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Volvo boosts campaign CTR with the Microsoft Audience Network

November 2019

Time to try something new

When you think of the name Volvo, you think of safety. Their guiding principle of putting people and their security while driving first has helped the Swedish-based company become one of world’s most innovative and respected automotive brands. 

Mid-2018 was an exciting time for Volvo Cars USA. The company was gearing up to announce their newly redesigned Volvo S60 sedan. This presented a few challenges for the digital marketing team at Volvo and their media agency, Mindshare.

On top of the Volvo S60 launch, they also needed to keep sales momentum high and campaign costs low for the Volvo XC90, a bestselling luxury SUV and a crown jewel in their product portfolio. With the bulk of the advertising budget going toward promoting the Volvo S60 and other new vehicle launches, Mindshare and Volvo needed to develop a plan for the XC90 that would be cost effective and drive  qualified audiences to the XC90 landing page.
 
The Microsoft Audience Network is a very efficient way to add scale and it performs.

— Trevor Hettesheimer, Manager of KPI and analytics, search and planning, Volvo Cars USA

Going beyond traditional search

Volvo had previously used native advertising from other search providers. “We've always been excited about the potential for native advertising because it really promises to deliver a much more relevant experience to the customer,” says Trevor Hettesheimer, manager of KPI and analytics, search and planning for Volvo. 

When their Microsoft Advertising account team approached them about beta-testing the Microsoft Audience Network, Tarik Mughisuddin, senior partner and group director of search and social at Mindshare, thought it could be part of the solution for supporting XC90 awareness. “It was definitely not traditional search. It was a very different product that could move beyond keywords to audience targeting and get more granular,” says Mughisuddin. Both he and Hettesheimer were interested in leveraging Microsoft Audience Network data to target their ideal customer, based on a range of data from the Microsoft Graph and artificial intelligence (AI), search and web activity, LinkedIn profiles, age and gender demographics, and more.

They added the Microsoft Audience Network to the funnel strategy for the Volvo XC90 as a new tactic for generating awareness, specifically incremental traffic to the site, qualified leads, and incremental conversions.  

The Microsoft Audience Network supports Microsoft Audience Ads. These ads, which are available as image-based or feed-based ads, reach hundreds of millions of unique monthly users in the United States. The Mindshare team made the ads visually consistent using images from their social media efforts, coupled with streamlined advertising copy, and targeted four audiences: In-market Audiences, Remarketing, gender, and LinkedIn data.
 
We were able to use the Microsoft Audience Network for research, in terms of who we should be targeting. It helped us find an untapped audience.

— Tarik Mughisuddin, Senior partner and group director of search and social, Mindshare

Delivering awareness plus conversions

The campaign drove significant traffic to the Volvo XC90 website, with over 50 million impressions and over 65,000 impressions in incremental traffic, with the number of conversions exceeding expectations.

The cost per click (CPC) was also lower than the average paid search traffic to the Volvo XC90 website, while the cost per acquisition (CPA) was on par with their non-brand search campaigns. As Mughisuddin explains, “When you compare to branded search, branded search will always win in terms of CPA, but when you strip out branded search and look at non-branded, it’s very on par.” The campaign also provided an unexpected bonus in terms of market and competitive research. “By leveraging LinkedIn data, the team got some recommendations to target audiences we hadn’t targeted before,” says Mughisuddin. “Same with the competitive set. We learned that we competed well against certain competitors we hadn’t been thinking of before. All this intelligence was passed on to the broader digital and social teams.”

The ability to use Microsoft Audience Network data for Remarketing was another plus. A post-campaign analysis revealed an 83% click lift for users in the Remarketing list, helping generate the most efficient traffic and CTR.

Based on the results of this initial campaign, Volvo plans to continue to invest in the Microsoft Audience Network. “It was a very successful test for us,” says Hettesheimer. “We do have other products in the portfolio and other brand messaging initiatives that we want to add scale to as we continue along our growth transformation journey. The Microsoft Audience Network is a very efficient way to add scale, and it performs.”

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