to feed the algorithms more data to find more powerful ad combinations. Having started with 10 headlines, the beta campaigns are now at a maturity to be expanded to try more unique combinations. 

The pilot also built greater confidence in Microsoft Advertising as a whole: “It’s a shining example of why we should always mirror feature tests or new campaigns we are running in Google and get them live with Microsoft Advertising.” stated Claudia.

Not only that, Responsive Search Ads is 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.
It’s great to see these results. Search teams are generally time-poor, so anything that we can automate to not only make our lives easier but that improves our campaign performance is a win for us.

Claudia Ziegenbein, MediaCom’s Head of Search

See a summary

View or save the infographic to see how British Gas improved the CTR of their campaigns by 44% with Responsive Search Ads on Microsoft Advertising.

  Download the infographic